The Punjabi World (for Weekend Cocktail)

I am late for the meeting of the “National Preparatory Committee for the World Punjabi Conference,” in New Delhi. But as I approach the place, I hear a sound of laughter. Obviously, it has not started yet. No one can afford to laugh during preparations for an all-world meet.

I open the door to see Sant Singh Sekhon ensconced between two beautiful girls on a sofa (forty plus and fifty plus for the more jealous). The early bird has caught both the desirable worms, I mean. Most of the Punjabi writers in Delhi are here and some have come from Punjab and Chandigarh. I settle for a back seat.

The first piece of information offered by the organizers is that a similar meeting is being held in Delhi – at this very time and for this very purpose by another group of writers. What do we do about that? I feel completely shaken. Is our big show to come to nothing?

But our orgainsers are old hands at such things. An eminent publisher is entrusted with the task of bringing about unity among the two groups. This, I consider a wise move because a publisher is a publisher. It is also decided to postpone the formation of the various committees till unity materializes. What baits to offer them for unity if all the positions are already filled? We already have an International Coordinator in the Permanent International Secretariat, a Coordinator and a Secretary General. For the National Preparatory Committee, we have a Chairman and General Secretary (not to be confused with Secretary General).

It is further decided that the Conference will be held next winter. That is the season for Punjabis abroad to visit their homes. The President of India is to be requested to preside over the concluding function of the Conference. A prestigious hall is mentioned for this purpose.

The organizers now take leave. The world is shut out and we relax and chatter. I find Tara Singh, the poet, who is not literate in English, using a number of English words in his talk. 

“I spent the whole of last summer in England, learning these words,” he says.

“You come two hundred miles to attend a meeting and claim to be a heart patient?” Kartar Singh Duggal asked me.

“ I would have to travel more than two hundred miles in the city of Delhi itself, to meet all these people,” I answer.

The younger one of Sekhon’s worms now comes and sits near me.

“You come to Delhi so often but never visit us?” she asks. 

“I am not a Jogi knocking at every door. I have to be invited,” I answer.

“And, pray, how does one proceed to do that?” she asks. 

“As you have done now,” I say, losing no time in turning a query into an invitation.

“How long is this meeting after the meeting going to last?” she asks.

“Only till you leave,” I tell her the truth.

She gets up to leave. The rest of us do the same. I get into Gulzar Sandhu’s overcrowded car to be dropped at a bus stop for the Railway Station. Some more people are following the car on scooters.

The car is now parked at a very convenient place and Sandhu walks me to the bus stop. He, lovingly, hangs around chatting with me while I wait for the bus.

“Why don’t you take these people home?” I ask him. “ I can get into a bus without your help.”

“I am only trying to gain time,” he says. “It is too early to start drinking. And with all these people, my stocks of liquor in the house will not last a long time,” he answers.

In the train, next morning, I buy a paper. 

A news item from Delhi says,

“The President, Giani Zail Singh has accepted an invitation to 
preside over the valedictory function of the Third World Punjabi Conference to be held here in the last week of December. More than a thousand Punjabi writers, including several from the UK, Canada, the USA, Singapore, Thailand, Pakistan and other countries would participate in the conference. Eminent Punjabi writers from Delhi and Punjab, at a meeting here today, assured full cooperation to the organizers of the conference.”

Enough to convince my wife that it was a very important meeting that I attended. 

c/o The Punjab Agricultural University

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