Kids Corner


The Girl From Rawalpindi




The road is certainly leading to Lahore. What with the Premiers of the two countries only too eager to hitch the inaugural joy ride to and fro.

The past six decades, it has been the lure of Lahore which has haunted the nostalgia of the migrants of the partitioned Punjab. Being the cultural capital of the pre-1947 Punjab, it has remained a symbol of togetherness. The oft-quoted lament, Jis Lahore nahi vekhea, Oh janmea nahi (He who has not seen Lahore is not born), drew condescending smiles.

But those who had to flee this city on the banks of the Ravi are perhaps the only ones who can truly feel the loss. Ask the Bengalis what would have been their lot if Calcutta had gone to the other side, and they understand. Lahore was the Punjabis' Calcutta.

But I happen to know someone who never thought much of Lahore.

She was a girl from Rawalpindi, married to a man from Lahore. And what a comedown it was for her.


It's linked to anthropological linguistics. Punjab has these broad geographical, cultural and linguistic variations. Rawalpindi falls in the supposedly superior position of being at the foothills in the area known as Potohar, while Lahore is in the mainland of Majha, just as Amritsar is.

Never mind Lahore with its Kinnaird College, Panjab University, film studios, theatres, famed Anarkali Bazar and ill-famed Hira Mandi, this our girl from Rawalpindi had many prejudices against Lahore and Lahoris.

For one, folks in her part of Punjab were fairer, taller, better-spoken, and more cultured. So she said. While people came all the way from Rawalpindi to shop at Lahore, she preferred Pindi's Moti Bazar. She remained loyal to her dialect of Potohari and always said, "Just hear these Lahoris speak, it's like they're hurling stones at you.''

The sari-wearing middle-class women of Lahore put her off. Most of them spent the daytime in just a blouse and petticoat and wrapped around a sari only when it was time for the men to come home from work. She came from parts where it had to be a salwar so wide that it covered an entire clothes line. When worn, it fell in graceful and modest fold upon fold.

The Lahorans, according to her, were lazy. They bought fried savouries from hawkers. The Potoharans were so kitchen-proud, cooking the most delicious dish of saag, curds, gram flour with just half a handful of rice thrown in. And who could beat their tandoor-fresh rotis of yeast-risen flour. They'd just melt in the mouth with white home-made butter.

With so superior a background, she queened over the lesser creatures of Lahore who made up her husband's huge family of brothers and sisters, their children and relatives. A dig or two at her for the Potoharis being smooth talkers and much too clever would be made, but she retained her status of the faithful wife, ideal aunt, fond mother, caring sister-in-law.Each role she played out with immense ease.

Now to understand the Potohar girl, one has to go all the way to a poem written by renowned Punjabi poet, Prof. Mohan Singh.

Called Kurrhi Potohar Di (The Girl from Potohar), it describes the love-at-first-sight the poet feels for the tall, well-made lass trying to cross a bubbling brook with a bundle on her head. He goes to her and offers help. She hands him the bundle, holds his hand, smiles. But when she gets to the other end, she takes her bundle and wishes goodbye to the besotted man saying, ``May you live long, my BROTHER.'' Such is the guile, the simpler folks of Lahore never learnt.

The lass in the poem could well be the girl I happen to know.

My mother.

Now in her mid-eighties, she can no longer speak her sweet dialect. A paralytic stroke left her bed-ridden and bereft of speech.

But she still smiles and queens from the bed with her so-sure-and-superior an air. And when I am asked of my origins, I say, "My father was from Lahore ...''

But I am quick to add, "My mother's from Rawalpindi!'


[Courtesy: World Pulse]

July 11, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 12, 2010, 2:36 PM.

I knew the boys and girls from Rawalpindi. As a child growing up in Lyallpur, some of my closest friends were from Pothoar. I would often hear with a tinge of jealousy from the other womenfolk - 'Eh nak charreh hun' - "They are high-nosed" - because they were fair skinned, tall, beautiful and dressed extremely well. Above all, they had a deliciously quaint accent. The Pothoaris were aware and considered themselves a notch higher without trying. We were 'jatiks' and older ones were 'Nadhas' or 'Nadhis. Their language sometimes produced a laughter that we immensely enjoyed privately. For example: "My back is paining", when translated in Pothoari would be 'Meri dhu-ee dukhdi hay' - Now, 'dhu-ee' in Punjabi - Oh! never mind, you know about it! We lost that beautiful language to Pakistan together with other dialects like Saraiki, the language of Sheikh Farid. Luckily, an encyclopaedia of languages is preserved in Guru Granth Sahib for all time to come.

2: Bardeep Bhathal (India), July 13, 2010, 12:08 AM.

Beautifully written, as always ... thanks for acquainting us with such a strong character. I think most of her strength comes from her roots she is so proud of ... and, for once, it seems 'jiven Lahore da ooth Rawalpindi de pahar thalle aa gaya hove ...!' Anyway, seeing how she handled numerous complex relationships so lovingly and gracefully is like a breath of fresh air in these times when it has become hard to breathe in the smog of polluted relationships.

3: Raj (Canada), July 13, 2010, 11:32 PM.

I went to a Khalsa school run by Sikhs from the Potohaar area. I remember some of the teachers sounded sweet even when they got mad at us. Sometimes people think I'm not from Punjab because I have a bit of accent because of my childhood.

4: S.S.N. (Georgia, U.S.A.), July 14, 2010, 3:13 PM.

My grandparents migrated from Rawalpindi. The name itself makes me proud. But all this talk about Patohar is new to me, in fact I never knew the word. Everything said here fits perfectly now! Also, I remember the sweetness of the Punjabi spoken at home! I feel rich today!

5: Jamil Mirza (Lahore), October 29, 2010, 11:34 PM.

I was walking through Kashmiri Bazaar of Lahore along with my wife for shopping. At one shop we saw two girls were speaking the Potohari dialect. I asked them, are you from Rawalpindi. They denied and told us they are from Calcutta. It was a wonderful discovery for me. Calcutta is in west Bengal and the language there is Bengali. But these two girls were speaking Potohari Punjabi very fluently. They told us their parents were from Talagang (a small city near Rawalpindi). We appreciated those girls for preserving their mother language. They were in Lahore to celebrate the Gurpurab of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib.

6: Swapnil Dangrikar (Nasik, India), March 03, 2011, 6:01 PM.

This was a very warm and interesting read. The Partition was one of the most tragic things to happen to the Sikhs in the modern era, but even then, the bond of being a Sikh unites all the Sikhs in the world, even if they are Pakistanis or Indians or whatever. Cheers to the great community. P.S.: I am not a Sikh, but you guys and girls rock.

7: Naim ur Rehman (Rawalpindi/ Islamabad, Pakistan), July 07, 2011, 11:30 PM.

The time has come to open the borders between India and Pakistan. These two countries have a total population of about 1.5 billion. Immagine what kind of trade and hustle and bustle will take place, we cannot even imagine the prosperity in the two countries which will emerge from it.

8: Sultan Kayani (Abu Dhabi), June 29, 2013, 8:10 AM.

I was in a train, travelling to Rawalpindi, my village (Mankiala Brahmanna), while travelling i heard to fauji jawans (soldiers) were chatting. One said, "oyey tuki pata asaan nee boli itni mitthi ei, ke murdaa vee khelee they bayee gajcchay." It's true, Pothohari is a sweet language ... even if you're fighting, you're gonna luv it.

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