Her Name Escapes Me

Popular culture in India depicts Punjabi girls as pretty and exuberant. Notwithstanding the perils of any generalization and the hyperbole of cinematic rendition, it is not far from the truth. Certainly not very far. Beauty is without doubt a relative concept. Having said that, a man with an ordinary heart, good vision and an eye for clear blue skies will more likely than not admire the quintessential Punjabi beauty. A stroll through the crowded and colorful streets in the small towns of the state or the coffee houses of the nation’s capital will, rest assured, put some interpretive differences to rest.

Staring into the cavernous depths of a well, one after another they leap off the edge. The couple of elderly Sikh men with flowing grey beards mumble prayers, the verses broken only by the protestations of little girls scared and huddled as they are asked to jump to their deaths. Their pig tails billowing in the air, the colorful glass bangles sparkle for one last moment in the sun and the final cries are drowned in constant drone of the dust laden summer winds. These were amongst the many female victims of the communal carnage that accompanied the independence of India. The untold suffering of the largest human migration ever did not distinguish between religion or caste but, as in any civil conflict, violence against females became the central motif of revenge.

Continue reading