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Punjabis Become Super Gypsies Of The Modern Age

When Punjabis leave Punjab, their journey does not end in the country they land in. If someone tells them that another country offers more opportunity than the country that they are presently in, then they are quick to pack their bags and attempt to move again. Even within a country, they are ready to move from one region to another region or from one city to another city if someone convinces them that they can earn more money there.

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

A proper balance between availing opportunity and maintaining a stable base can be called a healthy and productive life. However, Punjabis today seem to be heavily tilted towards availing opportunity without paying much attention to stability. The Punjabis always had nomadic tendencies. This has geographical, historical and cultural reasons. Punjab Geographically is at the confluence of south Asia, central Asia and the Middle East.

This unique geographical location led to invasions by different tribes and mixing of various tribes and races. This constantly changing population, to some extent, compromised stability. Inward and outward migration remained at a higher pace than the other parts of the country. This led to a culture which can be called semi-nomadic. This is a culture of partially uprooted people. People were always ready or willing to move either to avail opportunity or avoid adversity.

The geographical conditions which led to nomadic and uprooted psyche in Punjabis were also conducive to evolution of spirituality. The Vedas were written in Punjab. Punjab emerged as a very important center of Buddhism and Sufism. Sri Guru Granth sahib can be considered the zenith of the eastern spirituality, also emerged in Punjab.

Growth of spirituality tried to balance the nomadic tendency among Punjabis by emphasizing the value of stability. This can be considered a perfect example of a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. However, after the so-called Green Revolution, the global culture or western consumerist culture invaded Punjab in a big way and Punjab became the epicenter of consumerism in India. Punjabis lost their balance. Their nomadic and uprooted tendencies became dominant. This tilt toward material aspect of life and weakening of the spiritual aspect of life has created imbalance and instability in Punjab and among Punjabis all over the world.

Punjab has been mainly an agrarian society with agriculture as the dominant part of its economy. Punjab has been called the Bread Basket of India. Among the peasants of Punjab, the Jat peasantry has been the leading peasantry. It has played a dominant role in the Punjabi culture and the Punjabi psyche. The conversion of the Jat tribe into the Sikh religion has played a very important role in history, culture, economy, and social structure of Punjab. This is one of the greatest events in the history of mankind. A tribe was imparted the universal philosophy. The word Jat is associated with land. Sikh means a student who wants to enlighten his spiritual aspect of life. When a Jat became a Jat Sikh, he became a perfectly balanced man with his material aspect of life (Jat) being balanced by his spiritual aspect of life (Sikh).

Punjab made tremendous progress after the Sikh revolution. Punjab became the second most powerful kingdom in the world after the British Empire. This was recognized by Queen Victoria herself. In nineteenth century Punjab, Europeans from many countries of Europe as well as Americans came to Punjab to seek very rewarding employment. However, after the defeat in the Anglo-Sikh wars, Punjab’s economy was strangulated by the British. Eventually, this became a significant reason for the outward migration of Punjabis from Punjab. However, the British did much more damage to Punjab than just economic damage. They embarked upon a mission of undoing what the Sikh revolution had accomplished. For example, the Sikh philosophy emphasized that in the Jat Sikh equation, the Sikh part should be dominant. In other words, the spiritual aspect of a person should be the dominant aspect. However, the British tried to reverse that equation.

After the so-called Green revolution, the Americans took over from where the British had left. They completely reversed the equation and made the material aspect the dominant aspect. As a result, Punjab and the Punjabis have become the most loyal and ardent followers of western consumer culture. The nomadic and uprooted tendencies among Punjabis have become so enhanced.

Most Punjabis have packed their luggage and are ready to board airplanes carrying them to the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, Norway, Australia, New Zealand or any other country which will give them the opportunity to settle there. This degree of exodus from Punjab has never been seen before. People who want to stay in Punjab are feeling the growing pressure from the people who are in the process of leaving Punjab. Some feel sad because their friends or relatives are leaving. Others feel uncomfortable because they are not sure that they did the right thing by not joining the exodus.

When Punjabis leave Punjab, their journey does not end in the country they land in. If someone tells them that another country offers more opportunity than the country that they are presently in, then they are quick to pack their bags and attempt to move again. Even within a country, they are ready to move from one region to another region or from one city to another city if someone convinces them that they can earn more money there. Punjabis have become the new and improved gypsies of today. The old gypsies lived in tents or other temporary lodgings. The new super gypsies live in palatial homes. However, the mentality of both categories of gypsies is the same: they are always ready to move on for a better opportunity.

The history of thousands of years of human evolution tells that in the long run, stability prevails over opportunity (as in the case of opportunists).  The people with a stable base (which means stable culture and value system), will emerge victorious in the end. Sri Guru Granth Sahib gives the message that the ultimate stability is achieved by spiritual enlightenment (or getting connected with your true self). Your worldly possessions, no matter how prosperous and glorified, fail you in the end. We can compare the East with the West or compare America with Europe.

The East and Europe have a relatively more stable base as compared to the West and America. The East will prevail over the West and Europe will prevail over America. Before the middle of the century, we will witness this change. We can already see this in India. Punjab, which was the leading state, has now started to lag behind those states which have comparatively maintained their stable base (culture and value system). We can compare Punjab to the neighboring states or the South and my thesis will be validated.

Punjab used to lead in per capita income .However, in 2011, five states had larger per capita income than Punjab

Haryana    108345

Maharashtra 95339

Gujarat   89668

Tami l Nadu 88697

Kerala   80124

Punjab 78633

We can use steel production as a good criterion of shifting power from West to East .In June 2014 crude steel production was as follows:

Total world 137 million tons

China 69.3 million tons

US    7.2 million tons

The changing equations between America and Europe can be seen by comparing the value of the US dollar with Germany’s (leading European country) currency.

1970, one US dollar was equal to 3.65 German marks

1990, one US dollar was equal to 1.62 German marks

1999, Euro became Germany’s currency

2014, one US dollar is equal to 0.76 Euro.

In 2050, the world will be very different than today. Asia will be the leading region of the world. China will be the most powerful country. Europe will take over the leadership of the west from the US. Stability will prevail over opportunity.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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