We started Veerhood with the intent of ‘bridging the gap’ among generations in Panjabi culture and beliefs. As we have submerged ourselves in sharing the message and strengthening the movement, the value of bridging the gap has intensified and truly carries its own merit. For many, being unable to trace our history and traditions is a sad reality. We want to build a legacy. We want to help generations harness their identity and roots proudly. However, more than that, we want to help spread Panjabi history and tradition to a new, more mainstream generation of global Panjabis.
What can we do to help preserve our culture and roots? The first and foremost thing is to talk about it. If we do not pique curiosity, who will? Like the old saying goes, we don’t know what we don’t know until we ask. Our grandparents and parents reference back to stories about being in Panjab or their homeland and how things used to be and what used to be done. It is when these stories are told, we can start to understand the ‘why does that happen,’ ‘why do we do that,’ or ‘how does that happen.’ It is these stories that are a catalyst to evoke conversations among generations.
When it comes to Panjabi literature from the past or any account of history events, there is no place where all this information is housed. Many from the older generation carry the knowledge dear in their heart and mind, definitely a safe place. However, how are these archives preserved for sharing for generations to come? They’re not. Unfortunately, we do not have museums that contain all Panjabi artifacts, stories or keepsakes to represent the Panjabi people. This would be an amazing way to pass on information through the generations and allow for that storytelling to be kept whole.
Due to this absence, it’s even more important to understand our past. Not only our familial past, but also the past of our culture and religion. From recent stories of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Udham Singh to more earlier stories of people like Baba Deep Singh or Maharaja Ranjit Singh. These amazing individuals have stories that not only help craft and provide understanding of our roots and traditions, but rival mainstream stories that we have been told. Our history is so fascinating that many take Punjabi classes to learn more. We as a community need to bring these stories to the forefront so that our younger generations no longer need to look abroad, but within our culture to help stimulate minds and be proud of our past.
Storytelling has been used in a variety of ways to share messages, whether it be in a school setting to teach about a certain topic or in one’s personal life to share experiences with others. This allows us to put a personal touch in how we want to deliver the message or information. What captures the essence of this form of communication is to be able to converse in your mother tongue, for us being Panjabi. Time and time again, we see young kids unable to express themselves or get misinterpreted when they cannot communicate in their mother tongue. Our boli is very important to preserve. If we continue to not use it, that is another aspect of our culture that will dissolve quicker than we can imagine. Speaking in Panjabi allows us to converse with our elders, preserve one part of our culture and help us strengthen our identity.
If we stop speaking Panjabi, it will fade away along with many other cultural items that make our roots and traditions unique to us. So, what does all of this mean? Do not be afraid to ask questions about your culture and background. Be curious. Wonder why things are done the way they are. Speak to your parents. Speak to your grandparents. You know that moment when you think, I have nothing to speak to ‘them’ about, ask about their upbringing, ask what it was like to be a child in Panjab or where they came from, or ask about what they have as memories growing up. Ask about major events or people from our culture. You’ll be surprised to hear of amazing battles and courageous warriors that we are known for.
If we do not start evoking these conversations, what are we going to share with our future generations about what Panjabi culture is all about. Without starting these conversations, the traditions our past generations worked so hard for and fought for will be for nothing and forgotten. In a world where identity is always being questioned, take the time to truly understand your identity. Finding your past will lead to new perspectives on your familial love, your cultural pride and your Panjabi identification.