By WL Hangshing
Charpoy is the only thing on four legs that the commando does not eat,” an army man once remarked. We were sitting at the 19th hole under the fan of the ‘golf hut’ after a sweaty foursome round…”and they eat anything that flies, except a kite”, he continued boastfully.
My chinky-eyed presence jogged his memory to the time he was in insurgency operations in the interior borders of the North East. He was a big, burly pachyderm and I could picture him as a huge target crashing through those leafy jungles. He was a Goliath in comparison to those smaller structured jawans from the mountain tribes with him in the Rashtriya rifles. He made extra effort to hold on to my attention as he narrated his experience; that his men could live off the land; and how once a soldier from one of the local tribes went into the jungle to come back in no time with a variety of leaves, roots and herbs and cooked him the most delicious pot which he still drooled about.
Though one-upmanship was never my natural game, I couldn’t resist the temptation to tell him that I too had been about, even to the interiors of his back-country of Tarn Taran in Punjab; that I had been on election duty and was put up at the guest house at Harike at the confluence of the Beas and the Sutlej. He admitted that he himself had never been to Tarn Taran, the heartland of ‘the Punjab’. That pumped me up further. The people there speak ‘thete Punjabi’ devoid of all the soft sounds of ‘b’ ‘d’ and ‘h’ etc. As the story goes, the migration during ‘partition’ caused the people to cross the river Beas eastwards into India during the dead of a winter-night. they waded through the icy cold waters, and as they shivered and their teeth chattered, all the soft letters of Punjabi fell into the river! This event resulted in Punjabi, this side of the Beas, turning out to be the most musical language with every two-three words being spoken with the accompaniment of a ‘banjo’ or a ‘bansuri ke’!
Score: 1 love.
(The author is chief commissioner, GST and Customs NE Region, Shillong)