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   So, Mr. V.P. Singh is going to walk through the Punjab... (August 21, 1990)

So, Mr. V.P. Singh is going to walk through the Punjab. I too have walked through that state, travelled on its ST buses, trucks. Though my journey was at a much happier time, when the land was at peace and the farmer were filed with swaying stalks of wheat which fed half the country.

I have vivid memories of the period. Coming out of Delhi on to the Grand Truck Road, Kim's Road, extending from Peshwar to Calcutta. Past Ambala, with frothy lassi in tall steel tumblers, and Luthiana, looking like a scene from Bhowani Junction with busy Sikhs in suits and brief-cases.

And I remember the land around the towns: green fields with red tractors (Punjab had tractors, the rest of India was still using wodden ploughts with two bullocks, their ribs sticking out), a network of canals, villages with garages to repair motor-cycles, and, on the highways, the dhabas, with black dal, onions, rotis being baked in earthen tandoors, and vegetables picked from the fields behind the dhabas.

I spent a fortnight in Amritsar, residing at a hotel called Airlines, drinking milky tea, eating chaat, and the apples that arrived by the truckload at Hall Bazar from the orchads of Himachal Pradesh.

Every morning, I used to sit in a park and read The Tribune, thencross the railway line and walk through, the town to the Golden Temple. It was queit there, sitting on one of the flagstones above the pond and looking at the Sikh families offering their prayers. Outside were the sounds of an Indian town, radios blaring songs from every shop, policemen blowing whistles, rickshaw-wallas shouting to pedestrians to make way for them but inside there was the peace of a temple.

In the evening, I would go on the Amritsar Mall and with a large gathering of local citizens watch TV programmes from Lahore in the display window of a television shop.

After a fortnight, I moved on, first to Gurdaspur, then to Pathankot, the northen extremity of the state. Today, I read those names in newspapers, but in a different context: 15 killed in a terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, 20 killed in an encounter in Gurugaon. Perhaps, V.P. Singh's walk through Punjab will end that. But I coubt that. There is no Indian politician living today who can bring peace to Punjab.

 
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