Where are they now

For the love of culture, she’s still active at the ripe age of 83

Swaran, who preserved Bolian Tappe and other folklore of Majha region, is still going strong

For the love of culture, she’s still active at the ripe age of 83

Sawaran Kaur Bal. Photo. The Tribune

Charanjit Singh Teja

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12

Swaran Kaur Bal, a folklore researcher, who preserved ‘Bolian Tappe’ and other folklore of Majha region by visiting rural masses, is still active in her field. Even at the ripe age of 83, her participation in social and cultural events is as young. Recently, she organised ‘Tian da Mela’ to keep the tradition alive.

Swaran Kaur Bal, a folklore researcher

How she utilised lockdown time

I had collected many books through literary events I attended in the past but never got a chance to read them. Now, they are my favourite companions, especially in the afternoons. I have been enjoying the feedback sessions directly to their authors over phone. I must say all these conversations remain so rich.

Born on June 6, 1937 at Thatha village near Sarhali Kalan in Taran Tarn, she completed her schooling at Mata Sahib Devi Aashram in Kairon village, a gift for girls by late Punjab Chief Minister’s Partap Singh Kairon. She owes her interest in writing to Ram Kaur — CM’s wife — who not only looked after the school but also taught Punjabi.

“I often think of her as she played a vital role to inspire us in various ways. She introduced several writing contests and various others events where we explored our talents,” says Swaran. Though she did cultural activism for several decades, her collection of folksongs of Majha region is remarkably a great contribution to the preservation of Punjabi culture.

After completing her MA in Punjabi, she would teach at the village’s government school in Butala, near Amritsar. She visited more than 20 villages in various blocks of both the places and met old women well-known for singing traditional songs. She recorded those songs, which, however, are no more popular among the rural women.

“With the emergence of TV and recording companies, the young generation remembers only those recorded songs. A large number of folksongs are no more the memories of the present generation,” she is worried. During her research, she found that every region of Punjab has a different folklore and folksongs. The Majha region has separate beliefs, traditions and culture from other areas.

On paper

On the bedrock of it, she penned a book ‘Majhe De Main Jami Jayi’ comprising songs, boliyan and tapes of Majha region in 2000. She has mentioned every single woman who has been part of the contribution.

With the book gaining popularity among populace, it was published four times. The maiden year of publication being 2000, followed by 2003, 2009 and 2017 by Punjabi Saath, an international literary body.

Apart from this, she has been part of several radio station talks and Doordarshan as well. A source of encouragement for several women of her village for more than a decade, she has also promoted rural culture and folk singing in her ‘Mela Charkhe Da’ – organised at the village.

“Collecting folksongs from old women was not enough. We need to preserve the musical tone, pitch, intensity of the folksongs, bolian, tappe mahiye. So I have encouraged some young woman from village and trained them about the rhythm of song. The mela was a great success. I have been actively participate in such events,” she tells.

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