Ever since the lockdown began, I have been staying at my maternal village, Butala, with my octogenarian grandmother. Like many other villages around, the gurdwara here leaves no stone unturned to roll out the latest on the coronavirus through announcements over its loudspeaker. Sometimes, a panchayat member addresses the villagers, while at other times, it is the granthi.
These announcements don’t just fill the air, but are seem to be taken more seriously than even TV news. Many go running to the rooftops to clearly absorb the announcement. If children are playing around, they are instantly gestured to remain silent.
Staying here, I also got addicted to the announcements, and patiently unfold them to my grandmother. At times, I may forget to share, but rarely does she forget to repeatedly ask if anything was announced.
This is not a recent development. Announcements from gurdwaras have been a norm in villages for ages. It is rooted deep in their culture, to which I have been a witness for nearly three decades. I remember, as a child, we also had to put a finger on our lips at the time of any announcement. We imitated them during our play hours.
Besides regular updates on upcoming celebrations in the gurdwara or any meetings of the panchayat, they roll out bank notices, especially pension calls, information about any medical camps, bhog, and if people have lost something — be it a child or cattle head. Amusingly, long back, it was only when we knocked for help at the village gurdwara were we able to find our little dog, apparently stolen by someone in the village itself.
In the old days, the loudspeakers were used to gather beds and utensils from everyone in the village for weddings. If government schools had to declare holiday due to any emergency, they took the help of gurdwaras. During the harvest season, weather presentation was a daily ritual that either shattered many hopes or weaved them. In border villages, many old tongues carry tales from war days, and some still remember every word.
In my village, the gurdwara’s loudspeaker, one morning, became ‘historic’ forever, credit to its only priest, who, like every morning around 4 am, before leaving for his walk, played a CD of religious hymns. But that morning, after a few hymns, Punjabi songs began playing, enveloping all in both shock and laughter! Thankfully, within minutes, the CD was removed. The priest blamed his teenaged son for copying songs on it. It may have been years since this happened, but with every retelling, it becomes comical.
For now, we hope the loudspeaker of the WHO soon announces what we all wish to hear: the world is free from the shackles of coronavirus.
But to make that happen, no doubt, we all have to follow every guideline conveyed to us.
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