Saving the Past, Present, and Future of Punjab

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By Amrita Sandhu

Amrita Sandhu
Amrita Sandhu

Not too long ago the word Punjabi conjured images of a hardworking and determined person of integrity. These are the tenets upon which our generations past have built and solidified their futures. Somewhere along the lines, these characteristics were lost. Perhaps it was the result of the oblivious and all too forgiving nature of Indian parents towards their offspring. Or perhaps it was a more gradual subtle change in the psyche of Punjabi youth. The end result is that of a dying culture. A culture once so rich and proud – is now being likened to that of impoverished and drug stricken slums inhabiting an ethnic group in danger of extinction.

Regardless of the cause of this social epidemic, the solution is clear. We must unite together to save our youth. This may be easier said than done. However, the initial step to solving any social crisis is always to spread the word. Communicate, discuss, and deliberate what can be done to steer Punjabis around the world into the right direction. If those in our motherland have lost their way, what will become of those of us spread so wide and far from our roots?

We must return to the source, and bring back to life the religion and culture that brought us to the place we are at today. There are many people from Punjab who have reached admirable levels of success abroad. However, those youngsters pining at the dream of emigrating from India are killing any chance of a future they may have – in India or elsewhere.

They are doing so by turning to serious hard-core drugs such as heroin and other extremely harmful substances. Although there is a line between cultural norms and religious guidance we must keep in mind that this is not what is in our “dharm” (duty) and most definitely not what our Gurus envisioned for us as a people. The Sikh people are meant to be lifelong scholars on a quest for higher enlightenment while spreading goodwill along the way. Instead, we have somehow stooped so low as to become the ones we are meant to be providing aid to. What has become of our people? This is a serious issue that could have catastrophic effects if not attended to immediately. This is not just a social issue of India. It is an issue for humanity. It is the issue of every Indo-Canadian who cares about carrying their lineage forward. One should never expect to excel forward, if they forget to look back from where they have risen. We must aid those who have lost their way back to the true “Gursikhi” way. We must ensure the prevention of anymore individuals falling by the wayside.

Only a few short years ago Punjab was a prideful gem of India. Now – the downfall of not only the economy of this state but its social stature is shocking and undeniable. According to several Indian news outlets billions of dollars are involved in the drug trade annually – in this region alone. For nearly a decade, the frequency of drug use amongst Punjabi youth in India has increased dramatically. All the while the numbers of youth graduating from post-secondary institutions have been dwindling. A 2011 study conducted on drug use and alcoholism in Punjab revealed that 1.5 to 2 million of youth ages 15-25 are in the devastating cycle of drug abuse. These numbers are staggering and hard to conceptualize. However, we must not turn a blind eye to this. This issue has become so prevalent and threatening that several Western media outlets have reported on this growing battle. The Washington Post Newspaper wrote an article about premature death amongst Punjabi males leaving several hundred women widowed in certain villages. If Punjab’s current vulnerable state has caught global attention – it should also ignite our inner desire to do something about this as well.

The answer is clear – we must return to inhibiting the qualities that make us unique from any other cultural group. We must apply those characteristics from which we are historically differentiated to become something we can all be proud of once again. The manner in which this can be achieved is by promoting the importance of education. Naturally, if the youth are occupied in an educational system, to which they feel they belong on every level of their being – mind, body, and spirit, they will be salvaged. There will be no room in their hearts or desires for any mind altering substances. Their psyches will be fulfilled and equipped with knowledge to succeed in life.

There have been certain credible individuals taking initiative in India to aid in solving this problem. However, they cannot do so without our support. A particular example of a possible sanctuary for impressionable youth in which all they require can be provided is The Akal Academy of India. Their previous locations have had great successes in transforming lives. The new campus which is currently under construction will essentially be an academic community which would be the perfect vessel for keeping our youth off the streets and away from chasing dangerous highs. It is currently under construction in a Northern part of Punjab and being a part of the development of this post-secondary institute is one of the many things which need to be done as an antidote to this disease plaguing the villages of Punjab. Please promote awareness of this issue. Please save our roots and futures from destruction.

To read The Washington Post Newspaper article visit:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drug-epidemic-grips-indias-punjab-state/2012/12/31/092719a2-48f6-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_story.html

To learn more about drug use in Punjab visit:

http://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/Attachments/PublisherAttachment/ISAS_Working_Paper_No__177_-_Factors_Driving_Drug_Abuse_in_India’s_Punjab_24092013171919.pdf

To learn more about Akal Academy visit:

http://barusahib.org/

http://akalacademy.org/AA/

 Amrita Sandhu is a Manager at Prabu Foods Incorporation. She graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University with a Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Psychology. She enjoys utilizing social media platforms to raise awareness about socially and culturally relevant issues.