In a survey of various former refugee camp areas and the rehabilitation colonies with a Punjabi dominance, almost all of my respondents agreed that Punjabi folk culture is present in Delhi, but has undergone modifications or has faced omission of certain folkloric practices due to inevitable reasons.
The first and foremost reason is the upheaval caused by the partition. One of the respondents, a resident of Kingsway Camp and migrant from West Punjab, while describing the horrors of partition made a very moving remark “when your whole life has been turned over and you have lost everything, even your house and family, and you move to a city where you never belonged to, you are traumatized to the extent that all your merriment is forgotten and your voice is silenced for a very long time.” The circumstances under which these migrants came to Delhi, it is quite understandable that for a very long time, the daily humming while working, the storytelling sessions for which the whole village gathered and songs where women shared theirs woes with each other about the ill-treatment from the in-laws with wit, humor and a pinch of salt would have been ‘forgotten’ and ‘silenced’ for a long time, with people limiting themselves to just ceremonial songs and ritualistic practices.
Most of the respondents felt that certain practices, due to the evolved metropolitan lifestyle in Delhi, have died out and cannot be retrieved. The songs sung by the professional singers or roving minstrels Bhatts and Dadhis, accompanied by professional instrumentalists playing iktara in the evenings on village platform to entertain the people of village can nowhere be found owing to the absence of both, roving minstrels and such village platforms in Delhi. Songs of Trinjan or the songs sung while plying spinning wheel have
almost vanished from Delhi, as much as the spinning wheels have. In a city where everyone is on a move, neither do people have time to ply spinning wheels, nor the energy. Similarly, chores such as embroidering Phulkari and weaving cloth which were often accompanied by folksongs, have given way to readymade clothes available easily in market. Most of the migrants who came and settled in Delhi post partition, abandoned their original occupations such as farming to opt for business instead. Hence, the songs sung while cultivating by the farmers to entertain themselves are long forgotten.
With no time on hand, folktales have been restricted to just parents of young children, or teachers, or sometimes not even that, as mentioned by Mr. Kamal as well. Riddles too, sadly, have fallen out of favor due to the busy lifestyle of people. With new ways of engaging kids such as various mobile applications, games, and television, technology has overpowered the quality time spend by the elders with the younger ones in pretext of these riddle competitions.
However, wedding songs such as Bolian, Mahiya and tappe are still very popular. In my opinion, this is because even when partition took a toll on various other aspects of folklore, rituals, ceremonies and customs were still followed in the traditional manner. Birth, weddings, deaths are all inevitable aspects of human life, and everyone goes through these stages. Thus, as ceremonies were never given up or traded away, the ceremonial songs too, were passed on. Even though the traditional performance of these songs with Dholak by women has been traded for DJs in sangeet, one can vouch that these folksongs are always included in the playlist. Hence, while the mode of performance of these songs has certainly changed, the songs are being passed on in some form or the other. Bollywood and Punjabi Music industry too have a big role to play in keeping these songs alive.
Proverbs too, are still very popular. As remarked by Dr. Bedi, the superiority of proverbs over other forms of folklore lies in the currency they have amongst people.
As mentioned earlier, the legends of Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Mirza Sahiban, and Sassi Punnu are being passed on due to their plot being adopted extensively in movies, both regional and Bollywood. Their performance, complete with the verse-style dialogue delivery and traditional composition is not uncommon in theatrical plays frequently performed in Delhi. Although other legends such as legends of Gopi Chand, Puran Bhagat, Sucha Singh Surma, Raja Rasalu, Hakeekat Rai are hardly known now among the younger generations.
Thus, while some aspects of Punjabi verbal folklore are being passed on to the younger generations, others have died out, or on the verge of dying. While the traditions are seeing modifications for sure, one must not forget that folklore, as mentioned by A.K Ramanujan, is not static, but rather a dynamic entity. As folklore is passed on through the word of mouth from generation to generation, certain modifications or variations are inevitable.