Oct 8, 2006

temporary passage: Part 3

i have just come back from shoots in ferozepur, faridkot, and amritsar---it went really well with some amazing characters and interviews--that part of punjab is like the wild west--everyone seems to carry a gun--even a heartpatient in his 80s!! recorded some musicians, and took a ride in a rudimentary wooden boat in the sutlej... the river has been stilled by the dam, so the surface is as slick and smooth as glass---so calm that the boat slides across with little to no sound except the twin oars dipping into the river with the slowed routine of one with no passengers awaiting his return or arrival.

On its route from the mountains of tibet, the sutlej serves as the border between pakistan and india in some places as it crosses through the two punjabs ...all is forgotten as one glides along this watery crevice--past the fields and farmers that meet along its banks.

got to the fencing that denotes the border area of the two punjabs near pul kanjri, a small village about 20 kms from amritsar--quite a lot of barbed wire that weaves in and out and circles around itself as it creates a barrier about 10ft high and 5 ft thick--with an electric current running through to fry those who test the division at night.

i was there during the mid-day sun, and against this metallic web of lines, a black female dog edged her way through from one side to the other, negotiating the twists and turns of the barbed wire in a manner which suggested her familiarity with the routine. a deft approach by hungry dog in the rising heat.

pul kanjri used to be a thriving place during the time of maharaja ranjit singh. he stopped here on his trips between lahore and amritsar--and had a favorite dancer, moran, who performed for him as he rested between towns. the village is named for her--after an incident in which the poor dancer lost a shoe in a tiny canal that used to run along here---so the maharaja promptly had a bridge built for her to cross thereafter. pul=bridge and kanjri=dancer (though i am told kanjri is now a derogatory name)....

there are remnants of his architecture that he had built around an intimate water tank--including a slightly hidden section where ladies could bathe--and considering how dusty, dry, and hot it is here--i am sure they welcomed the secluded opportunity. one gate remains out of 12 that were surrounding the place of rest. a mosque still stands from the same time, and is "maintained" by the BSF within their encampment.

the car i was riding around these border towns in was more of a contraption--and at one point it didn't respond to the iron rod that the driver occasionally had to bang against its engine--- i came to find out that the driver was an addict (to a certain combination of painkillers and something that is in a small green packet that's easily available at any chemist). this is the alternative when opium is not available-- this part of punjab apparently has a terrible drug problem, with some places having as high as 50% of users.

it being the border district of punjab, it has not seen the "development" that the rest of the state has seen. and certainly the presence of the BSF and the Army--though in the background of daily life---tends towards a subliminal consciousness of the fragility of permanence.

but i would say it's the most beautiful part i have seen so far in punjab. rich farmland accentuated by white, powdery earth; ridges lined with safeda (eucalyptus) trees in which to overlook the crops; and the silent trace of the sutlej, with its slow-moving wooden ferry boats powered only by the strength of its solitary rower.


Blogger bouyant said...

enjoyed reading part 3... having seen the film, it reads with more vividness. i like your language-both visual and text..

11:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home