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Opinion » musings

Posted at: Apr 14, 2018, 12:04 AM; last updated: Apr 14, 2018, 12:04 AM (IST)

Enter the dragon

Enter the dragon

Sandeep Sinha

The only time I had heard of Punjab’s China connection was when I came across the term Sino-Ludhianvi dishes. The term described the Punjabified Chinese food in India like the triple Schezwan rice and was a take on how all food that goes as Chinese in India is not authentic. My first brush with a Sino-Ludhianvi dish was not in Macau, but in Moga, where famished after a day’s work, I gorged on a noodle-burger.

It came as a surprise therefore when I read about the recent announcement by CM Amarinder Singh that Mandarin will be offered as an optional subject in senior secondary classes in Punjab schools. The language will initially be offered in one school in each district and students will have to appear in an annual exam. 

The Make in India and Smart City initiatives of the Modi government have Chinese companies, strong in infrastructure development, eyeing business prospects. With a number of cities in Punjab vying for the ‘smart’ tag, the prospect appears to be sound. Already, the Banawali thermal power plant near Talwandi Sabo has been built with Chinese assistance in terms of engineering, procurement and construction.

The timing of the move is also significant for a paramilitary force like the ITBP, which is teaching its recruits Chinese. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, addressing ITBP personnel on their 56th Raising Day, asked them to learn Mandarin to communicate better with the Chinese. With border skirmishes like in Doklam, the advice is sound. The Punjabi movie Subedar Joginder Singh, released recently, is about a hero who attained martyrdom in the 1962 China war. 

Punjab has been hosting Chinese students, who come here to study subjects ranging from yoga to English and information technology to biotechnology.  Less distance between the two countries and cost-effective education prompts them to opt for India. In fact, a place like Bathinda has students from Thailand studying in schools there.

The Chinese, curious about the country of Buddha, have been visiting this part of the country since the days of King Kanishka and his Kushan successors who controlled parts of Punjab. Only now, they visit the state for educational and business purposes. The love for foreign shores among the Punjabis is well-known. If they can buy land in distant Georgia, why not explore Guangzhou?

The silver lining is that a state that takes pride in its language and culture — sadda Punjab, saddi shaan —is willing to promote learning of a foreign language. Harkishan Singh Surjit might have served as an ideological link to communist China, but it has been mostly Westward Ho for Punjabis and not a Look East policy. Amarinder himself is known more to head for Dubai than Beijing. The development, hence, is interesting. 

Did I hear someone say, ‘Ni Hao, Captain saheb!’


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