Two Amrita’s – the poet Amrita Pritam and painter Amrita Sher-gil digitally distorted featured at South Asian Arts Collective summer show at Ward End Library August 2019.
Sada chidiyan da chamba (Our temporary nest of birds) is a project that aims to explore the female narrative of Panjabi wedding folk songs. This project has been supported by the Creative Black Country Open Access Seed Award and is co-produced by Birmingham City University’s Professor Rajinder Dudrah as part of his research project Slanguages with Creative Multilingualism.
What unites Panjabis across the world is the language itself along with its traditional folk songs. Panjabi wedding folk songs are one element of the different types of Panjabi folk songs. Other folk songs include heroic ballads such as “Dulla Bhatti” and “Sucha Soorma”, while some have romantic themes, for example Jugni, Kafian, Jindua and many others.
I chose Sada chidiyan da chamba as a title for my project as it is a Panjabi folk song that is associated with the sadness of a woman as she leaves her parents’ home. But I wanted to explore the feelings of women – including both happiness and sadness – and how they express their emotions.
Sada chidiyan da chamba ve babla
Asan ud jana, asan ud jana
This was our temporary nest of birds oh father,
Tomorrow I will fly, I will fly
While reading Waris Shah’s “Heer”, a long poem in verse about a Panjabi female, I was reminded that Heer is a character that frequently comes up in Panjabi folk songs, and music more widely. Heer is the central character of this tale but her story is told by a man. How would this tale differ if it was told by a woman? If Waris Shah had a sister that wrote “Heer” instead – how would it be told? All these questions arose in my mind which led me to think: where are the stories written by women? Where are the missing Panjabi female poets? At that point, the wedding boliyaans came to mind – these are songs that have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth/orally …
The first person I asked about weddings and wedding folk songs was my mother (pictured above on her wedding day). Talking about her wedding and wedding folk songs, she said “Marriage – I didn’t actually know what that term means but all I knew was that I wanted to fly away – I wanted to be free just like the chidiyan, which is why ‘chidiyan da chamba’ is my favourite wedding folk song.”
Phulkari literally means flower work — the colourful traditional embroidery work phulkari, represents a living tradition that can be traced back hundreds of years and it continues to this day. The origin comes from Panjab. It is spun from the charkha (spinning wheel) and the embroidery is often patterned on shawls, kurtis, salwars, suit jackets jackets and chunnis. Interestingly the first time phulkari was mentioned was in the epic tale of Heer written by Waris Shah around the mid 1700. It is used across Panjabi weddings.
I recall talking to Nani Ji and she mentioned to me she had a very simple wedding, no photos were taken. She remembered that she wore a red salwar suit had her pierced her nose and had put a paranda in her hair.
“I’ve always dreamt of having a perfect Indian wedding and being that traditional bride…what I envisioned is what came true for me…” – Raman
“The time I spent with my extended family during the build up to our wedding was very special. I think that is what helped me the most in getting through the nervous jitters and overwhelming emotions of leaving home. Although, every time I looked at Mom and Dad, I could feel a lump in my throat as I tried to contain my tears. I still get the same feeling every time I have to come back from my parent’s home. I have not watched my doli back after receiving my wedding DVD’s, but I have to say it was my favorite moment of the entire wedding. I saw the love my family had for me, pouring through their long held back tears. What was more beautiful, is how they all came together to support one another. This would be the first time I’d ever leave my parents house. I’ve always stayed closed to home for education or work, so I never felt the distance. From the moment I sat in the car on our doli, I knew that although the physical distance would increase, the love and communication would be stronger than ever. The initial pain of departing will always be there, but what our parents always want, is for us to be happy. Being able to communicate to my parents that I am truly happy today, is what makes them smile. Knowing that my happiness, is their happiness gives me a sense of responsibility to remain happy with my new family, whilst making sure my parents are happy too.” – Amarjit Kaur
Chitta Kukkad is a Panjabi folk song in the form of a tappa that is about the separation of brothers and their sisters after she gets married.
While many girls and women dream of getting married from a young age for many it is not something that they dream about as they have different dreams.
Sada chira da chamba.
One moment you feel the pain of moving homes.
To going into another family.
Another moment you are questioning why.
Why are girls subjected to move houses. Why is it the girl that is the burden. Why is that the girl holds the houses izzat. Why is it important for a girl to get married. Why can’t we let a girl breathe and fly high, so high away from those who try to tie her down, those who try to bring her back on to earth and make her follow the huddle of sheep. Why can’t a girl fly and fly high away. I wonder if these femal punjabi singers Ever thought about writing and singing about girls independence, a girl dreams. Why are the songs centered around love and marriage. Is a girl just worth this? Can’t a girl break the norms and set herself free from the chains of society. Can’t a girl dance to a song talking about her dreams? I’m not really looking for an answer but I’m looking for us all to question the norms of society. They need updating. Fast. – Jappy
Work is in progress and will be updated as the project progresses.
– A word which unites Panjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and Persian meaning soul
The soul sees no religion. The soul sees no border. The soul is free.
“In Rooh, her debut poetry collection, she takes us on a poetic journey that transcends borders and arbitrary boundaries. Her work straddles English and Punjabi culture – fusing words from Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu and English. They look at love, religion, identity, politics, history, taboos, society – often questioning orthodox views, particularly around the roles that different genders are expected to adopt. Rooh has a grand scope and stares unblinkingly at the world. It is a stunning first collection from this young, intelligent poet.” – Verve Poetry Press
“Rupinder’s poetry is at once electrifying, heartbreaking and uplifting. She writes truthfully and with care, as if feeding you these lovingly crafted words with her own hands. A must read” – Amani Saeed.
Available to purchase now :
Verve poetry press website – https://vervepoetrypress.com/product/rupinder-kaur-rooh-pre-order-numbered-and-signed-by-the-author-postage-free/
Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Rooh-Rupinder-Kaur/9781912565085
Putting my salwar on
I play Surinder Kaur’s
ek meri akh kashni
written my favourite poet
Shiv Kumar Batalvi
that carries too much language
that can’t be translated.
As I put my kameez on
it lines my body’s curves
coming down with Lahore and Amritsar
a bit like my mother’s salwar kameez from an old photo
where she stands in-between
as she is the middle child
that has the worry of all.
The photo brings old Delhi
where poetry lingers
origin washes away -no foeticide or qurbanis.
I remember my Nani Ji holding me,
calling me a ray of light – Kiran.
I see my Daadi Ji looking at me
through the mirror smiling –
she lost her husband so young
yet she remained so strong
and raised two sons by herself
working hard day and night.
And as I place my dupatta by my side
I feel my ancestors next to me
two worlds of life and death
coming at the platform of reality.
And I stand between two parallel lines
bringing a fusion of language
from every mohalla, area
that they set foot on
and finally Birmingham.
Yes, sometimes I write for myself
but mostly I write for my mother.
I write for my ancestors that spill ink in every poem.
Jugni is a poem that is featured in Rupinder Kaur’s debut poetry book Rooh
o mereya jugni, jugni
o mereya jugni, jugni
jugni travels from Delhi to Amritsar
across to England
jungi; the essence of life,
the spirit of life comes inside my rooh
jugni comes and dances in my dreams
jugni makes me fly
jugni takes me across borders
taking me to Lahore
jugni removes the radcliffe line
and I see my five rivers flowing together
jugni sees me read and write poetry
jugni tells me to light the candle
jugni watches me apply kohl
jugni watches me paint my lips
jugni looks at me and smiles
jugni tells me to fall in love with myself
jugni is no kafir or fakir
jugni is azaad, jugni is azaad
and jugni makes me free
jugni sets my rooh free
the jugni becomes me…
and the jugni becomes me…
o mereya jugni, jugni…
o mereya jugni, jugni
These two poems are from Rupinder’s debut poetry book Rooh with Verve Poetry Press
Sada chidiyan da chamba- Our temporary nest of birds, is a project that aims explore the female narrative of Panjabi wedding folk songs in Panjab and the diaspora over the past years with a focus on Birmingham and The Black Country. Research will be done through oral history, wedding archives from photographs and items.
Sada chidiyan da chamba ve babla
Asan ud jana, asan ud jana
This was our temporary nest of birds,
O father Tomorrow I will fly, I will fly…
What unites Panjabis across the world is the language itself along with its traditional folk songs. Panjabi Wedding folk songs are an element of the different types of the various different Panjabi folk songs.
Wedding folk songs from Suhag, Sitniyan, Tappe, Mahiye and Ghoriyan are the artistic expressions of Panjabi women. Suhag in particular is the direct female perspective of brides. They have been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation as outlets containing the feelings, sentiments, emotions and desires of Panjabi women.
Throughout the project there will also be creative writing workshops held with women of all ages, to explore and write responses and even to rewrite the folk songs. The workshops will be held in November in Birmingham and Wolverhampton along with a Giddha workshop.
If you have any favourite wedding folk songs, or have wedding stories, photographs and items that you would like to share and contribute towards this project please get in contact with myself – firstname.lastname@example.org
With all research collated there is an aim of an exhibition in Spring/Summer 2020.
This project is being kindly supported by Creative Black Country Open Access Seed Award and is being co-produced by Professor Rajinder Dudrah’s research at Slanguages, Creative Multingualism (Oxford University) and Birmingham City University.
Rupinder had led workshops across Birmingham and nationally working with various organisations and schools. She has experience with students aged from 15- 50.
She generally carries out these workshops- Introduction to Panjabi poetry, Introduction to South Asian poetry, Introduction to South Asian Writers (these can also be made specific e.g. just focusing on one writer or a theme) Azaad Lafz (Free verse poetry writing) and Finding your voice through spoken word.
” I was able to reconnect with the arts, I never knew that there are so many South Asian poets”
“I realised that poetry is such an empowering outlet”testimonies after workshops
If you are interested in speaking to Rupinder about workshops please email – email@example.com for more information.