The other day I was watching the ETC Punjabi channel on television and the Miss World-Punjaban contest, held recently in the city of Ludhiana, was on air. This was not the usual 'beauty' contest and had more to do with testing the contestants' awareness of Punjabi language and culture as well as their skills at practising folk art forms like Giddha and BoliyaaN. The dress code was also traditional throughout the various stages of the contest.
As far as I can remember, the various rounds included one based on solo-dance (traditional), a Giddha round, along with a round where each participant had to wear a bridal dress and one where each contestant had to pick a slip of paper out of each of two bowls, on one of which would be a question related to Punjabi heritage and culture for the young lady to answer and on the other would be a subject, a Boli related to which the girl would then have to recite.
By the time I turned on the television set, the Bridal-wear stage was already over and the solo-dance was in progress. Some of the participants managed to impress my mother (who was also watching) too, with their graceful movements. Others were not so good and some even seemed to have copied a few steps from dances in Bollywood movies, which was saddening. All of them danced to traditional Punjabi tunes, however.
Giddha was much better as all the participants, who had to perform together, as a group, for that is what the dance-form requires, had obviously received some help from the organisers too. It was a well-co-ordinated performance and though I am no expert, I dare say that all the girls put up a rather good show.
Also, all of them, some of whom had come from Indian states other than Punjab and some from as far away as Australia and the United States, appeared to have done their homework well for the final round and all but one participant managed to answer the questions with a fair amount of accuracy, as well as to recite the Boli that was asked of them. Some of the questions seemed fairly easy to me, while there were others the answers to which I did not know. So, I was amazed at and really admired the depth of knowledge that some of the pretty young ladies had about the rich Punjabi virsa (heritage). I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that such girls still do exist in this day and age, when most young Punjabans spend their spare time keeping up with the latest trends, fashions, television soap-operas, gossip and other such frivolous pursuits (It's not that most Punjabi young men fare any better on this count!) and I felt enormously proud of all of them!
The contestant who won the Miss World-Punjaban saggi-phull comes from Australia. I could not help noticing that she has an immensely beautiful pair of eyes. It is so difficult to notice such things, on account of the bare-dare or skin-tight outfits that most girls otherwise wear these days!
I am sure many would agree with me that the Sabhyacharak Sathh has done a highly commendable job by organising something like this. However, I think it would not only have added greatly to the prestige of the event, but also made it complete, in a way, if participation had also been secured from the Punjab that exists on the other side of the Indo-Pak border.