The following article appeared recently in The Tribune, Chandigarh, India.
He proudly wears Punjabi attire
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 31
In every society, there are only a handful of people who dare to tread uncommon paths. Balkaur Singh, who retired today as excise and taxation officer of the Punjab government, after putting in 33 years of service, is one such person. Of the nearly 6 lakh employees of the Punjab government, he maintained a distinct identity.
He did not wear pants and shirt unlike most senior and junior babus in Punjab and many other parts of the country, even once during the entire tenure of service. And he did not even wear a kurta and pyjama while on duty. Without bothering about self-imposed protocol by babus, Balkaur Singh wore the traditional Punjabi dress, chadar, kurta and tilledar jutti during the period of his entire service. He was the only employee of the state government who attended top-level official meetings in the traditional attire.
Before joining service as an inspector in 1975, Balkaur did his post graduation in English and Punjabi as a regular student from Panjab University in the early 1970s. He sat in the class room in the traditional Punjabi dress without bothering about what other students and teachers felt about his dress. “My colleagues and other students in the university and during service in the excise department used to taunt me, but I did not bother as I always feel proud of my Punjabi identity,” said Balkaur Singh.
A brief comment made by an English couple in 1966 changed his life forever. He was so hurt by the comment that he decided not to wear “pants and shirt” ever again. “The British couple was sitting in front of our college at Sirsa. Out of curiosity, I along with other students went to see them as we had never seen such people,” said Balkaur Singh. “As far as language and dress is concerned we are still ruling India,” said the Englishman. “Listening to that remark I felt so humiliated that I decided not to wear the attire given to us by Englishmen,” said Balkaur, who also holds post graduation degrees in philosophy, sociology and psychology.
He says public life is dominated by thugs, corrupt and dishonest people. Bureaucrats and other government officials take pleasure in harassing common people. Hypocrisy has become way of life. Ruling classes of all hues are dishonest to people to whom they pretend to serve, he says. “As I had the guts to confront dishonest people, no one asked me to do anything illegal. I tried my best to serve small traders and businessmen honestly and never harassed them. In fact, I tried to help them. I spared those who committed mistakes inadvertently, but never spared those who have been dodging the government by using influence and their status”, he adds.
Balkaur says, “I will now promote Punjabi culture and expose hypocrites, who in the name of serving and promoting Punjabi culture are playing their own politics”.