Dear Punjabhi

Today I start this blog, which has been on the back burner for a long time. I am Jo. I am from UK and I and a textile designer who has lived and worked out in India for most of my adult life... now more than 20 years! Gulp! I have many stories of India, and many opinions,  but I will try to keep those at bay and just recount good stories so you may make up your own opinions!

This is dear dear Punjabi, a cycle rickshaw wallah from Jaipur. Actually he is from the Punjab and wears a Punjabi lungi,  but he has lived for ages in Jaipur. He grew up in Afghanisthan and talks of his father and donkeys and trekking in the hills. He then was a lorry driver and says he went "ALL OVER INDIA".  He has sat on a corner of a street that I have frequented for years. He has helped me tonnes,  and he is a really good friend... it is hard to make friends with rickshaw wallahs on the streets of Jaipur. They can be very tricksy indeed!
Punjabhi though, he has been a godsend. He has taken me all over the city of Jaipur and with him I have discovered some amazing places and people. He has got older and older over the years, although he has been 72 for many years too! I have just heard that he has had a terrible accident,  and he has been taken to the Mother Theresa's home in Jaipur and his rickshaw is completely broken. I feel so sad. will not be in India for another 6 weeks, and wish I could go to see him now!
Instead I will tell a tale of him.

One morning in those first few years of being in India, as I came out, Punjabi said "Ah Jo! So! Any work today?"
"Yes Punjabi," I replied, "I need to go to the doctor".
"Doctor? What problem? you?"
So I explained that it was a personal problem.
"Ah, No Problem, Jo," he cajouled, "You my daughter, you tell me problem, no problem, me no problem?"
So I explained that I had missed my period for about 4 months and...
"Ah! This your problem because you always running too much, too much here and there, Delhi, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur, too much running," he interrupted, jumping up from his concrete seat by the side of the road and hastening to his rickshaw, banging the back seat and attempting to make it look clean!
"I take you to Auyervedic Hospital, this best for this!"

He did not think for a second that I could possibly be pregnant. That is because I was unmarried at the time and also as pure as all good Indian girls! Thankfully, pregnancy was already totally ruled out, and that is another story! I was aware that big changes in lifestyle, diet etc could effect the cycle.
So before I knew it I was climbing on the back of his rickety rickshaw and Punjabi was loudly announcing to the whole street that he was taking me straight to the Auyervedic hospital for treatment for lack of periods. I was very embarrased but all the men on the street seemed unshockable and totally relaxed about my period so I thought.. "OK, Go with the flow!"

I sat forward on the seat as he strained to get the rickshaw going, in the vague hope that somehow if the weight was further forward it may help. He was stronger then and we were soon travelling along at a jaunty pace, weaving around the slower traffic and being woven around by the faster traffic. There is something very precarious about being a passenger on a cycle rickshaw, totally exposed, you have to hang on. There is something about that position, on Punjabis rickshaw, that is so dangerous in that city traffic, that it makes you realise that you are alive! Infact, i think I have had many a europhoric moment on that back of Punjabis rickshaw. it is as if the thought of almost dying makes you appreciate that you are not dead, so you love life even more. I watched the funny bulgy bit on the back of his head and the comforting crease in the back of his neck. It was a cool morning and there was not a drop of sweat. When we were finally in the crowded messy traffic of the old city, Punjabi started to tell me everything about the great  Auyervedic Hospital, where he and his wife went for everything. For his eyes, "Yes! Yes!" He exclaimed, whilst freewheeling and turning back to see me, "Best for eyes! Best for this period problem! My wife also have this kind of problem one time you know Jo, this auyervedic medical all is pure, no chemical, only plant and tree and flower. This is cheap and best for you!"
Indian Auyvedic treatments are famous all over the world and if you have never heard of them, only our scientific allapathic treatments then maybe you should look this up!

So, we arrive at the place and Punjabi takes me straight in, marches past all the people who are waiting to be seen,  up to the first person he sees,  and proudly announces himself, me, and my problem! There is immediate and great interest all around the room. We do not have to wait even for a minute.  I thought I would be seen alone by the doctor, but no no,  Punjabi came in too and sat down opposite the doctor and with lots of gesticulating and huge enthusiasm he described to the doctor my problem, my character, my lifestyle but most of all my nature. The doctor took notes particularly on this matter. In fact, I now know that this is very important in Ayurvedic medicine. (I think I may even have managed to spell it right this time!) I am vata.. alot of vata with a bit of pita. This means, I think, that I have a lot of nervous energy. I even look like a vata, apparently, a bit skinny, a bit gangly and jerky! Anyway, before not too long, the two men had decided between them,  what I was and what i needed to get better. A prescription was handed to Punjabi and I thanked the doctor and followed Punjabi outside.

Out onto the crowded street we went, where all eyes followed the white foreigner, and many just stopped to casually stare, in a way I think only Indians are capable of. I instinctively avert my eyes and follow Punjabis dry feet.
The dispensery for my prescription was just there, a hole in the wall kind of affair on the street, and as we queued up the crowd gathered even more. They started to close in and ask questions. But it was just fine because Punjabi was delighted to be able to announce to everyone there that I was his daughter and he had brought me here because I had not had a period for months and I was just too busy, and running all over India, all the time,  and that was because I was Vatta etc etc.  I was just dying of embarrassment but everyone seemed to genuinely care, and agree that I needed this treatment. There was a mass of understanding and concern all around me!

The men at the dispensery looked at the paper, sighed at the large crowd that had gathered, and another huge discussion went on. Great interest all round. They sifted through various bottles and glass jars and measured out a few nuts, a few barky looking things and some beige stuff that looked like dried mud. The men put the things into a pestle and mortar and bashed the whole lot into a fine powder. Then the powder was divided equally into 20 small wraps and wrapped beautifully into torn pieces of old newspaper. Probably the Rajasthan Patrika. I think  had to pay aout 10 rs, which was about 20p at the time.
I was instucted to mix one with water, and drink in the morning before food. and then to take another in the evening before food, and to continue for 10 days. It was disgusting, almost unbearable to drink!
However I did drink this stuff and I have to say that after about 8 days, at least before I had finished the treatment, I had got my period! I have never had this problem again either, except when i was pregnant later on in life!

So he was right! Dear Punjabi.
I just hope that he has some good medicine himself today, and tomorrow and all the days until he gets better. Wish I could put him on my back and take him to the ayuvedic hospital and tell the doctor what he is like, and the whole street!


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere. Good to hear your voice. Looking forward to hearing more tales.

    1. Ahhha! Dear Sonia! Thanks for the encouraging comment!
      Hope your sale is going very well xxx

  2. Thank you Jo.. This story you never told us.. and it's moving and beautiful..
    we have also many moments we lived on the back of the richaw with Punjabi..

    his ups and downs.. life is hard for a rickshawala
    but he always greeted us with a big smile.. even when we had our motorbike and could not use his services

    he has had good friends al thru the years.. but this also is Karma.. he treats people really nicely
    i remember we helped him with the renovation of his rickshaw many years ago.. and we discussed a payback plan in trips.. he didn't want the money but needed to renovate..

    we send him greetings and wish him well

    Jesus & Anita

  3. Dear Jesus and Anita, He indeed always has a big smile for everyone. This small free thing goes a long way. And we know that Punjabis smile, and his load vocal "beeep beeeeeeping" and the way he shouted at eve teasing baddies to protect us will be much missed as we navigate our way around Jaipur! Not sure if I can even remember the way to some of the places without him!!
    Lots of love to you both XXXXXX Jo


Post a comment