The author recollects an incident while musing on ways his personal growth workshops had impacted people as he mulls penning a memoir.
It happened in the early 2000s during a corporate workshop I led at the India Habitat Center in Delhi. The participants, mostly young management graduates, gathered for three days of intense learning. As the workshop drew to a close, during a reflective session, a young woman, let’s call her Jasbir, candidly shared an inner conflict that deeply troubled her at the time. The description below is based on my memory of what she said. I have tried to make it as fidelitous as possible.
Jasbir, a Punjabi Sikh, had been in a relationship with a Bengali boy, let us call him Dhruvo, for around two years. Over this period, she immersed herself in Bengali culture, picking up a smattering of Bengali language. She grew fond of Bengali cuisine. She was simply enchanted by Durga Puja celebrations that she attended for two consecutive years. Often, they visited each other’s houses, and they got to know each other’s families. Jasbir was charmed by the Bengali vibes of Chittaranjan Park where Dhruvo lived. Dhruvo was charmed by the Punjabi vibes of Rajouri Garden where Jasbir lived.
Just six days back on the previous Sunday, after deep consideration, they decided to marry. Together they visited first the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara and then the Kali Bari temple to seek blessings. Thereafter, they informed their folks about their decision. Both families were happy about this development and supported their decision.
Sikh men perform the daily ritual of tying their turbans most mindfully because the turban is a matter of great pride for them. But first the turban length has to be folded width-wise. This folded piece of the turban cloth is called pooni. Now, making the pooni generally requires the help of another person.
Embracing change – welcoming new chapters
Over to the next morning. Jasbir’s father and elder brother used to leave for work around 8 am, and Jasbir left for her office a little late. Now, in Sikh families, all men go through a compelling daily ritual of tying their turbans after getting dressed. They perform this act most mindfully for the reason that their turban is a matter of great pride for them. Another practical reason is that a well-tied turban can give a smart edge to the wearer’s personality while a carelessly tied turban can give him a sloppy look.
Before tying a turban, the turban length is required to be folded width-wise a certain way. This folded piece of the turban cloth, which determines to an extent how well a turban will be tied, is called pooni. A well-made pooni helps the turban stay neat and secure. Now, making a pooni generally requires the help of another person. Two persons stretch the cloth diagonally, holding the opposite corners taut. Then, they gently fold the unstretched two corners toward the center, and a pooni is made having a width of 3 to 4 inches. Ever since Jasbir was a child, she had been assisting her father and brother in making poonis before they tied their turbans.
Something unexpected happened that day. As Jasbir and her brother finished making a pooni, and as her brother sat down before the mirror to tie his turban, suddenly, Jasbir burst into tears and started crying bitterly. A poignant thought hit her like a ton of bricks. It occurred to her that after she got married and started living with Dhruvo, she would miss helping her father and brother make their poonis. The reality of leaving this cherished tradition behind after marrying Dhruvo caused unbearable emotional turmoil in Jasbir. How could she tear herself away from her culture? No, it was impossible. The prospect of severing this cultural tie was too great a price to pay.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Jasbir abruptly decided to call off the wedding plans. She picked up her laptop and hurriedly sent a decisive email to Dhruvo telling him that she couldn’t marry him and he should not contact her. She pressed the ‘send’ button and stopped crying. The wedding was off.
In the subsequent days, Dhruvo persistently attempted to contact Jasbir, but she remained unresponsive. Thursday was her first day at the workshop. As the workshop progressed over Friday and Saturday, it did something for Jasbir. There was some crucial churning in her mind. She experienced a gradual transformative shift in perspective. It was just before she started sharing her conflict during the reflective session that a tsunami-like force hit her solar plexus and a sudden clarity washed over her—a resolution to embrace change and marry Dhruvo.
Surprising offer from the fiancé
At this point, she declared that she was going to message Dhruvo right there and then that the wedding was on. The message was sent, and the reply came in a minute, brimming with enthusiasm: “Hurray! Reaching India Habitat Centre in 15 minutes. Will wait for you outside your workshop hall.”
We informed the receptionist outside the workshop hall that when Dhruvo showed up, he was to be ushered in immediately. And so it was done. In twenty minutes, Dhruvo walked in and we witnessed the amazing spectacle of the reunion of two temporarily estranged lovers. They hugged each other amidst wild cheers from participants!
Jasbir informed me the next day that after the workshop she and Dhruvo moved to Eatopia Restaurant in the same premises and sorted out everything. What is more, Dhruvo made an unexpected, endearing gesture. He offered to tie a turban every Sunday, committing to preserve Jasbir’s cherished tradition by involving her in making the pooni. “It is not necessary. Not at all,” said Jasbir, but the gesture touched her deeply. The information warmed the cockles of my heart. I was sure it would be a fun marriage.
I have been off-workshops for the last 8 years. I recollected this incident as I mused on what diverse ways my workshops had impacted people, and how they subsequently navigated personal challenges and growth.
PS: As I finish writing this heart-warming incident from my memory, I am reminded of a funny scene in the Punjabi movie ‘Jatt & Juliet’. The protagonist Diljit Dosanjh asks an air hostess when their arrival is announced for her help in doing the pooni. That is how important a partner is for making a pooni. Beat that!
Lead photo courtesy: https://shahipaggturban.com