by Shashwati Talukdar
Across from the Press club of Jalandhar is a pavement tea stall, the first thing that was open, a place where we could get that morning cup of tea all researchers require. We had company — a whole group of men who got their tea and read the paper before they got to work. The number and variety of papers that seemed to be available in Punjabi was impressively large. And it looked as if people were reading papers everywhere, including the bus, which makes sense given that the overall literacy rate is higher than average for India, and interestingly it seems to be on par with what is average for all of India, while female literacy rates are higher than what is the average for India.
Interestingly it wasn’t the young people we saw reading these papers, and indeed literacy in Punjabi seems to be declining, despite the rich written and oral culture of Punjab on both sides of the border. In recent years there has been an effort to build bridges through language across the border. Maybe this chai shop with mostly middle-aged men, is actually a harbinger of the future. Or, maybe its the migrants to Punjab who hold the key to literacy in Punjabi. (h/t Pritam Singh)
In any case independent media is threatened in Punjab, as it is elsewhere in India and the world. Even though the newspaper culture looks very robust.