• Welcome to all New Sikh Philosophy Network Forums!
    Explore Sikh Sikhi Sikhism...
    Sign up Log in

'punj Mint' The Different Hues Five Minutes Can Adopt


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The different hues five minutes can adopt

By D K Havanoor


I hail from Gulbarga in North Karnataka and back in the day, there were only two Sikh families who spoke in Kannada when they were outside their homes. So, I had never heard Punjabi being spoken by anybody, until I went for the SSB interviews for commission in the army. In the army I heard enough of Punjabi and was also exposed to the different dialects when I was commissioned in the Sikh Light Infantry.

When I was serving with the Assam Rifles, a colleague of mine narrated his experiences in the Low Intensity Conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, specifically the one that won him the Shouraya Chakra. After a military operation, the Army chief visited the site of the encounter and discussed key points about how the operation could have been more successful. The officer replied, “Sir if I had some more time, I could have done better with my boys”. The chief replied, “Yes sure Nigam, the enemy should have given you the extra punj mint for you to do better, no?” Major Nigam was quite perplexed and amused at the same time.

Another interesting anecdote was when our infantry division had moved to an operational area for routine training. Those were the days of the landlines and snail mails and so in the evenings, women would book calls to their husbands in the operational area. The exchange operators, who were mostly from the south, couldn’t entertain all the people who had booked calls. There were many complaints by those who were not given the calls. The officer-in-charge of the signal company inquired with his men about the problem. His men said that the officers’ wives would initially plead saying, “Bhaiyya Punj Mint baat karungi” but the calls would invariably go on and on. Furthermore, the women would snap at the operators if they were interrupted. The officer had a ready solution — all the officers and their wives would be allowed to speak necessary things only. The problem, however, was how could the exchange operators, from the south, know what was important and what wasn’t by listening to a flurry of Punjabi? The officer-in-charge had a solution: the moment the caller uttered the words ‘Hore Phir’ (What else), the operator was supposed to cut the call. This was based on the premise that whatever was important was already spoken. The formula worked and there were no complaints thereafter.

It was only later when I grew in service, that I came to know that ‘punj mint’ is a misnomer used to denote the time taken to complete the work at hand, no matter how long it would take.