Hearth to Heart: Pinnis, makki ki rotis and sarson da saag from back home in Punjab warm up the protesting farmers in Delhi

Several villages across Punjab are cooking and sending wholesome food every day to the protesting farmers in the national capital. The wholesome pinnis and the hearty makki ki roti and sarson da saag made with so much love are keeping them warm and nourished in the unwelcoming cold of Delhi.

Vivek Gupta
| Updated: December 7th, 2020

In Talwandi Madho village in Punjab’s Jalandhar district, 350 kilometres away from the national capital of Delhi, villagers spend days and nights preparing 50,000 golden brown desi ghee pinnis, the winter dessert made out of nourishing wheat, desi ghee (clarified butter), dry fruits, milk and jaggery. The womenfolk there are ensuring their men and children, who are away from home, get their daily quota of pinni to keep them warm as they spend day and night out in the open, protesting against the three farm laws. 

These rural women know that an army marches on its stomach, and for the farmers from Punjab and Haryana picketing outside the national capital Delhi, and their families, the protest against the agriculture laws is no less than a war. It has been a week filled with uncertainties, discomfort, anxiety and stress for these farmers who are away from their homes and hearth where their families await them.

Villagers of Talwandi Madho village in Jalandhar district while preparing Pinnis. Photo: By arrangement

A piece of pinni with hot milk is believed to keep a person healthy and warm in the dropping temperatures. “A large number of older people are part of the protest, and these pinnis were made specifically keeping their health in mind,” Paramjeet Singh, a farmer from Talwandi Madho explained to Gaon Connection. The pinnis would keep them warm and energised through the cold days, he added. 

Yesterday, on December 6, Amrik Singh Sandhu from Talwandi Madho personally delivered 25 quintals of the sweet to Delhi’s Kundli and Singhu borders. They were prepared with 1,200 kilogrammes (kg) of atta (wheat), 400 kg of desi ghee (clarified butter), 200 kg of khoya (thickened milk), 100 kg of home-made gurh (jaggery), 50 kg of badam (almonds) and 15 kg of alsi (flaxseed), he said.

Amrik Singh Sandhu along with others from village Talwandi Madho village in Jalandhar district while distributing Pinnis at protest site in Delhi Singhu border. Photo: By arrangement

“Women, youngsters and even the elderly worked for two whole days to get such a huge quantity of pinnis ready by Saturday night,” Sandhu told Gaon Connection. The ingredients cost about Rs three lakh and the money came from the people of three villages — Talwandi Madho, Sohal Khalsa and Kotla Heran. 

Meanwhile, the Barnala-district unit of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Ugrahan, sent five quintals of pinnis to Delhi on December 5. Several other villages from Sangrur and Ropar districts despatched tonnes of jaggery to the protesting sites, as jaggery is considered one of the best natural cleansing agents for the respiratory tract, lungs and stomach. As many as six farmers have already died in the course of the protest in Delhi due to various reasons, aggravated by the cold. 

“We collected six hundred litres of milk from the villagers and made one hundred and fifty kilos of khoya. Then fifty kilos of desi ghee were purchased for two thousand five hundred rupees,” Amarjit Singh from Handiaya village near Barnala, who made some of the pinnis, told Gaon Connection. Six people spent a whole day and night preparing the pinni before it was despatched to Delhi on Saturday, he added.

Elderly being given Pinnis at protest site in Delhi. Photo: By arrangement

According to him, these pinnis will keep the older people in the protest safe from winter-related complications. And as he said this, several more trays of still-warm, glistening-with ghee, studded-with-almonds, luscious chocolatey brown pinnis await packing to be sent to Delhi.  

While tens of thousands of farmers are living out in the open on the Haryana-Delhi border, protesting against the three new farm laws and demanding their roll back, villagers back home in Punjab are working day and night to cook and send healthy home-made food stuff — pinnis, makki-di-roti and sarson-da-saag, milk, fruits, almonds, etc. to them. Some are chipping in from across the continents. 

For instance, the Tut brothers, two US-based NRIs, have ensured 30 quintals of almonds from their godown at Paragpur, Jalandhar district, reach the protesting farmers. “More sacks of almonds are being sent through farmers joining the protests from here,” their relative Ranbir Singh, who is managing the operations in Jalandhar, told Gaon Connection.

Punjab’s tradition of sanjha chulha comes alive

Families and friends back home are keeping up the supply of nutritious and traditional food to the picketing farmers. Sitting on their haunches, around the chulha, the women of Gharachon and Jhaneri villages in Sangrur district make hundreds of makki ki rotis. Some knead huge quantities of flour, others roll out the rotis while a few more cook them on the hot iron tawas.

Not too far away from the rotis, on another chulha, kilos of mustard greens are being cooked as accompaniment to the bread.  They will be packed and sent to the ‘warring’ farmers. “Winter is a blessing in disguise. Cooked food like saag can be preserved for two-three days. That makes it easier for us to keep the cooked food supply on,” Gurmeet Singh from Gharachon, told Gaon Connection.

Women preparing Saag and Makki di roti at Gharachon village in Sangrur district. Photo: By arrangement

“There will be no dearth of food supplies from Punjab as long as our brothers and sisters are sitting in protest in Delhi,” assured  Krishan Singh Shanna, a local leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Channa, Patiala district. Two hundred litres of milk were despatched from Fatehgarh Chhanna and the surrounding villages on December 6. From Barnala block alone, 1,500 litres have been supplied in the past week, he said. “Transportation is not a problem, as almost every day, there is constant movement of tractor trolleys to and from Delhi,” he explained. 

If not pinnis and rotis, fresh fruit is being loaded in great quantities into tractor trolleys to be distributed to the farmers at the protest zones. “Since November 27, I have been making a trip every second day to Delhi with bananas and kinnow (a citrus fruit) from my village,” Kuldeep Singh from Chunni Kalan village near Landran in Fatehgarh Sahib, told Gaon Connection.

Every time he leaves his village, he carries nearly 70 kg of each of the fruits. Fellow villagers have chipped in to help with this, he said. The tractor-trolleys loaded with kinnows move slowly at the protest sites, distributing the fruit to the gathered farmers, giving them their dose of vitamin C. 

Kuldeep Singh of Chunni Kalan village in Fatehgarh sahib while distributing kinnows at protest site in Delhi. Photo: By arrangement

“All this is a reflection of the langar tradition of Punjab that is in practice for centuries. Here, everyone, be it poor or rich, Hindu or Muslim, is served whatever is sent from Punjab,” Manjit Singh, former professor of sociology and director at the Ambedkar centre at Chandigarh’s Panjab University, who too has been at protest site for five days, told Gaon Connection. In keeping with the spirit of inclusiveness when it comes to feeding people, he said there were a lot of underprivileged people at the Singhu border who were also being fed with the food coming in from Punjab.

The women making pinnis at Nauli village of Jalandhar are doing so, not just for the protesting farmers, but also for the security people stationed there, said Harjinder Singh Nauli from the village.

“The concept of service is deep rooted since the time of Guru Nanak Devji,” Harjeshwar Pal Singh, assistant professor (history) at the Chandigarh-based Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, told Gaon Connection. He referred to the langars organised by the Punjabi community to feed the migrant labourers during the pandemic lockdown and.

Even weddings in Punjab are becoming platforms to declare solidarity with the protesting farmers. Like it did at the wedding of Baljinder Singh of Bhalwan village in Sangrur district. His wedding procession to Sanam, where the marriage was solemnised, carried flags of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dhakunda) — one of the 30 farm bodies up in arms against the centre’s farm bills. The wedding guests even danced to songs criticising the agri-acts!   

Farmers protesting against the three agri laws at Singhu border, Delhi. Photo: Amarjeet Kumar Singh

“Everyone in Punjab is concerned about our future ever since the centre passed these bills. Since we could not go to Delhi due to the wedding in the family, we decided to show our support to the protesting farmers by making the Bharatiya Kisan flags and the protest songs part of the wedding,” said Satnam Singh, a relative of the groom.

Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometers away from the warm kitchens of his home, as a protesting farmer pops a pinni into his mouth, or breaks a piece of the makki ki roti, wipes up the familiar sarson ka saag with it and eats, he thinks of his family and his land, for whom he is fighting this battle, and despite the cold nights, and the anxious days, it brings a smile to his face.