'Pepsu?' I frowned at the word. PEPSU? Where? How? Why didn't I know?
Oddly enough, India did have a state by that name though our history books don't mention it. At least, my school-books didn't. But independent India did set out with a state called 'Patiala and the East Punjab States Union', PEPSU for short.
It was a place where "The people had been suffering from the ‘double slavery’, under idiosyncratic and pervert rulers who were themselves under the slavish subservience of the British. The caretaker government with Sardar Gyan Singh Rarewala, a high official of Patiala State and close relation of the Maharaja, as the Premier was installed under a stop-gap arrangement in Aug 1948. I have a vague but disturbing memory of bloody popular upsurge in Malerkotla against police repression in the wake of murder by angry mob on June 14, 1948 of Thanedar Kuldip Singh who had raped a girl when she was in his custody."
I had a funny sensation when I read the paragraph above. It was like time hadn't moved at all. 1948, 2008. The same thanedaars, the same mobs, the same relatives of rulers squatting in positions of power. It could have been modern Punjab or Kashmir or Karnataka or Delhi.
The passage above is part of an interesting memoir-essay by Bal Anand, who remembers Pepsu (the state eventually merged into Punjab in1956) with mixed feelings.
He says: "I have strongly mixed emotions of love and hate with my Pepsu identity. The two years of studies, during ’59-’61, in , Malerkotla and the two years as a college lecturer in Bathinda in ’67-69 provided me with a wealth of contrasting experiences with my studies in DAV college Jalandhar for graduation and Post Graduation in Government College, Ludhiana. To me, Pepsu seemed personification of feudal depravities and, rampant corruption, in its myriad hues. The peon of the Principal and the clerks in Malerkotla college; the clerical staff and even lecturers and Principals in Bathinda, I am very sorry to say, remind me of the most viciously corrupt and intriguing persons in contrast to many inspiring and most helpful functionaries I came across as student/lecturer in and Ludhiana. When the Pepsu was merged into the Punjab, many like me, had hoped and prayed that values and work culture of Punjab will have a salutary influence on the Riyasati-Pepsu people. But, alas! the wheel seems to have turned the other way round: The ‘Pepsu-ization’ of Punjab seems to be full and complete; the theory of economics, 'bad money drives out good money' rings loudly true in my beloved present Punjab."
But do go read the essay. It offers a lot of context and small details which should tell us about the way our country was, and in many ways, still is. For instance, when the writer was going to be sent to school in 1949, the Government Primary School, four kilometers away, was chosen over the middle school which was only three kilometers away. The former was 'falling in the Angrezi Ilaqa' because people thought that schools in the 'British territory' were better than those in the princely estates.
Really, what has changed? The 'angrezi ilaqa' has changed to 'English medium' or 'convent' and nowadays, 'international'.