A 47-year-old professor has been going around Punjab and exhorting shopkeepers and business owners to put up signboards in Punjabi language. The man carrying out a crusade to promote Punjabi is neither a native of Punjab nor did he speak the language in the first three decades of his life.
He is Pandit Rao Dharennavar, a native of Bijapur district in Karnataka who moved to Chandigarh in 2003 to take up a teaching job.
He is currently an assistant professor at the Postgraduate Government College in Sector 46 of Chandigarh.
His latest effort towards the promotion of Punjabi follows the Punjab government's move of exhorting people to put up signboards on private and public buildings across the state in Punjabi language before International Mother Language Day, which falls on February 21.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann last November called for a mass movement for putting up signboards prominently in Punjabi along with other languages as a mark of respect to the mother tongue.
Dharennavar carries a placard of Punjabi alphabets to urge shopkeepers to write names of their shops in Punjabi language. "I tell them they should give due respect to their mother tongue and write names of their shops in Punjabi before any other language,” said Dharennavar. He says people should feel proud to put up signboards in Punjabi.
He said he is getting tremendous response from shopkeepers who pledge to put up signboards in Punjabi.
"I have already visited Khanna, Ludhiana, Moga, Patiala, Rajpura, Mohali and Fatehgarh Sahib and will be visiting Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Ferozepur and other cities as well,” he added.
Dharennavar, whose mother tongue is Kannada, said he has also written to private universities in Punjab to put up their signboards in Punjabi.
The assistant professor had earlier raised his voice against the glorification of gun culture, drugs, liquor and violence in Punjabi songs.
Dharennavar said he learnt Punjabi after he realised that his students were not proficient in English.
"I knew nothing about Punjabi when I came to Chandigarh. I was teaching in English. One day, I decided that I should learn Punjabi and teach students in their mother tongue so that they can understand the subject better," he said.
Dharennavar has translated Sikh religious book "Japji Sahib" into Kannada language and "vachanas" from Kannada into Punjabi.
He stressed that like in Karnataka, there should be a translation centre in Punjab to translate the rich Punjabi literature, poems, novels into other languages.
"The works of famous poets like Sant Ram Udasi, Pash and Shiv Kumar Batalvi should be translated into other languages like Kannada, Tamil so more and more people should know Punjab's literature,” he said.
Dharennavar also gives Punjabi lessons to doctors at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research who hail from southern states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu so that they can communicate with patients from Punjab in their local language. He has also written a book, "Sat Sri Akal Doctor Sahib", for the purpose.
Dharennavar has named his daughter after Mata Khivi, the wife of second Sikh Guru Angad Dev.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)