Punjabi jugaad

February 29, 2020

During one of the long road trips through Punjab (a State in India) many years ago, my Premier Padmini car’s engine had overheated and I could spot smoke issuing from the engine. I pulled the car to the side. As I raised the hood, I realized that the car’s radiator had leaked and could no longer hold water. In those days, a car’s radiator had to be topped up with water.

As I stood there unsure of the next steps, a white Ambassador tourist taxi slowed down as it approached me. The Sikh driver stuck his turbanned head out of the window and learned about the problem. He parked his taxi on the side and, as can be expected from all Sikhs, quickly came out to help. After a quick but careful examination of the radiator, he went back to his taxi and returned with a large can of water and a packet in hand.

He opened the packet – it was turmeric powder. He emptied the packet into the radiator, waited for a while and then poured all the water into it. Water leaked from the bottom of the radiator but soon the leakage turned to a trickle until it finally stopped. The radiator was now able to hold water.

Surinder bhajee (‘bhajee’ is a brother in Punjabi), the driver, explained his theory to me: turmeric coagulates when it comes in contact with water and the paste-like consistency seals the leakage, temporarily though. Once the car is taken to the mechanic, the cracks in the radiator can be very clearly seen since turmeric shines a bright yellow which helps the mechanic with the welding.

Punjabi jugaad*, indeed!

*Jugaad is an Indian term for a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.

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