Occupation: Financial Manager
Residence: San Ramon, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/26/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi
Informant: So the village we come from? It’s called Malewal. Our ancestors, seven generations up from my dad, so nine generations up from you, there was Chandu, he was the first of two people who came and settled in our village. He shared our last name, he was our ancestor. So those two started the village and this is a story about Chandu.
So at some point in the past there was more than one Malewal in that area, so people would ask, “Which Malewal are you from?” And the Malewal we came from was known as “Malewal of the Thieves.” The story we heard, and I heard this multiple times is, well, Chandu was a farmer. Living hand to mouth most of the time. But Chandu, he also … at times … well he liked being a thief.
And again, I don’t know the full story. But there was one time where – there was a town called Anandpur Sahib where Sikhism as a martial religion, the last guru, that’s where it started. Straight line, from Malewal, it’s around ten kilometers. There were a lot of Sodhis there, Sodhi is a last name, that was the family. It was a Sikh name. Apparently they were the descendants of some of the ten gurus. They were more affluent. And Chandu, for whatever reason, had enmity with them. So one night Chandu’s father-in-law is visiting, and it’s night and they go to sleep and their beds are right next to each other. So at night, he walks all the way to Anandpur Sahib. He steals a horse, he was a horse-thief. He comes back to our village but goes even further and drops it off at a friend’s house at another village.
The Sodhis come to Malewal in the morning, following footprints or whatever. They suspect it was Chandu. They accuse him but his father-in-law vouches for him saying that Chandu was next to him when he fell asleep and when he woke up, Chandu was still next to him. So the Sodhis had no proof. So that’s the story. And that’s why we’re from Malewal of the Thieves. Chandu was definitely a real person but I have no idea how real this story is.
The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from. The village he came from, Malewal, is the center of this story. The story was well known not just within his village but within the surrounding villages as well. It was how people identified where it was he was from.
I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.
I had never heard this story before and it was entertaining to hear somewhat of an origin story for my family. I could find no record of this story or of Malewal being referred to as “Malewal of the Thieves” anywhere online. However this story is very credible. We know Chandu to have existed and stealing a horse is a very doable action. While the story itself does not have much to analyze I think it’s interesting in how it shows how a village gets its name. How one story leads to a label surviving nine generations. Even now, when the other Malewal apparently has ceased to exist, my father says that locals still know Malewal as “Malewal of the Thieves.” While the validity of the story itself is unsure, its impact on how the village has been named and perceived is all too real.