Delhi Diary


The person who parked his bike next to my scooter in the parking lot of the Metro Rail Station asked, “Is it a holiday today?”

“Yeah,” said I in the usual laconic style of Delhi.

“But why?”

“Birthday of Guru Nanak.”

“The hell!  Guru Nanak aaj hi hua!  My day is ruined.”

Delhi declares holiday for all religious occasions.  The Delhi government probably survives on such holidays.  Such holidays mean pleasing the religious minorities, apparently.  [In reality, Hindu holidays outnumber all other religious holidays.  To be fair, Hindus outnumber all other religious believers too.] However, when Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar requested Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, to declare a holiday for Chat Puja, the latter declined.  Is it because Bihari is not a religious denomination?  Or, is it because the Bihari has not become a significant force in the political game in Delhi once Laloo Yadav is out?  At any rate, I was happy to get a holiday today.

When I visited my dentist on Monday [holiday on account of Bakrid, a Muslim festival] he asked me to visit him again on Wednesday.  I expressed difficulty.  “Come on Thursday,” he said, “it’s a holiday.”  My dentist knew I worked as a teacher.  Schools enjoy a lot of holidays, my dentist was more sure than me though he also knew that I worked in a residential school.  

While my dentist was fitting the crown [which recalcitrantly refused to fit like most crowns in my life] over one of my molars, a gentleman walked in with a request which my dentist was eager to attend to leaving my mouth agape.  The gentleman’s daughter who was a dentist had drilled herself into a problem with a denture that she had fitted in a patient’s mouth. My dentist gave the legally right advice accentuating more than once the fee for the advice.  “Money is not a problem,” said the client while I sat with an open mouth which waited for its crown that had been paid for a week back.

My molar finally condescended to accept the crown.  I thanked my molar like a devotee of some cult which orders you to thank the stone for letting you tread on it. 

The next halt of my scooter was outside the Metro Rail Station.  The woman in front of me ordered 5 tickets to New Delhi station and handed over a Rs500 note.  She got her five tokens and a five rupee coin in return. 

“Finished?” asked the woman in a tattered sari as if to no one.

“No,” I said.  “Don’t you want your balance?”

She showed me the five rupee coin.  I pointed at the counter where the ticket dispenser was counting four hundred rupee notes again and again.

I wondered why the poor woman didn’t know how much she was supposed to pay for her journey.  I wondered whether a five hundred rupee note was much different to her from a hundred rupee note.  I wondered whether the Delhi Metro with all its neatness and orderliness [which I admire] had overwhelmed her beyond the limits of her understanding, beyond her sense.  I wondered whether that was how capitalism hoodwinked the common people. 

As I was travelling in the extremely neat air-conditioned Metro train, I wondered whether we needed so many holidays.  Couldn’t we give the option to people to choose their holidays instead?  For example, we could increase the allowed number of casual leaves and cut down the holidays. 

I’m all for cutting down all the religious holidays.  In spite of what the man in the Metro train told me, “Sikhism is the best religion.  It is all inclusive….”

Why can’t India be all inclusive?  India which gave birth to Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – extremely tolerant religions – ought to learn a lot of tolerance still!


About matheikal

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13 Responses to Delhi Diary

  1. Sid says:

    Sir, we should convert all the gazetted holidays(but not the national holidays) into restricted ones and let people choose among themselves.
    Also, sir couldn’t quite understand that how come you find Sikhism so tolerant. I find it pretty hardcore. People keep protesting for religious stuff(that too very minor stuff) time and again. They have very strong diktats from religious clerics like the way Deoband issues in Islam. I don’t find it liberal at all.

    • matheikal says:

      Sid, the tolerance of Sikhism in my blog is a quote from a fellow passenger in the Metro train… But I did ask him about it. He is a professor of comparative religion studies. And he is not a Sikh. What he told me in the brief meeting was that Sikhism, in its theology and scriptures, is very inclusive. It accepts the teachings of Hinduism, Islam, Sufism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity. In other words, Sikhism was an attempt to unify quite many religions found in India. But he also mentioned something about the subaltern moorings of Sikhism – I didn’t have the time discuss all that; my journey was very short.

      About your experience of Sikh extremism, I feel such extremism is just a temporary reaction to certain particular event and not an integral part of the religion. But I am not an expert any way on Sikhism.

  2. matheikal says:

    Sid, I would like you to see the following link.
    I’m sure there are other sites that can be of more help.

  3. nishdil says:

    Thanks for dropping in @ Random Thoughts. It is always good to hear from fellow bloggers, especially when one is taking baby steps in the blogging world. Thank you very much for the good words you put in there. Appreciate the gesture…

  4. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    “I wondered whether the Delhi Metro with all its neatness and orderliness [which I admire] had overwhelmed her beyond the limits of her understanding, beyond her sense.” – That was truly an acute observation of yours, Matheikal.

    This IS the point made by Jayati Ghosh in one of her columns in Frontline, about Tokyo Metro. Please read that (I think it may have been about 6 to 8 months ago). How a metro presupposes a level of literacy, not obtained in India for a significant portion.



    • matheikal says:

      But, Raghuram, such a presupposition also is a necessity, isn’t it?

      Once Mr E Sreedharan retires, I think the Metro standard will suffer just like the low-floor buses in Delhi suffer now. The man/woman at the top is very important.

      • Raghuram Ekambaram says:

        When I mooted this to someone, about how ES seems not to have groomed a successor, I was taken apart.


  5. Rajesh says:

    Interestingly put together.

  6. Sunil Deepak says:

    In Europe the trend is for big chunk of holidays all together, but individual days of holidays every now and then are rare. I like the Indian system better, to have lot of individual days in between, as they make the week seem shorter. 🙂

  7. Ashwini C N says:

    Well said.
    You either declare holidays for all festivals, (which is not possible)
    Or don’t declare holidays for any festival.

  8. dawnanddew says:

    The blog portraits the meticulous responses and keen observations of the writer. The point in question is a new dimention given to tolerance. I’m all praise for the blog and the suggestion too.

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