Diwali Musings in Delhi

Culture shocks are not uncommon to Indians when they travel abroad. These shocks are experienced even more frequently and regularly by people travelling from one part of the country to another. That could also be the result of conditioning and the resultant stereotypes about people from different cultures and states.

Delhi is a city that has assimilated people from all over and nobody in particular lays claim to it unlike other Indian metropolises. The Punjabi influence on many aspects of the city is unmissable but the place is still largely cosmopolitan in character. Partition has had a lot of say in the makeup of the city’s population.

For many people who come from afar and live here on account of their profession or education, it takes a while to negotiate the city and get used to it. Many working professionals who are short on time and lead insular lives never get to know the city.

For many foreigners, their first impression of Delhi is often drawn from touts who throng airports and railway stations. Technology has changed a lot of things with smart phones, car aggregator services and even Delhi Metro radically changing peoples’ experience of the city and how they fit in.

It would be unfair to make sweeping generalisations on the basis of how certain people behave in a place or the propensity of some of them to dupe you in a particular situation. Once you settle in and get a hang of the city, Delhi slowly grows on you.

With Deepawali round the corner, the entire city of Delhi has been lit up and the mood is celebratory all around. Despite the religious connotations of the festival, who wouldn’t enjoy partaking in the festivities?

“Len den se izzat maintain rehti hai”

Diwali is supposed to be about the triumph of the good over the evil. Most people have a good time with their families and exchanging gifts and meeting relatives. But does anybody pause and reflect beyond that? Whatever happened to the joy of giving and sharing with the less privileged and deriving happiness out of making someone’s day? It seems we are living out a play where people behave the way they are generally expected to behave.

The most incredulous thing I heard this Diwali was, “Len den se Izzat maintain rehti hai” (on the exchange of gifts). I was also horrified to witness a rich lady handing over a hundred rupee note to her domestic help after using the same currency note to “cast off the evil-eye” on her grandson some minutes back. The grandson received no less than 11K himself from the lady as a Diwali gift.

Cracker-free Diwali?

2017 was supposed to be a cracker-free Diwali in Delhi post the Supreme Court order banning the sale of crackers in the city till November 1. The eve of Diwali passed off peacefully with hardly any noise in most neighbourhoods. Even on the night of Diwali, things were largely quiet till about 9 pm when the people who pride on breaking laws probably got bored and decided to do something about it. It reached a crescendo by 10 and the people on Twitter busy congratulating each other on a noise-free Diwali was left feeling stupid. Thankfully, School kids seem to be having some impact on parents in these matters.

Dilwalon Ki Dilli?

One often hears about “Dilwalon ki Dilli” and the supposed large-heartedness of its inhabitants. The other day, well past midnight, I got down at a shop to get a bottle of water only to overhear the conversation the shopkeeper was having with another customer. He was talking about a couple of teenagers on the street that had large sacks hanging on their backs. He grudgingly commented how those young men would manage to more money than him by merely collecting liquor and beer bottles before dawn. I was tempted to ask him if he were willing to trade places with the rag pickers. That’s how heartless some of us have become. Let us chew on that this Diwali season.

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