An East Delhi Citizen's Blog

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Archive for the category “Society”

Lessons in plurality and tradition from gentlemen

Lesson 1: (Today)

Was dropping off my daughter to the school bus today morning and ran into the grandfather of her “bus-friend”- an elderly Sikh gentleman. We know each other well, he sometimes does the duty when his son is traveling.

So, tomorrow is Gurpurv? I asked him and he said, yes. Guru-purnima it is. But, followed it up with, “The actual reason is that it is Kartik Purnima, one of the two main Purnimas we celebrate- Guru-purnima is just appeasement of Sikhs.”

I hemmed and hawed; told him, why, at least in North India, we think Guru-Purnima is a big thing. He cut me short, very firmly.

“The trouble”, he said, is that “in the rush to associate some holiday or the other to all communities, the government has actually diluted tradition”. Sharad Purnima and Kartik Purnima have been celebrated in our traditions for centuries and across all religions and cultures. Now, the government is calling Kartik Purnima, Guru-purnima.

For some reason, this old man with flowing white beard who my daughter calls Santa Claus uncle, made my morning.

Lesson 2 (some time back)

There is this Muslim doctor family we know; from Kashmir of all places. The doctor couple are family friends. The father of the lady is an old-time FRCP, still lives in Kashmir and periodically lands up in Delhi.

We have the most fascinating discussions.

I am an atheist, he is not. In fact, he has visited almost all the Hindu temples in the country, as he has the various Dargahs and Mosques and Gurdwaras.

I tell him God does not exist; why does he even bother?

He tells me, when I die, as someday surely I will, I will have no parachute! I shall surely go to hell! Whereas, from Vaishnodevi to Ajmer Sharif, from Notre-dame to Gurdwara Shish-Ganj, he will have so many parachutes- Gods willing to watch over him and escort him to the Pearly Gates!

You know what? I do not know many people who think like him and the “Santa Claus Uncle” above; in my generation and the next. More’s the pity.

Pawan and his “Madam”

I first met Pawan when I moved into our new office in NOIDA. Just a short walk away, under a makeshift tarpaulin cover as protection against the elements, Pawan sells tea, paan masala and cigarettes.

Actually Pawan does some other things besides. He also plies a cycle-rickshaw- rented for Rs 100 a day- does odd jobs in the neighbourhood and is always “available” for a chat with all the auto drivers, gatekeepers who drop in for a chai. He even tried to sell me a used Nokia once- for all of Rs 900/- – his profit from the deal would only have been Rs 100/-, he assured me. I refused to bite, but someone must have done so, because I did not see the phone again.

Have I given the impression that Pawan is very enterprising and active? If so, let me correct it right away. Pawan’s main activity is slacking off- in summer, you can spot him doubled up inside a stationary auto-rickshaw, snoring away. In winter, he is usually dozing off on his cycle rickshaw. When he is not around, sleeping or otherwise slacking off or on the rare occasion plying his cycle-rickshaw, his “Madam” takes over the tea-stall.

In all the time I have known them, I have never heard Pawan address her as anything other than “Madam”. On her part, she is less respectful; does not hesitate in raising her voice and letting him have a piece of her mind when he is not pulling his weight.

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Love an engineer

On the threshold of a half-century of existence and 30 years after my father effectively killed any debate on possible career choices with, “Be an engineer or be a jholawalla!” this post is probably outdated even before I write.

Am I a good engineer? Was I ever? A long lost friend writes it best on his LinkedIn profile:

I am not a practicing engineer, but i strongly believe that engineering is the best educational stream that i could have opted for. I am not sure what i learnt from academically. But what i did learn was a way of thinking. Structured, process & time oriented working.

I think it is prudent to not link to his profile. But, my batch-mates would surely know who he is. He, as we used to dismissively say in college, has spent a lifetime “selling soap” and otherwise finding ways of cross-selling, up-selling, enticing customers to come to his stores as so many flies to the spider’s web. Bravo! 30 years on, my admiration is not even of the “sneaking” variety.

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