Sunday, October 16, 2011

Glimpses of the ‘Us v. Them’ Debate


While reading Gayatri Jayaraman’s entry on gastronomical North-South debate in the Livemint Blog (1) this afternoon, I was remembering a conversation with a distant relative of a close friend about the ‘strange behavior of people in Delhi’ which prevents him from having many friends here, despite having several relatives. I am too, not distant from this feeling that took me almost a decade to overcome my surprise about the strange way people respond to your queries. I would like to share my thoughts on some such observations I picked up from different parts of the country. North v. South or India v. Others. Having been able to overcome (I believe so) the barriers of culture and region, I do like to be an independent observer without hurting sentiments of people around me. I also feel that friends across the globe would also find it an interesting reading.

My initial observations are from my city.

People in Delhi shut the doors on your face
It has annoyed me more than once when I visit a neighbor or friend to hand over something (even a domestic delicacy or a gift), they just take accept it from you, make some comments, and finally shuts the door on you. In rural Kerala, we take this as an offense (my family doesn’t even shut doors at the face of beggars!) when someone shuts the door on your face. Even a stranger who visits my house just by mistake gets a proper treatment and a set of questions (‘who are you looking for?’, ‘what is the house/family/person name?’ etc.) and is shown the door peacefully and the door is shut only after person exits the compound.  

The fair logic I feel for this anomaly is based on two other observations:

(a)    Delhi has one of the world’s highest population of mosquitoes
 Uncomfortable, but true. This explains why we all have metallic external doors with a wire-mesh small enough to keep mosquitoes away but sufficient to let in the flow of air. One of my friends who came calling from Russia just thought that this metallic grill is the only door of the house. I can’t blame her for thinking so. As she found out later, there is a separate opaque wooden door too. Given such a high population of mosquitoes in the city, no one would risk keeping the door open for more than a few seconds. So you better come inside and talk or I may have to shut the door!

(b)    We don’t welcome strangers so easily
The level of crime in the city is alarmingly high and no one would risk being friendly enough to open the door and come out to welcome you if you visit their house with a query. Yet there are instances where people really come out to help and be friendly. But yes, Delhi is cautious and hence the quick door-close.

This has become so much of a practice here having evolved due to changing circumstances and environment of the city. Therefore a typical Delhi-ite would never see anything wrong in the practice even if s/he is at the other side of the door.

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