Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life is a difficult journey. We can pass through it easily if we make it easy for others. We make it one hell for ourselves; thorny and rocky for others if we forget that everyone needs respect, love and admiration even if he / she doesn’t demand for it. Courtesy and politeness are the best attributes to make life more amenable and conducive to peaceful co-existence. Customs, conventions and manners are the expressions of mutual understanding, sharing and appreciation. These traits do not make life difficult as someone had said, “Etiquette rules are fancy stuff invented to make the rest of us feel stupid.” It is not true. Relationships of existence, whether close or distant, become more bearable in the difficult times if we adopt or follow the fundamental principle of mutual respect. Unfortunately, as we are climbing the ladder of material progress and growth while we are leaving the good manners as dispensable flotsam – something we could do without. Children do not respect their parent, students don’t respect their teacher, a subordinate doesn’t respect the boss and public no longer respect the leader. The vice-versa, so essential for smooth sailing is also true. We are giving up the prescription the basic rules of existence and subsistence in our daily routines. There is hardly any consideration for others. Proper manners came into being not artificially, but these were based on an authentic concern for the love and respect of others.
Why our social relations so shattered today? Watch out the lonely street or a crowded shopping mall, a railways compartment or a bus stop. Everyone is busy with his or her mobile. No one wants to talk face to face. We avoid each other. Why? Just because we need not very many good manners while we initiate or carry forward the dialogue on mobile. Good manners and normal courtesy have been disregarded as unnecessary and superfluous. The pillars of shared ethical and moral code of conduct are rendered useless like Morse Key and Telegraphic system.
In these times of fast life, Dellhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad, the cities once the citadels of culture and traditions have become an emaciated shadow of their past. Delhi – 6 is difficult to distinguish from Noida – 60. Where are all the old Delhi Walas disappeared no one knows. In Lucknow you have to visit the Imambarahs and museums if you are looking for the culture Nawabs had left. No more Ikke-wallas are there to welcome you in a style that once used to make you feel respectable and important in the hoary past when you came out the ‘Char Bagh Station.’ In Hyderabad, you have to wriggle out of the complex Telengana issue to reach out to someone who has time for you to talk in the original sweet Hyderabadi lingua franca.
Demanding ‘self-restraint’ is consideration for others : A courteous man is a man of refinement, a gentleman or lady considers for others at all times. A golden rule of the past which is sadly disregarded at present is to rise to one’s feet when a lady, a senior person or a dignitary enters a room. This was a sign of respect for age and rank. A simple gesture like this helped to instill in youth a respect for age, rank, and authority. It used to instill the self confidence in both. Anyone cares to do that ?
The laws of hospitality were the corner stone of our spiritual and social development. In them were the reflections of the wisdom of the ages. Today hospitality is overtaken by hostility. A young boy is not willing to vacate the seat for a senior citizen in the transport even if it is clearly reserved for him. A well-dressed man doesn’t want to get up from the ladies seat until the lady demands for it. The hostility, alienation, and vulgarity of the modern day is the direct output of our hedonistic approach to life – devoid of spirituality and reason. We are leaving behind the manners and etiquette that had profound meaning to make life easier and more bearable.
So, when in a beautiful winter morning I was enjoying my Nahari and Nan at Bismillah Hotel, Ballimaran, Dehi- 6, a young boy sneaked into my hitherto unoccupied opposite chair and checked politely, “Can I sit here.”
If a seat is empty your opposite no one would care to ask your permission in Delhi to sit there. It is always his birth right. The very enquiry was a pleasant surprise.“You’re welcome, tashreef rakhen Janab.”
The gentleman took the seat with a smile and fired his first salvo – “I’m a real original Delhi Wala and your nice SHERWANI has compelled me to share the table with you.”
I got a lurking fear that he might be a cheat, a poseur ready to go fast on me. However, without knowing what was there in store for me I replied politely that I was honored. I’d been an old Aligarian (an Old Student of Aligarh Muslim University) and Sherwani wass still the integral part of my dress.”
Before I move on my story, I must make a confession. Unfortunately, I’d never felt at home at Delhi. I feel uncomfortable with the supercilious, plastic, back-stabbing, nasty and self-reverential culture of Delhi or New Delhi. To me, Mumbai / Bombay has always been real, straight, practical and beautiful; to me Mumbai is the center of attraction of life, a land of honest, hard-working and no-nonsense inhabitants. Many ideas could never be justified. You just feel them, savor them as candy floss. Being away of my country had often made me home-sick, nostalgic and at times morose. So, while I may stay anywhere I always long to go back to Mumbai; I want to have my breakfast of Brun-Pao at a Sun Light Hotel in Colaba and lunch of Seekh Kabab at Byculla or Biryani at Olympia. I miss Barah Handi Paye of Bhindi Bazar, and Puorhits’ Thali at Churchgate. It would if be a grave injustice if I do not recall the nice food of Sher-e-Punjab at V.T. and Delhi Darbar at Faras Road. Bombay had been my KARAM BHOOMI and I love this city as I love my own existence.
To continue my story, I was enjoying the winter-brunch at Old Delhi, expecting nothing but an Urdu Akhbar and some solitude with good food. This gentleman was an unwanted intruder into my life.
“Mohatrum, may I dare to ask you a question?”
“Of course you could as long as it is not too personal.”
“Where did you get your Sherwani stitched?”
“At Bombay, Mohammed Ali Road….”
“Thanks for enlightening me. I thought we have the finest Sherwani tailors only in Aligarh and Delhi. Your’s is a masterpiece with nine buttons.”
Usually I’m a well dressed individually and deem it unnecessary to welcome the comments upon my attire. I always dress for myself and put on what I like irrespective of what others think of my dress. The saving grace is that none of my dependable friend or relative did ever report that my dress was improper for the occasion and anyone ever laughed at it.
My expressions were categorical in suggesting that I no longer enjoyed the continuity of discussion or his company. He got up from the seat with a ‘Khuda Hafiz’ and a genuine smile on his face he left.
I was wondering after his departure why he made a reference of nine buttons in my Sherwani. The close scrutiny of Sherwani revealed that the sequence of my buttons was wrong and I could have been an object of ridicule had I attended the meeting in that style. There was a funny pop in the middle with a wrongly placed button. The boy saved me a serious embarrassment without slighting or hurting my ego. That was the Delhi – 6 at its best. I put it right and was looking for the boy when I stepped into the street. It was a turning point that redefined my feeling and kindled the respect for Delhi.
I wish you a day filled with courtesy, flowing in grace, to you and from you!