I spend this last week before Christmas in a jumble of to-ing and fro-ing, shopping and cooking and up to my elbows in gingerbread houses and salt-dough ornaments. Just as I would in Houston.
India celebrates Christmas, too: The malls chime with holiday Muzak; The traffic swells; The parties abound. December 25th is a government holiday even though only two-percent of the population is Christian.
India is generous with its days off. There are about 17 public holidays a year. Three of these are national holidays and celebrated universally. The rest varies slightly from state to state, depending on local religions and customs. Also, employees can choose two extra days off from a long list of religious and secular dates recognized by the government.
I’ve written before that India is rich in its diversity and I keep returning to this theme because it’s key to understanding this country. India is not one place and one people. There are 18 official languages (or there about – this number varies depending on where you look and whom you ask…) multiple cultures, oodles of religions, a variety in landscape and space and time that spans centuries, from the middle ages to the space age. It’s all here. Which is why the government tries its best to please 1.3 billion people with 17 multi-culti holidays.
This is Bahadur, the nice man who cleans and guards the offices in the building where I work. I’m often the first one to arrive at school and Bahadur lets me in. This early in the morning I find him on his haunches, barefooted, pant-legs rolled-up, washing the floor by hand with a dirty rag. This really bothers me. I asked the business manager to buy him a mop but she said he’d refuse to use it.
So I bought it myself. My conscience couldn’t accept seeing him every day, bent and humbled by a rag.
This is the only type of mop I can find in Delhi – it’s more like a huge squeegee. My own housekeeper ties a rag to the bottom and it works well. I explained this to Bahadur.
He may not like the change – habits are efficient sometimes.
It’s cold in Delhi and the homeless are struggling to stay warm. The city doesn’t have adequate shelter. Officially, New Delhi reports 56-thousand homeless but it’s widely believed that there are at least 150,000. This year to help the homeless stay warm, the city decided to distribute bubble wrap instead of blankets. It works better, officials argue. Drug addicts can’t resell the plastic. Oh yeah, and it’s cheaper.
The local press had a field day with this travesty and the city was forced to back away from bubble wrap and return to handing-out blankets.
The stupidity of some decisions…
And my favorite bit of information from the newspapers last week: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (the governing board) hasn’t spent one penny on sanitation this fiscal year. True or not, the perception of truth prevails: There’s desperate need for public bathrooms, working sewage systems, clean rivers, litter maintenance, etc….
And bringing it all back to the season: I’m enjoying the Christmas chaos a bit more this year because it is sweet respite from work. It’s like a Sunday morning when you don’t have to get out of bed early to exercise or to dress the kids for school, or a weekday night when the house is quiet with children sleeping and hours lay ahead for you alone. All are moments savored.
My hope is that you, too, find peace in your own holiday chaos this year.
Happy, Happy everyone.