One of Bangalore’s oldest institutions is the Bangalore Press. Their most famous product is the Bangalore calendar. What makes it unique is that in addition to the Christian calendar we all follow (even though Hinduism and Judaism go back further) it also has other calendars on the left side so people know of functions and important dates for other religions such as Christmas Day, Id, Buddha Jayanti, Guru Parab and so forth. It also has government holidays so children knew when to blackmail parents to take them shopping or to the movies. The calendar used to hang in kitchens in homes in the south but now it occupies pride of place on many tables including in offices. It is quite a nifty thing that has survived google and internet – there’s something quite reassuring about a large calendar with large squares where you can scribble.
In Geneva, Paris, Brussles or Stockholm, to name a few European cities, there’s no Bangalore calendar. In other words, school children don’t have puja holidays or Diwali chutti or ramzan celebrations. We celebrate Christmas and Easter and Labour Day in schools which are laic in Europe. We can argue about what laic (laity) means till the cows come home, but that’s the way it is. I live in a Christian continent and I went to Christian schools in India like many of my friends. We had moral science classes that did not blind us from appreciating and understanding other conversations with god, who, I think is a woman.
Clearly the worst part of not celebrating all functions is food – no Id ki sevain, no murukku and sheedai, but lots of other good stuff with almonds and chocolates and cream. Since you can only compare what you know, I think the continent is poorer for not having Diwali holidays or Poojoo.
So many years ago when there was talk of Turkey entering the European Union(EU) people were quite agitated. It would never happen, most people concluded. Too many extra holidays with this Eid thing and imagine a 25th language. Tough – 28 states, 25 languages, over 711 million people. The calendar would go haywire. It was bad enough getting used to the Hungarians!
My friends in India speak glowingly of freedom in Europe. In Scandinavia… is a famous first line. They know a lot about the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) and extrapolate from there to Norway and Portugal. My friends in Europe get perplexed when I tell them the Tamils and Bengalis think Punjabis have no culture, Gujjus are miserly and one one can stand the Mallus who control New Delhi. This has has got nothing to do with religion as difference and diversity is India’s strength. Just like Europeans think Italians are thieves, Scandinavians can’t think of anything beyond sex and everybody hates the Germans. No, it’s the French.
And then there were those questions about why Hindu gods and goddesses have so many heads and arms. Because there are so many people in India and we all need private attention. And then when people ask how India produces fine programmers, I tell them all those heads and all those arms on a body allow us the power of abstraction which can finally be reduced on a chip which is like one body. Phew – close!
This piece was not about the Bangalore calendar nor Turkey or secularism. Most Indians don’t understand what secularism means. Leave us alone.
Chitra Subramaniam Duella