Rude, lawless, show-offs with a bad attitude — that’s how most people describe Delhiites. And on Tuesday, Home Minister P. Chidambaram joined the ‘Why are Delhiites the way they are’ outcry.
He also said that with the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, it was high time the city folk went in for an “attitude makeover”.
“The behaviour of Delhiites must be changed for them to play good hosts,” he said in Hyderabad.
Later in the day, back in the Capital, he picked the one habit of Delhiites that he particularly dislikes — their lack of civic discipline. “Vehicles jump red lights. People cross roads where they should not,” he said: “We want people to change their mindset.”
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, sharing the dais with Chidambaram in Delhi, said her government was starting a campaign to change the way people behave and make them “more caring and sharing”.
The lessons start with the police. They have been told to smile and be polite, converse in English, address people as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ — and lose that typical Haryanvi-Hindi drawl.
The Delhi Transport department, for its part, has tied up with the Confederation of Indian Industry to teach English and other “communication skills” to 1,500 drivers and conductors. There are similar plans for some other service sectors as well.
But what is it about Delhiites that everyone wants to refine?
“Delhiites wear an attitude that is needlessly aggressive, disdainful towards law and order and has little regard for others,” said Dipankar Gupta, social scientist from Jawaharlal Nehru University. “To outsiders, they come across as name-droppers who flaunt connections to power.”
A rud(e)imentary guide to Delhi
Delhiites seem to believe they can honk their way through traffic. “In many cases, honking is an expression of road rage. The more a driver honks, the angrier he is at the traffic in general,” said Damodaran N, a senior advertising professional in Dwarka.
Urinating on the boundary walls of the landmark Jeevan Bharti building in Connaught Place is almost a rite of passage for the Delhi male.
Actually, any place is a urinal here. “People here do not have the sense of hygiene required to be a world class city,” said former cricketer Atul Wassan. “Though a change is not possible overnight, a crash course is necessary.”
Two years ago, Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan wrote an open letter to Delhiites asking them to be more disciplined while using public transport, and to be considerate towards others. “People should not push others while in queue and should not jump queues,” he had said. Obviously, he had noticed that this was the norm.
Fighting for seats, not offering them to the old and physically challenged are marks of a Delhiite. “It is a daily trauma to catch a crowded Blueline and then struggle to keep off fighting with fellow passengers,” said Kalkaji resident Anil Kumar.
“We have a lot of rage on our roads, garbage is strewn around, people have bad parking habits, we spit on roads, buildings are full of paan stains,” said former IPS officer Kiran Bedi. “Since Commonwealth Games are to be held here and the city is going to be watched by people coming from abroad, there is a need to do better and change for the better.”
Being rude and loud is a typical Delhi male domain. But noted social scientist Dipankar Gupta said it’s more to do with attitude than culture. “Americans are louder and more aggressive than the Jat/Punjabi stereotype in Delhi. But when in a public place, the American knows that the law bites. So he checks himself.”
“There is hardly any staircase that is not decorated with paan stains and spits. People take pride in leaving their indelible marks,” said Sushir Mondal, a government official.
“People running helter-skelter on the roads to cross over or catch buses away from bust stops etc make Delhi a jaywalker’s paradise,” said Praveen Khandelwal, head of Confederation of All India Traders.
“The proximity with politicians is what makes Delhiite what he is,” said Gupta.
Delhi’s Roadside Romeo thinks he has a right to ogle. “And if he happens to be rich or the son of someone influential, he and his buddies will not stop at anyhting,” said Mausam Chakrabarti, a resident of Sarojini Nagar.