The drive along Delhi’s roads every morning, getting dropped off at respective offices and completing this errand and that, has become a ritual more than a daily grind. Over the flyovers, you take in the breathtaking ‘green’ view, the tomb-tops and temple spires barely visible over the tree cover. Streetchildren at traffic lights come to the window, the same faces everyday, and you listen to FM radio. Endlessly, you listen to the RJs natter. At times, it can get quite irritating, but it’s part of the morning deal.
So when a few weeks ago, my driver chose to switch off the radio, I figured ah, he reads my mind. Half a kilometre ahead, he turned it back on. Ah well, freedom of expression, I thought. But the next day, same spot, the radio was turned off. And switched back on, half a kilometre ahead. When the ritual was repeated five days in a row, I gently asked, “Is it because of the dargah?” Answer in the affirmative in a quiet nod. Respect, I guessed. I was dying to ask more. Why? How does it matter? But overdoses of political correctness spiel has ‘sterilised’ speech, so, frankly I didn’t know how to phrase the question. I wanted to know if the shariat said this, I wanted to know how he had suddenly cottoned on to this pattern of showing respect — we’ve been on this route for two years now, and this is a new habit. But I couldn’t get the words right. All I had buzzing in my head was Muslim, careful, don’t patronise, marginalised and other futile crap. Contraceptives that keep us as uninformed as their maulvis want us to be.
He discovered one more mosque along the way that needed to be shown respect to. Switch off, switch on. One day he forgot and I reminded him. Endorsement, my good man figured. So, to keep his secular credentials intact, the next day, he promptly turned off the radio as we drove by a Sai Baba temple. No, no, not required. Calm down. It doesn’t work like that, I wanted to tell him. The words again didn’t find their way out of my head. Anyway, he wasn’t listening. Soon, with every temple approaching, the music stopped. Till, of course, the cricket commentary began. I noticed no turning off of the radio. Hey, boss, that’s also entertainment, that’s silly time-pass leisure activity which can seriously disturb my prayer. But, past the mosques and the temples, the commentators carried on with their incessant half-witted natter. And then wisdom struck. Ah, cricket, it ain’t no sport. It’s religion, remember?