The Delhi Literature Festival 2018, the sixth since its inauguration in 2013, turned out to be a fantastic affair, according to one of its organisers, Kunal Gupta. The festival included three days of panel discussions, book launches, poetry recitation, book reading and interaction with eminent authors, writers and bloggers.
This year the main topic of discussion at the Delhi Haat venue, opposite INA Market, was Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb. The two mighty rivers flow over an area in which (like the Nile Valley) a unique way of life and manners was spawned over the centuries. Delhi, Mathura and Agra were among the places greatly influenced by the Braj culture of the region.
The moderator at the function on 25 February was Rama Pandey, a TV personality, who went ga-ga over the summer ambience of perfumes and flowers in Old Delhi streets.
Noted litterateur Rakhshandha Jalil spoke of the aura that draws Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs to the dargahs on Thursdays; and this scribe recalled the days when courtesans (see sketch) taught tehzeeb (etiquette) to the sons of the nobility. Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who came later, added her own charm to the festival before it ended to encores.
The story goes that once a youth, when offered a paan at a Delhi kotha, put it immediately in his mouth, badly hurting his palate. Uninitiated as he was, he did not know that the bida (rolled-up betel leaf) contained a silver clasp, which had to be removed before the “glori” as it was called, was eaten. In another incident, a nawab’s son took off his shoes and put them one on top of the other.
The courtesan told him to put them one beside the other as what he did was not only bad manners but also (sic) brought bad luck. Who says the institution of dancing girls was only a cover for illicit sex? Incidentally, the courtesans of old never shared their bed with those who came to them to learn social etiquette, no matter how rich they were.
That was also part of Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb learnt by the “Chora (riverside youngster) Ganga Kinare-wala”, as so hilariously depicted by Amitabh Bachchan in the film Don, much to the amusement of the heroine, Zeenat Aman!