Traditionally, in India, people belonging to different occupations took their ‘weekly off’ on separate days. Each of these was related to one or the other religious reason, ensuring total compliance. Some of these practices remain to this day, such as barber, liquor and meat shops remaining closed on Tuesdays. What this ensured was that those enjoying the day off could go to the other markets and make necessary purchases, perform other important tasks, and give time to the family.
In contrast, India today runs by the Western mandated ‘Sunday off’ practice with almost all markets and institutions being shut on that day. So, on the very day when a person has the leisure to get things done, it is not possible to do so. As a result, time has to be taken out on working days, which is very inconvenient indeed. This is just one example of how unthinking adoption of foreign norms is unsuitable for Indians. (There was just recently a proposal to close down Madrassas on Sundays instead of the traditional Friday for the sake of ‘uniformity’. Fortunately, the idea was dropped.)
Also, the day began early in India, with much of the work getting done before it became hot. Then, Indians went indoors and emerged only when it became cooler and completed their daily chores. The English changed the pattern which was noted by Rudyard Kipling with his famous saying, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”. Being in tune with nature changed further – actually worldwide – when air-conditioning came into existence, burdening the environment even further.
Indians also took their annual couple of months off during the monsoons, which was very practical as road connectivity was disrupted by the rains. This practice changed because the English needed to go up into the mountains to escape the summer heat. There are numerous such practices that have to be rationalised and, to begin with, different off days for markets should be introduced. Sunday is when most government and corporate employees have the day off – this is when all markets should remain open. It would not only give a boost to the economy but also ensure better attendance in offices during the weekdays.
While some local practices have survived, others need to be reintroduced. Uttarakhand could set an example by adopting intelligent norms in this regard. It will also help in managing the traffic situation.