Friday, December 24, 2004

Standing in Line: Seriously! Some Manners Please

Something (somebody) pissed me off last week and I wanted to blog about it but didn't have the time (memory). I yelled at a lady in public last week. I yelled at her in my office cafeteria where lot of people were present. I was fully aware that I would be embarassing this lady by yelling at her and I shouted at her so loud that many people turned and saw us. This embarassed the girl and almost choked her to tears. I was very happy. In fact the whole day I was feeling smug. Thinking back 1 week later, I still feel happy about it.

I was standing in the cafeteria line to order my breakfast and there was this lady standing behind me. From the time she joined the line, she somehow seemed eager to get past me. She tried standing parallel to me then put part of her hand in front, then her legs in front and all the time constantly peeping beyond me. I was fully well expecting her to squeeze past me ( I was ready this time). So when I approached the counter, she put her hand underneath mine with a 20 Rupee note and ordered something. I quickly grabbed the Rs.20 note and asked her loudly (quite loud) " Do you know the meaning of a queue". Bred for 30 odd years in the shameful shameful Indian mentality ( yes! thats what I said) of not knowing what a queue or line means, bulldozing through queues had probably become part of her bloodstream. She did not expect a person to shout at her. When I asked her again (this time with better volume ) "Do you know what a queue is? Do you see me standing in front of you? Why do you want to go in front of me ? Are you really educated? "

She stammered in embarassment, was visibly scared and so started blabbering something to save her face. So she said " Its okay! you can buy! no problem! I won't mind" . I decided I would sting her one more time before I let her go and said " I know I can buy. The thing is you do not know I have to buy before you".

I guess for at least the next few months she will make sure she will stand in line before her old habbits catch up with her and become one of the millions of idiots in this country, who inspite of having so many diplomas/degrees, the stupid software engineer badges their company gives them are still so retarded that they don't bloody know the meaning of a queue.

I remember some 10 years before in 1994. Devi Paradise had made a big thing about it being the first Digital Dolby 6.0 Sourround sound movie hall in India. Speed was the movie screened in the cinema hall. It was my XII grade vacation and I had decided to go to the movie alone. Standing in the queue I was lost in my dream world and until I was near the counter. When my turn came I noticed suddenly that 6 or 7 hands tried to shove me aside and put their hands into the counter. What I did not notice, when I was the dream world was that the tickets had dried up and when my turn had come there was just one ticket remaining . The people behind me had seen this ( I had obviously not) and instead of resigning their fate to lack-of-ticket-availability they decided to push me aside and somehow buy that ticket. These weren't road-side ruffians we are talking about. These were decent looking (dressed) people returning from work and there was one lady also.The man behind the counter took the ticket book in his hands and took a step back ( possibly out of fear of the mob plucking the ticket and running away). He asked me from a distance, "there is one ticket! do you want to buy it". I nodded and he carefully gave the ticket to me while the wrecthed creatures next to me were still grabbing and hoping that they would get the ticket. Once I got the ticket, these people around me walked away as if nothing had happened. They were in fact dissapointed that they did not get the ticket. No apologies offered. It was as if this was part of our culture. No I retract and rephrase; this is part of our culture. The mannerlessness. This probably defines an important attribute of our country.

Every weekend when I go to the temple; I find 50,000 autodrivers inside the temple. Auto drivers (wherever they are Bangalore, Pune , Madras) are the scum of the earth. the lowest life form ever seen by mankind. I am only sad that Veerappan died without killing all the auto drivers. They are people who travel only 2 km/hr on the road but on seeing some vehicle before them they will travel fast enough to overtake that vehicle ( this they do by driving on the wrong side of the road or by overtaking from the left) and then they park themselves in front of that vehicle and resume driving at 2 km/hr.

Inside the temple while doing pradakshanams ( the thing where we walk around the deity clockwise ) we have our in-temple autodrivers who are more interested in overtaking the guy in front of them than praying. Once they cross the person-in-front they go as slow as possible. They have come to the temple to complete 4 or 6 or 8 circles as fast as they can. Mind you... they have not come to pray. That is not in their interest at all. They have to rapidly circle God 8 times and run out of the temple. It is almost a competition. Sometimes when I stop near a deity to pray, I block the walk-way ( its a pretty narrow one). So I instantly have 10 autodrivers queuing up behind me. They try and nudge me push me or make some coughing noises. Initially I adjusted or moved fast. Nowadays I delay for an extra two-minutes, make sure they are extremely irritated and then I move. Someday, I want to line them all up give them a sound whacking and make them repeat 10000 times " I have come to pray and not to compete in a race".

I seriously feel we should stop critising the west on anything. Culturally we are the most backward country in this planet. We should not ask for any proof about this or compare ourselves with any other country on any other aspect. We just have to assume that we are pretty backward and get that rammed into our minds. Only then will we ever develop some manners. The country should bring out some sort of law that will send people who violate queues to prison for a week. Or at least fine them 50,000 Rupees.

If you don't believe me. You can just see any one of the following places ; railway stations, airport counters, coffee shops, cafeterias; and see how our country men are doing with regards to standing on a line.

A simple thing if you have a coffee machine in your work place see how the people will shove you aside to fill their mug, when you are actually filling your coffee mug. If you finally manage to fill the mug and you are walking out of the coffee room (which has an entrance that can allow only one person). The incoming person will bump on you without caring whether you have a coffee mug in your hand or not. He wants to go in and and if you block the way he will ram into you.The fundametal problem is our people can't wait. They are always in a hurry (even when the dont have to be anywhere soon). While on road if a car is reversing and therefore blocking the road; the other vehicles will try and squeeze through the sides, even if it means the car that is reversing will have to stop or get stuck. They will honk ..shout and create all nuisance. They don't care to wait for 2 minutes. they do not want to. Our people want to keep moving all the time. Brakes are tools used only during an emergency .

The thing that best sums up this attitude is, my office bus driver let flow mouthful of expletives at a traffic cop. Why because the cop was regulating traffic. Our bus was stopped to allow the intersecting lane's traffic to go. This irritated my bus driver (who obviously did not wat to wait) and he let go a stream of abuses ( it was in kannada so I could decipher it) which could have possibly adjectivized( he he) every member of the cop's family. The cop could only shout back. He did not pull up the driver aside and book him. He cannot! Oh! no you can't do that man.. you can't pull up one person who has the chronic ability to not wait and thereby get into an argument with 60 other passengers who have the congenital I-can't-wait disability.


Anonymous said...

Not to forget...
"Iam MP's brother-in-law" or "DIG is my uncle so I cant stand in the Line"
Following rules and having manners is just an option for us. By default, we are not expected to have it/do it.

Anonymous said...

Another example to cite would be the Tirupathi temple queue. I've seen people physically fighting with each other to get ahead of the other person standing in front. And the way you get shoved/shooed away by the guards when you reach the final darshan hardly get to see the deity for a second, and the guard shooes you away like you're some mosquito or something...that irks me the most.

Anonymous said...

saw anniyan? seems like you have a similar experience....

Praveen Premchandran said...

You can post a hundred, no, a thousand blog posts and our dear country men will still continue to do the same...

I have this habit (some call it a bad one) that, wherever I go, and I find only one other person at the counter, I immediately stand behind him and "try" to make a queue.. And if I see someone else coming, I make a sort of sign asking them to queue up behind me, which has earned me quite a number of stares... By now don't estimate me to be a old-aged pensioner in India... I am just past my teenage, college-life and graduation... So it puts me at 21. So now you can understand why my habit is classified as "bad" by my peers... But not my close friends, who actually understand me (and HAVE to bear with me!!!)
So, here goes one story of my experience at the Head Post Office on Mount Road near Devi Theatre, also called Anna HPO. I was waiting behind one other man (only one!!) to pay for a Postal Life Insurance Policy belonging to my mum. Then comes this gentleman, 50-55 years old on a considerable estimate, dressed in formals (I am always around in jeans and tees, which gives me a typical college-guy look) and was just short of a tie and a coat of not having an executive look... He comes and stands next to me on the left. I tried my usual routine of showing signs by my eyes, requesting (or rather ordering) him to join the queue... He totally ignored it. Now this was getting interesting to me... Because, nowadays at many counters, I can see people inside are "trying" to enforce a queue, as it definitely makes life easier (at least for them)... So, I thought perhaps the clerk would notice... but he was too busy with the guy in front that he did not notice. All this while, my tempers were on the rise. And when my turn came, the "elder" gentleman silently gave his cash and stuff for payment. My tempers went wild and I (very politely) told him that I had come first and I needed to get it done first. He tried to ignore me again. I raised my voice a bit, and said, looking both at him as well as the clerk at the counter, "If you expect adolescents, college students and younger people in general (who are branded wrongly as rash, etc.) to obey rules and queues, how is it that you yourself go against them, how are we(the youth) supposed to learn to follow them?" This got the other guy pissed off, and he snatched his stuff from the stunned clerk and grumpily went to stand behind me. But by then, another guy in his late 20s had joined behind me in the queue, and this "elder" gentleman began arguing with him as to how he had come "before" the guy.. But before he could finish his statement, the guy moved away and told him to stand ahead of him, adding insult to his injury!!! Looks like elders could take some lessons from the two of us!!!

Not this alone, but at bus stops and everywhere else, one can see men pushing aside women to get inside, youngster and elders alike (and i mean both men and women) shoving to be the first person inside... All this is just a big big hassle... Why can't everyone wait for his/her turn!!!

I estimate (and I am sure that its true) that on the road, if everyone was to go on his side of the road, give way to faster cars and just behave normally, half of the traffic problems in India, especially in chennai, would be resolved without the need to build another flyover!!!

But what can we do, but pour over anguish on a blog, and keep repenting for the rest of our lives!!!

Anonymous said...

Its nice to see change but isnt it also the conditioning of the mind that any resource is scarce and following a queue does nothing but ensures you wont get it ? Isnt it just a demand-supply problem ?