Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rude? Who, us Indians? get a life...

A few months back there was a big furor about a survey that found Indians among the rudest of all people. Every one was outraged at that blatant statement and protest notes were all over the place. Blogs, articles and TV shows competed to prove otherwise. Yours truly also joined the bandwagon and wrote how the Mumbaikar was not at all rude but how much compassionate during the recent bomb blasts that shook the city. It is true that in adversity we go out of our way to help others but in everyday life are we that lenient? The everyday fight for a seat in a crowded local train, the abuse-hurling nature makes me think otherwise. And my recent trip to Kerala doesn’t make me think otherwise.
We – me, my wife and my 18 month old daughter boarded a sleeper class reserved compartment from Kalyan on Mangala-Lakshadeep Express. Unfortunately my seat was in the next coupe and due to my daughter’s continuous whining I decided to stay with them. A family was sitting next to our seat and they occupied the rest of the coupe except one seat. A man in his forties was sitting on that seat. When he left his seat to stand in the doorway, I decided to have breakfast. While we were having it, he came back and asked me to vacate his seat. I have no other option but to stand up with Idli plate in one hand, coffee cup in the other. I cursed the moment when I decided to have breakfast together. I could have let my wife eat first while I baby-sit, and once she finished I could have mine!
Throughout the journey the family next to us was very accommodating and kind, but this guy was outright rude. Once or twice my kid laughed loudly and he made it clear that he is irritated. Luckily he got down at Ratnagiri, a 6 hour journey from Kalyan, along with the family next to me. It felt like a lifetime!
From there till Madgao (Goa) we had the entire coupe for us. We reached there about 10:00 PM and my daughter was in a playful mood. I had to restrain her many times from climbing down the seat and walking barefoot. She made friends with a guy who was sitting on the double seat across the aisle and by now he too was sleeping on his berth. Suddenly two foreigners came into our coupe with heavy backpacks and luggage. They put all their belongings on to their reserved berths and all the while chatting and laughing, albeit in a low voice. When they noticed that my wife and child was sleeping she politely said “Sorry about the noise”. I mumbled something and got ready to sleep as well.
The next morning while we were having our breakfast, the women from upper birth woke up and checked her companion. Since he was fast asleep, she went back to sleep. This repeated for some more time and every time she gave us a sweet smile. Finally he too woke up and they started shooting the passing landscapes on their digital camera & camcorder.
After some shooting they came back to the seat and struck up a conversation. The first question was “Did we bother you last night?” to which I replied in the negative. Suddenly they two started talking. By then my daughter was fed up with not getting any attention and decided that enough is enough. She started making faces and doing her version of a conversation and these two responded with equal naughtiness. The way they spoke and behaved was amazing. I never remember any of my co-passengers talked to me like that. In a couple of hours we become friends.
Sebastian & Nathalie were from France. He is from Paris and working as an Insurance Marketing executive. She is from some other place (I don’t remember the name or her nature of work since her accent was heavy). Both were on a tight budget (hence the second class railway) and been to Varanasi and other Hindu pilgrim centers. After visiting Goa, they are heading to Kerala. Sebastian was full of questions. Why Indian women wear the “bindi” on her forehead? Is it a symbol of matrimony? How many languages are there in India? How do you manage with all these languages and cultures? Etc…
Natalie wasn’t far behind. She wanted to know how to wear Saree. And is it a costume to wear only after marriage etc. The whole day we spend in talking and myself asked about their culture and living in Paris. By the time we had to get down, we exchanged e-mail address and promised to contact once they went back to France.

Now I strongly believe we have a lot to learn from westerners, particularly from Europeans. Not their free society culture or revealing clothes. But how to behave in a society. How to talk and how to be kind.
Ps: Sebastian & Natalie, we enjoyed that trip tremendously. It was just because of your company. Here is a big Thank You!


Anonymous said...

No disrespect to your new found friends but not all Indians are rude and not all foreigners are polite :P

Shinu Mathew said...

I agree not all of us are rude and not all EUROPEANS are polite. But this was what I encountered on my trip.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

No, Dhruv, not all of anything is anything- but generalizations, when recognized as being such, are true *in general*. That's why you don't hear many stories about prudish, Victorian Italians, loud rude Japanese or shy, retiring Aussies...there is some basis in reality.

Thanks for saying nice things about us foreigners.

whistlingwoods said...

Hmmm...good one. I've worked in a call center where I assisted callers from the UK. I found that most English people are extremely polite and full of courtesy.

On the other hand NRIs were outright rude and abusive. Nine times out of ten. This despite the fact that an Indian was at the other end of the line.

On my recent trip to Aurangabad, I met an American-John-who was the epitome of politeness. This is one trait that I observed in most foreigners who were with us on that trip.

Sometimes blindly aping the West isn't that bad after all. Only if we care enough...

Vaibhav said...

Nice experience Shinu, Even i have experienced such similar things here downunder. And as amit said, 10 out of 9 NRI's r knowlingly rude.
Anyways respect for others and attitude to always learn in life should be a part n parcel of individual responsibilities. Not a cultural effect overall.