An ex-Navy man and blogger, Rahul Bhatia writes on issues that touch us, be it women’s safety or terrorism — in a gentle but forceful manner. He uses both verse and prose to get his point across to the readers. I enjoy his posts for their simplicity and because they often find an echo in my own views. Widely travelled, Rahul also writes about the interesting experiences he has had during his travels, on his blog Rahul’s Blog and Collections.
In this guest post, he laments the demise of good manners and etiquette in our society. And if anyone can authoritatively write a piece on this subject, believe me folks, it is Rahul.
I was browsing in the aisles of the megastore in a mall, when I heard the deafening shriek of a child. I turned to see a boy of about eight, sitting in a shopping cart with his toddler sister. The cart was being pushed by the father while the mother was picking up a stuff from the shelves. No, the child was not hurt or being scolded but was just shrieking for the fun of it. I was shaken not by the racket but by the nonchalant behavior of the indulgent parents. I would have smacked the man for this atrocious behavior but not being the moral police, I just tried to ignore it. On second thoughts, even if I had pulled him up, I would have only been chastised for being intolerant of children!
I am sure many of you would have come across such children and groups of teenagers bringing the house down with their boisterousness. One wonders if they are unaware that they are causing disturbance to the people around or if they are deliberately doing it to attract attention. I have nothing against kids having honest fun, but not at the cost of causing disturbance to others.
It would appear that good manners, etiquette, courtesy and civic sense are all fast becoming extinct in our society. Just look around and you will realise that this statement is true. A majority of the people seem to think that it is their right to trespass into others’ privacy, demand priority everywhere, behave rudely with everyone and act insufferably in general. Of course there are many sensible people too, but they are greatly outnumbered by the former. What is more, they even take up cudgels on behalf of their wards if someone dared to find fault with their disruptive beahviour.
In this context, I can’t but help remember the time when I was very young and had been bullied by one of the neighbor’s sons. I had come home crying, hoping that my father would come to my rescue and scold the boy concerned. I was in for a shock because after listening to my complaint my father calmly said, ‘You must learn to settle matters on your own and not come home crying like this.’ He clearly wasn’t going to intervene on my behalf. It was lesson well learnt. However over the years I have seen many elders squabbling over some trivial quarrel between their children, and even turning them into a full scale fights between the adults!
Coming to greeting others, I remember how we used to touch the feet of all elders – even those older by just a few years — on special occasions like birthdays and festivals. I do not remember ever having felt bad about doing this or felt that it hurt my ego in any way. In fact the more blessing (not to speak of gifts!) we received the more we considered ourselves to be fortunate. Today, this is a dying tradition but no matter. What about other forms of greeting instead? A simple ‘hello’, shaking hands, a hug, or even a friendly pat – anything to show that you are happy to see the other person, is most welcome.
How often do we find youngsters staring expressionlessly at you when they are visiting or when you visit them — even after being introduced? There is not even a smile or a hello, leave alone the traditional form of greeting! Doesn’t it make you wonder if their parents have taught them the basic courtesy of greeting at all? I am not talking here about small children, who might naturally be shy of new faces, but the older ones and the teenagers. In this regard I feel that our rural cousins are far more courteous. A courteous ‘namaste’ from children, or a ‘Ram, Ram,’ from the adults, is a welcome mode of greeting.
It is painful to see that we claim to be progressing in so many areas but do not try to hold on our rich traditions and culture, at least in matters of courtesy? If we find our traditions old-fashioned and archaic, why not follow the West at least in matters of etiquette, instead of just aping their fashions and lifestyles? For instance, greetings are exchanged even between total strangers, in the West. But we don’t even spare a smile as if giving a smile would make us poorer! A salesman or a cashier would invariably say, ‘Thank you,’ with a smile when we make a payment in any western country. But here, they would mostly act as if they are doing you a favour by making your bill.
Little acts of courtesy stay with us for a long time. Some time back, the CEO of a large telecommunications company courteously held the door open for me as I entered his office. At another time, while on a morning jog in a park in Mumbai, I had a nasty stumble and fell flat on the ground. Instantly, a young girl who was coming from the opposite direction came up to offer help. I recount these incidents as acts of kindness which have got etched in my memory.
How many of us let the ladies go first or open the door for them or offer them a seat while traveling by public transport? I once saw a young girl get up and offer her seat to an old man who was standing while travelling by metro in Hong Kong. I am ashamed to admit that in our country, I have seen even pregnant women clinging to the overhead bar while youngsters continued to sit and studiously looking the other way!
We cannot become great just by building Metros, swanky malls and huge buildings, unless we learn basic courtesies and etiquette and some civic sense. For, we are not only a discourteous and uncouth nation, but also a filthy one. Why is it that we have no regard for public property? Travel to any developed country and see how we fare by comparison. Affluence and education don’t seem to have a bearing on such matters. I have often seen people driving plush cars and throwing away wrappers and cartons on the roads, as if it was the most natural thing to do. Why do we become litterbugs in our own country? Would we dare do it in a foreign country?
And oh, I forgot to mention that we are an intolerant nation too. We are full of self-importance and contempt for others and are short on patience. The increasing incidents of road rage are a reflection of these traits. People being shot at, knifed and beaten up for minor traffic skirmishes are alarmingly on the rise.
A couple of years ago I had gone to the market in my car and parked outside a showroom. A little later I was reversing my car when a huge car suddenly turned and brushed mine. I froze in horror when I turned to look back and saw a burly man dressed in white kurta-pajama and wearing dark glasses behind the wheels. He was accompanied by a security guard with a double barreled rifle! He told his guard to examine the damage but even before he could get out, I jumped out of my car and walked to the man, admitting that I was at fault! Call me a coward if you like, but under the circumstances it was the most prudent thing I could have done, especially since I had my wife with me. Thankfully his new car had a very minor abrasion and when his guard confirmed it, the ‘god almighty’ let me off! It certainly had been my lucky day or I might not have lived to tell the tale!
I have always believed that ‘charity begins at home’. If we want to see positive changes around us we must make an effort to walk the talk before expecting others to improve. If only we followed a few basic courtesies and etiquette, life would become a pleasant journey indeed!
Pic on homepage, courtesy: visualphotos.com