Courtesy to strangers

Writing in the New York Times, Anand Giridharadas laments:
 In India, to be someone’s house guest or son-in-law or teacher can be delightful. To be a stranger beside the same person at the cinema or bank or airport is another experience altogether.
Since I am in India now, I can see this cultural propensity everywhere.

Last night, for example, I was getting out of a plane. I waved through the person on the seat across the aisle from me. I need not have bothered because he was squeezing through anyway without any acknowledgment of my presence, and right behind him were the passengers in the seat behind us, and the seat behind them as well. If I had not shoved my way into the melee, I'd probably have been trapped on the plane by passengers jostling to get on the plane on its return trip to Madras (I'm joking of course).

Remember that these are people taking a plane to travel within India -- probably the richest, most educated slice of the country. As Giridharadas notes:
There is an idea that low-ranking gate staff don’t need to be listened to. There is an idea that you, the individual, are the best judge of how the system should run, not the people whose system it is. There is an idea that rules are mere hints, to be applied when useful. There is an idea of ruthless maximization of one’s interests, the world (and that old lady in front of you) be damned.
He ends with a hope of moral suasion to change the country's mores. Having now visited India every summer for the past few years, I think he is overly optimistic. I see no hope of any change happening any time soon mainly because people fail to notice courtesy in others. And only when they begin to notice courtesy, and to cease thinking that people obeying rules are idiots, will they even think about extending courtesy and obeying rules.

1 comment:

  1. I'm thankful that overall courtesy and rule following happen here in the States. I've never really thought of not following the rules. Maybe it's that midwestern mentality I have.