We Indians are a free spirited lot and don’t believe in masking our true selves with needless niceties. We love to flaunt our bad manners like a newly acquired SUV that honks imperiously in midst of barely moving traffic, expecting the annoying twerps blocking the way to get crushed under its wheels or take wings and fly out of sight.
We are always in a hurry to get somewhere. That’s why we shove, jostle, stamp on unsuspecting feet to get ahead in the queue and almost push that gangly boy to the Metro tracks just to be the first one to get into the coach. The moment our plane touches down for landing, regardless of how many free pegs of whiskey we have downed, we spring into action and start taking down our hand bags from the overheard compartments, completely ignoring the airhostess’s plea to remain seated. And before the aircraft can come to a halt, we start running towards the exit as if we expect the cabin crew to set the plane on fire, if we don’t disembark on time.
Yet, we are never on time. Rather, we expect time and the punctual fool to wait for us while we saunter in two hours late without even a hint of remorse.
It’s because it’s never our fault.
So, if we turn up late without having the courtesy to inform, it’s because of the damn traffic jam. If we make a nasty dent on the car in the neigbouring parking slot at the mall, it’s because the idiot had parked it wrong. If we dump our garbage in our neighbour’s compound, it’s because it looked dirty anyway. If we merrily film a girl’s cleavage as she bends down to pick up her pen, it’s because we were trying to teach her a lesson for wearing a low-cut top. If she’s out of her house, on her own, she is meant to be groped and pinched. If she dares retaliate, she’s being an unreasonable bitch.
Rules are meant for the meek and powerless. Saying sorry and thank you will make our tongue fall out. Visiting tourists are sitting ducks, waiting to be exploited. We share a young exchange student’s horrific ordeal in our country on social network sites, hang our heads in shame, tut tut in sympathy but prefer looking the other way if we see a girl being clawed by some sick pervert at a busy market place. We outrage about our inert politicians but come Election Day, we’d rather go to the mall and chill out.
Yet we have the temerity to crib that the country is going to dogs and sigh in resignation that things will never change.
Things change when attitudes change. And if you think we are like that only, I’d like to bring to your attention the magical transformation we all undergo, the moment we step out of our country.
The very same people who spit on walls, throw orange peels and discarded chips packets on roads, look the other way when you point it out to them, try to bribe their way out of tricky situations,have loud conversations on phone with their dead and living relatives inside movie theaters and scream at their maids and waiters because they need to be shown their place, turn into model citizens the moment they step on foreign shores.
Pretty much like the bawling, tantrum throwing brat who starts behaving himself the moment his Mom is out of his sight.
Perhaps it stems from the need to blend in with the well-mannered First world denizens or the knowledge that breaking rules invites harsh consequences. But the truth is we all become better versions of ourselves when we visit or move to a foreign country. We try harder to be nice, smile more often, behave gracefully and become more helpful.
Of course, there will be an odd lot that will continue being the assholes they are, irrespective of whether they are in Hisar or Helsinki!
It’s not as if we do not have conscientious citizens who treat the laws of our country and their fellow countrymen with respect. We do, but we need more of them. It’s not as if all are our men are uncouth perverts waiting to pounce on unsuspecting women. There are so many honourable men who respect and cherish the women in their lives.
But our problem is that so many of us are too complacent to speak up and get out of our comfort zones to be the catalyst for change. We’d rather wait for a miracle to transform all the ills that prevail.
Things will remain the same because so many of us put ourselves above the common good of all. Parents pay hefty capitation fees to get their son into Engineering. We extend balconies of our apartment, build an extra floor because we know we can get away with it. We isolate ourselves from the grim reality because there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s because my welfare, my happiness comes first.
If we want to clean up our country, we have to clean up our own act first. Only then we can at least start hoping for a change.