When I got to England, I was uncomfortable acknowledging random strangers saying a cheery 'Hello' or 'Good Morning'. The first thought in a doubting Indian mind is 'What vested interest do they have in saying it?'. I have never cracked a smile at random people while in India, 'We don't want to be thought of as loony, do we?'. Men are highly likely to take it as a come-on, while women would just give a frozen stare back in cold rejection. Why can't this be just a basic civility? One that is such a polite, trusting gesture. It takes no time, but puts a smile on the face, doesn't it? I do it as a matter of course now. The shuttle driver who drove us from the Mumbai airport to the aircraft had a stunned look in his face as I walked out thanking him - wonder if I imagined it or if he thought I had passed a snide remark as I was leaving.
My biggest grouse with people here would perhaps be their need to extract the last ounce out of the money they spend. See it this way, why else would people make such a hue and cry about queuing up to board their flights. As soon as the boarding announcement to Mumbai was made at the Heathrow airport, my Indian fellow passengers showed their true colours. It was a scamper to be the first to board the flight. Could it be the remnants of having to fight for the best seats in Deccan Airways that make people forget they have allotted seats and that the plane won't leave without them? Jet Airways made repeated announcements to ensure people remained seated till boarding began batch by batch. They perhaps forgot they were dealing with Indians. Dutyfree shopping bags jostled with hand baggage ensuring that no one could cut ahead of them, so there formed two lines. Repeated announcements for a single file to be formed fell on deaf ears. Ditto at Mumbai airport too. Boarding call announcements to various cities saw mad scrambles as early as 3.30 AM - as if there was a SALE on inside the plane. No one bothers to check if much time is actually lost in queuing up. I see more time, energy and effort wasted in trying to get ahead of the others. The only thing I see people getting out of jostling others rudely and edging themselves, one-step-at-a-time ahead is the mental satisfaction of having eked out the best value for the money spent by getting in first. After all, doesn't the plane get everyone to the destination at the same time?
Getting out of the airport, I noticed something else, that funnily never bothered me before. Maybe these days, I consider honking horns very rude. Time to report another pet peeve. If your car has to be eased out, you see another car blocking your exit while the passenger loads up his baggage, what do you do? Honk your horn continuously, making life miserable for you and them and anyone else in the vicinity? Does that actually make them stop and move their car and let you move on? Not really, right? Then why the wasted effort? Aren't a great deal of the traffic jams we see here caused because everyone tries to squeeze past - regardless of whether your attempt is inconveniencing fifty others behind you.
It's time we learnt some grace, some consideration for the other person. People who do it as an accepted gesture abroad, turn into heartless natives the moment they breathe in the Indian air. Yes, it might set us back by a couple of minutes, but won't you be in a better frame of mind, better disposition for having done a good deed for a stranger you will never meet again. Why is this culture missing? Will we ever learn? We pick up so many convenient Western customs, why not their civility?