Few days ago in the gym, I met an extremely upset man, an Indian but having lived abroad for many years. The reason – he felt that one of the gym instructors did not say thank you to him – when he allowed him to use the hair dryer before him. The guy went on and on for close to 10 minutes, and many of us around him found it quite amusing.
The guy on the receiving end was confused as to what the fuss was all about !
The man said that we Indians only think about ourselves and not about comfort/ feelings of others. I think there is an element of truth in it.
The other day, I was sitting at the reception of my apartment for few minutes. Every time someone would come, the security guard would stand up and say ‘good morning sir’, with an honest smile. Most people would just walk through, busy on their smart phones, without even acknowledging his greetings. Couple of them were generous in giving a nod of stoned acknowledgement. Rarely (mostly senior citizens) would reply with a ‘good morning’ and a generous smile. Every time this happened, the guard had a triumphant expression, looking at me with a corner of his eyes – as if saying that see there are at least few who care. These are the only moments he looks forward to in his entire day, marred by indifference and humiliation.
When I went to US for the first time, it came as a pleasant surprise to see everyone, without exception, stopping their cars to allow the pedestrians to cross the road, even if there is no red light signal !! Contrast this to Delhi, where the drivers would honk, swear and threaten to run over the lesser souls who dare to come on their way. In US (and most other countries) you would hardly hear someone honking for days, sometime weeks. Out here, honking is a national pastime. We honk when we want to overtake (that’s all the time), we honk even if there is no possibility of the vehicle ahead to go anywhere, we honk when we are angry, when we are sad, and simply when we don’t have anything else.
When the flight would land, people wait patiently and let others (on prior rows) to leave before them. Back in India, we just hate to wait and invariably the air hostess has to shout, plead and beg to people not to stand instantly and open the overhead bin as soon as flight lands but still moving to the parking area. We consider it our birth right to race towards the exit, completely oblivious to those who are ahead us.
See the way we behave near the office or apartment elevator. No que, no waiting for others, we just shove ourselves in, sometimes pushing & elbowing people around us, off course without feeling bad or saying sorry. The other day, a Japanese gentleman in our apartment refused to enter the elevator when someone came after (while he was waiting) but went inside before him. I am sure he will soon understand that this is the way we operate.
So most of us are now attuned to think about self – nothing bad about it – but we ONLY think about ourselves and that’s not cool. Schools hardly teach our kids how to be empathetic towards others, why and how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ and ‘please’. We don’t encourage our kids to do this either as we don’t think it is important.
So why are we like it?
Plenty of excuses. Why say ‘thank you’ when someone is just doing his job? No one says this to me? This is a systematic problem…everyone does it…what will change if I do it?
My view – think how’d you feel if you were on the other side, if you’d be happy, then keep doing what you’re doing. If not, change yourself.
Let’s give away a bit of apathy on the new year and embrace a bit of gratitude…a bit of thank you s, sorry s and please s….