......to many of you, it will probably be because you’ve seen or experienced something exactly like this.
Here’s the story, and you just might be able to replace the situation and the people without changing a single incident.
The wife goes down to her alma mater for the graduation ceremony of some of her friends. Now, graduation ceremonies are a rather grand celebratory affair, especially when someone is getting the doctoral “hood”. Two of her friends were being hooded, and so she was given the job of being their official photographer and cheerleader.
Like almost everyone else, she was at the auditorium early, and quietly seated herself at the back, where there was seating. When it was close to the time her friend was going to be hooded, she quietly went up (going unobtrusively from the side), found a corner where she could stand without disturbing anyone to take a picture, and got her camera out. The American couple who were seated besides her (likely waiting for their son or daughter to graduate) saw her, and asked if she’d like to come to their spot in order to get a better picture. Everything was as it should be, joyous and celebratory.
And then these two Indian students walked, or should I say, swaggered into the front aisle without a care in the world. While every one was perfectly well behaved, these two behaved as if they ruled the world. They walked right up, obstructing as many views as humanly possible, all while talking happily. One guy whips out a camera, and stands akimbo right in the middle of the stage taking a picture. They decide to stand right there and turn back and wave or call out to their friend (who was walking up on stage). You know…..the “hey, look here, we’re here” kind of voice that was hardly congratulatory. While this was going on, and everyone else in the hall was getting pissed off, one of their cell phones rang (with a suitably colorful ringtone). Instead of switching the damn thing off, he turns back, grins and says “sorry, bad timing” and continues, incredibly, to click pictures without shutting off that phone, even as some of the audience looked at him in disbelief. This, right after a clear message from the organizers requesting the audience to shut off their cellphones. Now, to top things, after clicking the pictures he wanted, he proceeds to whip out his (still ringing) phone and yell “do minute me phone karna, main thoda busy hoon” (call me after two minutes, I’m a little busy right now). Two minutes later, almost on cue, the phone rings again! This time, an American gentleman sitting in front couldn’t take it any more, and asks this guy to take it outside, which he reluctantly does, talking away on his phone as he’s leaving the hall.
Meanwhile, my wife gets ready to quietly take her friend’s picture. Just as she’s about to take a short video, this same guy and his friend walk right back in, and stand right in front of her (as her friend is hooded), shutting off her view. She now has a delightful video of the back and head of this guy for posterity, with some of his running Hindi commentary to boot.
And this was hardly the only incident of the day, but a single sample from many such. Here’s yet another one. In the aisle behind where she and her friends were seated were yet another group of Indian students, talking away as if they owned this world (while all others in the audience were quietly seated, listening to the names being read out, and clapping politely). The all important topic of the discussion of this group of loudmouths was cameras. The conversation goes thus:
“Hey, check out my camera phone, it’s got 1 megapixel resolution”
“That’s nothing, mine’s got 3 megapixels. Shut up and smile.”
Few more loud words exchanged in a few Indian languages.
Click. Click. What fun.
The wife was understandably furious with all of this, and was talking to her friends at the end of the day (two of them were European, the other Canadian). Since she had initiated the discussion, the others said they didn’t want to say this in her presence, but in numerous public places (from places on campus to airports or restaurants) they had all experienced some extremely boorish or downright rude behavior from Indians. Most times they were too stunned to respond (I’ll avoid details here).
This is hardly surprising to most of us. Anyone who has gone to a movie hall screening an Indian movie, or an Indian concert, must have experienced this and much more. Cell phones ring constantly. Kids run berserk, yelling at the top of their voices as their parents let them be, oblivious to the disturbed crowd around them. Conversations continue in loud voices (talking is bad enough, but if you have to, whisper). People stand up and obstruct everyone’s view of the stage/screen, without a care in the world, and certainly don’t put in any effort to get out of the way. Others answer loudly ringing cell phones and engage in long, loud conversations within earshot of everyone else. Still others don’t bother to stand in line, but walk right up to the front of the counter without even acknowledging the existence of others in line, or jostle for space using painfully bony elbows. An endless list.
I’ve been reluctant to admit it (or usually have been defensive about it when some non-Indian friends bring it up), but I think, after viewing a rather large sample size, I’m compelled to say that we’re a country of rude, inconsiderate boors. And unfortunately, most of us haven’t even heard of the saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, and don’t behave as well as most American audiences would.
And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or how much money you have.
It NEVER hurts to be polite and considerate.