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whither goest thou India ?
Sreelata Menon | 15 Sep 2006

About the lack of manners and respect among Indians

Manners maketh the man!
 
Do they? Not any longer . In this man-eat-man, dog-eat-dog world, the first casualty has been Mr. Manners. Sadly, politeness has been replaced by a strange in-your-face rudeness, and simple courtesy by aggressive first-come-first-right. And nowhere is it more evident than on the roads, in public places, in homes and even on the net! The reason, and everybody has a take on this, is apparently just two words 'population'and'competition'.
 
 There are so many people competing for so many things, and so little time, that being polite or courteous is considered a waste of quality time. Courtesy is perceived, today, as a sign of weakness. At the traffic lights, in ticket queues, in lifts, in offices, wherever there is a congregation of more than a few, the hallmark is impatience. Everybody is rushed. Everybody is stressed out. Nobody has enough time. To eat, sleep or drink. To write, to even talk! Let alone politely!
 
This was not how our country was! This is not how our country should be. People maketh the nation. Have we lost our way? In our quest for a place in the developed world are we acquiring their ills along with their technical know-how? Does one have to replace the other?  Surely not. But it would seem so going by the behavior of our youngsters and not so young.
 
A lady was shot in Lucknow, the other day, for objecting to some chaps' eve teasing her young daughter-in-law. Jessica Lall was murdered in full view of a roomful of people, for not serving a youngster a drink. Now does that smack of certain arrogance or sheer recklessness? Who is to say? Stressed out youngsters, quick to anger despite being in the wrong, retaliating in the only way they seem to know. In modern, gun toting India, the humiliation of being ticked off is more than even the fear of retribution for such an act. The monstrosity of the deed, the act of actually taking somebody's life does not apparently deter when fragile egos are threatened.
 
Road rage. A common enough feature these days. Large swanky, expensive cars and narrow overcrowded roads. A sure shot recipe for accidents and inflamed tempers. Who is to blame? Technology or the people? The so-called IT era has spawned a generation of rude, impatient, aggressively brash young competent professionals for whom old world niceties are just that-old world! All forgotten traits and needless baggage in their quest for material advantages! Advantages they have neither the time nor the energy to use or spend fruitfully.
 
Conscience,unselfishness and respect- three other apparently and seemingly forgotten words. Our forefathers laid great stress on all three. Conscience forced people to behave and in the past 'self' mattered less while 'means' mattered as much as or perhaps more than the end. To respect all, was a given. Gandhiji never tired of repeating it. Our Holy books taught it. Sharing was seen to be the greatest of virtues. Sudama sharing his small pouch of puffed rice with Sri Krishna typified the concept. Athithi Devo Bhava proclaimed aloud the Indian peoples' homegrown attitude towards each other and other nationalities. Today it seems to have got lost in the quickness of time!
 
 Long ago, in our not so forgotten past, children were taught the art of letter writing. Correctly crafted letters that conveyed sentiments politely expressed, they were missives that sought to educate the receiver. Today, in this age of the Internet, these smses and emails not only convey messages at breakneck speed to which we are no doubt thankful, they are also used to insult and wound with ferocious rapacity. Not that one did not insult by letters in the old days, but the speed and quickness at which insults are traded today, the written word takes on a totally new hue. The fact that one can upbraid another, so instantly, without looking him in the eye, in the safe anonymity of background is perhaps what makes for such scathing exchanges and bruising of spirits.
 
Recently an owner of an apparently vibrant and free spirited 'group list' on the net decided to pull up an errant member for not following the proper guidelines while posting a message. The tone and language was so offensive that it shocked not only the concerned member but also many others of the group on the list. When they objected, madam list owner threw them out .Her prerogative you might say. But if all or at the least any one -conscience, unselfishness and respect had prevailed, manners would have won. An example of one who apparently swore so much by today's professionalism, not being able to take what she was so summarily dishing out. She was only displaying her arrogance of power. Limited, no doubt but unashamedly used, to display her right. And this attitude seems to typify every single act today.
 
Power. The Power to do what you want, when you want, how you want and damn the consequence! We see this power play spiced with arrogance in our daily lives practically every other moment. The inter play of power resulting in a clash of egos where simple Mr. Manners (who could have normally diffused situations) is forced to take a back seat.
 
Agreeing to disagree politely is today, a virtue, lost. Live and let live, a forgotten art. Shoes and slippers are thrown in Parliament.Dharnas and Morchas turn ugly. Places of worship are razed to the ground. People of different faiths are torched by each other. Folks are shot at the least provocation. Stampedes. Tolerance levels are at an all time low.
 
One wonders if this is because of this enormous exhibition of money power, state of the art technology, western influences, climatic changes or a simple lack of sleep! Perhaps it's just the lack in inculcating old values, old social mores in today's India.
The need of the hour then would seem to be to remove that particular irritant which causes this frenzy of competition. Relaxation techniques, easy availability of time and elimination of perceived threats might be steps in the right direction. The popularity of yoga, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Satya Sai Baba and innumerable Swami-nandas, as also renewed interest in the holy books could vouch for this recognized need to reconnect with our deemed past.
 
But meanwhile, in this age of good old Kalki, terrorism is a byword; human lives incidental; tolerance and kindness bygone virtues. So then, how long do we wait, if we wait at all for some semblance of the 'you before me' syndrome to happen again, in modern India? How long before manners' return? How long, before we as a people remember to live by the values of our religions? How long?
 
Whither goest thou India?