We are Indians after all and given a chance we have a thousand reasons to break a queue — from our grandmother being terminally ill (okay she is not exactly terminal but one can die suddenly of old age surely?) , to the fact that nobody is at home to feed the dog!
BUT the person minding the queue is the person with authority and can make us feel like we are back in school. They are not rude or harsh but just have to tell us with the most painful expression of disgust maybe to say, “Just a minute I think the lady here needs to be attended to first,” or worse still “Just a minute but may I finish with this man first,” even though she and the man have been giggling together for the past ten minutes.
The actual problem with us is that nobody other than ourselves is a person of authority and we somehow invoke genealogy and ask whether something or the other belongs to his or her father/ I understand from a friend that when Rusi Mody was asked whether he thought the road belonged to his grandfather (somehow it sounds better in Hindi) he said yes!
As I said what’s with us that we don’t like authority? I think it’s due to the fact that our teachers rather enjoyed exerting authority at a time when we could not strike back? This is only an untested theory and there’s no reason for teachers of the world to unite and shout me down. Of course the problem is that the person at the other end of the service is not very confident, not very well trained and worse still is in dire need of the low salary he or she is paid.
So before getting all snooty let us for a minute think of the person who is serving us. Do we know his grandmother didn’t die that morning or that his /her child has not just been diagnosed with a fatal disease? We don’t know for sure so let us give him or her the benefit of doubt. Recently I had dinner with a friend who was not being served vegetarian food (while we can’t get meat in a vegetarian restaurant surely one can get vegetarian meals in a non vegetarian restaurant?) and he turned the whole situation around with humour. He told the waitress that he planned to take her out to a restaurant on her free night off but to a vegetarian restaurant! She visibly transformed from a wilting flower in front of my amazed eyes!
It’s so simple really! We behave the same way and if the people who are serving us are allowed to suggest the queue system to us maybe it can work?
So as we approach a very different 2014 with different states, etc imagine our future life with the tehzeeb of Hyderabad back in place and polite Hyderabadis saying “Pehle aap.”
(The writer is Chairman Emeritus of JWT Mindset)