The ubiquitous queue crashers

Sunder Viswanathan
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There are many things that are peculiar to Indians, which we consciously or unconsciously ignore as we get along with everyday life in the country.

While some of those may be dismissed as stereotyped images of one region or community, or even of the whole nation in the eyes of westerners, there is one behaviour that is irrefutably Indian. One that binds us all across age and gender, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, caste and region, India Shining and not, you name it. No, it is not our love for the movies or for cricket or even politics — but our utter disregard for the queue.

Q-crashers are legion at every public place.

There was this guy at the post office the other day, ‘overtaking' three of us standing in line and bending over the counter. When challenged he innocently replied that he ‘just' wanted some stamps! (What noble intent indeed, and that too at a post office, I thought to myself). Likewise, we have people at clinics deftly entering the doctor's room claiming that the accompanying patient is ‘very sick'. (Again, not sure if anyone visits clinics to play video games with the doctor.)

The internet has increasingly deprived me of the experience of Qs at railway booking counters, bill payment centres, cinemas, banks, etc., but there are new ‘breeding' grounds — ATMs, shopping centres. I do not grudge our love for money, but can't comprehend the seeming urgency for money at ATMs. The best one I recall is at an ATM — this guy touched the ‘sentimental chord' by claiming he wanted to withdraw money urgently for his close relative's funeral!

Not sure if the Republic's Constitution has been amended accordingly, but persons with just 2-3 items to buy at shopping malls and stores, seem to have automatic rights over others with trolley loads standing in line to pay.

Recently, appalled at the way we jostled for the shuttle service between different office buildings of the multinational firm I work for, I took it upon myself to do something about it. Gathering a few colleagues from my team and folks from our administration department, we managed to enforce a queue system after a few days of effort. I did not (and do not expect, even posthumously) to be awarded the Bharat Ratna for this, but equally unexpected were a couple of questions from reluctant Q-crashers. One wondered ‘But it [the queue] was not there till yesterday'. Another asked a more in-the-face ‘Why…what is the reason….?'

No respite at private events either. You just have to watch everyone when the climax is announced — food is served. The scenes will make one wonder if it was a function or a flood relief camp.

Queue kyon? seems to be the average person's attitude!

Cut to the swank boarding lounge of any major airport, prior to the departure of a flight to India.

As soon as the announcer calls for the boarding of business class passengers or families with kids, there will be a dash by all passengers towards the gate or counter. Except for a few bewildered foreigners who will be left to wonder if they misheard the announcement. Despite my best efforts, I too have rarely managed to avoid succumbing to this call and sheepishly walk towards the queue (or one of many that will have formed by then), acting as if it was my turn. Why I wonder later? Is it the fear of the flight leaving without me? Or, of not finding a seat if I was late? Perhaps it is a primal natural trait. A genetic disposition. A conditioned reflex. A Darwinian response. A mix of all these and more? Nobody knows but one thing I know for sure — I am not at all alone. We are all like that only.

(The writer's email is:

The best one I recall is at an ATM — this guy touched the ‘sentimental chord'

by claiming he wanted to withdraw

money urgently for his close

relative's funeral!




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