I know there will be a violent response for this statement, both ‘pro’ and ‘anti’. Let me make it clear at the very outset that it was not I who said this. It was some foreign media agency which conducted a world wide survey on good manners and arrived at this conclusion. The survey was conducted in Mumbai and the city was placed way down the list.
The panel of judges had to answer a few inane queries like, “Did he say ‘good morning’ to you?” “Did the shopkeeper greet you?” “Did he hold the door for you?” “Did he say thank you?” “Did he remember to say ‘good night’ to you?” etc on the basis of which the whole Indian nation was declared to be lacking in manners!
What are good manners? Is it what is being orally articulated or is it what you mean in your heart? Do an effusive ‘Hi’ and a perfunctory hug signify that he/she is very happy to see you? Then try dropping in on that person without a prior appointment, if possible with your family. The bonhomie disappears in a jiffy and you will be served with more excuses than snacks, while being told politely why you are not welcome.
Once at a family function at a nearby hall, my son offered to put up 7-8 members for the night and brought them home. Without prior intimation, I had to arrange beds for them at 10pm .But they all happened to be FAMILY! In Indian parlance, Family signifies not just you, your spouse and your minor kids. It is an all encompassing word meaning friends, siblings, their children, cousins and their acquaintances. If not like sardines, every bit of space was made use of __beds, divans, comforters spread on floor carpets, couches etc _to accommodate them and all this was done without any fuss. It was fun catching up with all the news about family and friends till late into the night. The hospitality extended to hot coffee and hot water bath for each of them in the morning. Neither I nor my guests found anything bizarre in the whole arrangement.
That’s Indian manners for you. We would never ever dream of turning out a guest.
The cartoon character Moose’s mother-in-law may be a snoopy, comical lady always training her telescope towards the neighbors and their goings on. But here in India, our neighbors really keep an eye on our houses without being told. In fact, it was one such case that prevented the Electricity dept workers who were blindly fixing poles every ten feet, from fixing one of them right in the middle of the entrance to our driveway in our absence. I am confident that in times of crisis, each one is there to help us out; all this even though we may not exchange hearty greetings morning and night. During the times of calamities like floods and terrorist attacks, the way neighbors help each other is proverbial. Sometimes their help comes much before the forces or NGOs enter the scene.
The relationship with our serving staff is such that, we are aware of all their problems like family members. We do not mind helping them with leave and advances on their salaries in their time of crisis. When she walks in in the morning, our maid is confident that a hot cup of tea and a plate of breakfast will be offered to her. All this without exchanging Good mornings or Thank- yous!
As for holding the doors, one needs to learn the trick oneself before offering to do it for others. In the case of a revolving door/gate, it is a permanent mystery to most of us!
Coming down to the manners in shops, India is a country of vast population. A shopkeeper would rather attend to a potential buyer who means business than to an idle browser.
Well, this is ‘Indians’ for you, warts and all. They may be without external manifestation of manners but equipped with a heart of Gold, ready to share their home and hearth with anyone who drops in, ready to pitch in when a neighbor is in trouble. It is only those who come for short visits that find us rude, crude and undemonstrative. But those who have stayed longer have always found us a warm, vibrant lot.