Thursday, September 15, 2016

Are we raising insensitive children?

Today, in the Kolkata edition of The Telegraph, I came across a book review of a book called “The Good Indian’s Guide to Queue Jumping” by one V. Raghunathan. It has been published by Harper Collins, a renowned publishing house that is known to be fussy about the titles it publishes. Now I have not read the book (nor can I genuinely say that I want to) and I am certain Harper Collins has its reasons for publishing the book, but what caught my eye was the title of the book: “The Good Indian’s Guide to Queue Jumping.” Seriously?
But then it made me stop and think. Let’s face it, queue jumping is a malady that affects us Indians, all the time. Be it at the airport, the check-out line in the grocery store, the entrance to a movie hall, even at the cash counter at the nursing home, we all seem to have been afflicted with a strange case of “I want to be first.” I particularly remember a trip abroad in my teens. While the whole world waited in queue at Heathrow airport, this extra-large family of Indians tried to jump the queue and was firmly put back in place by the grim faced officials. I saw the disgust on their faces. And I saw them looking at all Indians with the same distaste. And I felt sad because I wanted to scream that “No, all Indians are NOT like that!” but no one would care. Times have thankfully changed however, nowadays when you go abroad somehow you will find even Indians lining up, mostly peacefully, some lesson has been learnt over the years, maybe some awareness has come in? However, I have seen this too that the same family that stands in queue everywhere in the world suddenly finds it impossible to stand in line in our own country… does it have something to do with the climate or the air? I wonder. Nowadays, again thankfully, people do speak up when someone breaks a queue. I, in fact very loudly complain. Often I am told, rather condescendingly, “oh, really, the line is there, why YOU go ahead,” as if that solves anything!!! But I am helpless to change anything if the others behind me will not speak up.
Are you wondering why I am suddenly ranting about queues today? Or what it has to do with parenting? It’s not just the queue business. It’s basic decency. Holding a door open so that it will not bang on the face of the person right behind you. Driving in your own lane so that the person next to you will not be inconvenienced, listening to music on earphones on a flight, refraining from talking loudly on the phone in a movie hall, keeping the cell phone mute in a theatre, talking softly in a hospital, smiling and saying thank you to the guy who helps you in the supermarket, refraining from littering the street or spitting on the road, saying please to the waiter who is serving you at the restaurant… there are so many things. Somehow we rarely, or never seem to inculcate these.
And why? Because the bottom line is that in general we do not care about the convenience/inconvenience of others, we live in utter disregard to the other person, oblivious to their requirements or rights. Yes, we are insensitive. Oh, you’re protesting, are you? I’m glad you are, I’m glad I am irritating you because this needs to change. And who can change this if not us and our children and their children after them? Now it’s all very well for us to tell our children all this, maybe they will listen to you and learn. But you know, experience has taught me children only learn what they see. So the next time you feel like jumping the queue just because you are in a hurry, stop. Your child is learning that it is okay to be selfish and self-centered. The next time your feel like swerving into someone’s lane just to get ahead three feet while completely blocking the car behind that wanted to go left, restrain yourself. The next time the driver honks for no reason, in fact, do tell him off. Just try to be sensitive. Try to think that the person in the line ahead of you is equally busy and in as much as a hurry as you are. Waiting will not be difficult. Learn patience, practice patience. And your child will learn it too. Through you.
Let’s raise sensitive children. Children who smile and say please and thank you and hold the door open and do not honk needlessly because an older person is exiting the car in front of them and that takes longer than usual. Let’s teach them that it is not okay to roll down the car window and throw that empty packet of chips, that it is not okay to play video games with a loud volume for it may disturb the person next to you, that it is not okay to scream and shout and run about in a restaurant. Let’s raise sensitive children, who will care, not only for themselves but for the people around them and hopefully some of it will rub off on their friends too. Only then will the world stop thinking of us as an insensitive population full of queue jumpers.