So everytime I get to the Washington DC airport to board a flight back to India, I’m really happy – I’m going back home, to my mother land, Vande Mataram (the Rahman version) is the background score in my head, you get it – intense proud-to-be-Indian stuff.
Then, I see them. Not native American Indians, don’t get me wrong, but some of my own kind, Indians from India.
And that’s a problem.
Need I say more? Don’t shake your head like that.Yup, I know what’s running in your head, “She spends five months in America and now she has the nerve to insult her own people. Outrageous! What has she seen of the world?!” And you’re not only muttering to yourself that you know-already-know how arrogant “these youngsters” are nowadays, but you’re also coming up with excuses to defend our people. “We’re much more in number! We’ve so little space! We’re such a poor country! We’re just 60 years old! We have corrupted politicians! You can’t expect us to be bothered about decorum and sensitivity!” and following all of that is the infamous “And yet, India has come a long way”. It’s like I can read your mind, eh?
Honestly, I’m on your side. India HAS come a long way in a short while, that’s a given. But next time someone slams the door on your face instead of holding it open for you, even though you’re right behind them, convince yourself that it happened because we have corrupt politicians. Oh I have a better one. Next time you go through a whole day without receiving so much as a greeting, a word of gratitude, or even a smile, convince yourself that it’s because we’re just 60 years old and we need more generations on earth to strengthen our skills at being human.
What’re we doing, people? Being a poor country did not stop us from picking up on the “dating culture”. Having so little space did not stop us from looping in McDonalds, Pizza Huts and Victoria’s Secret into our communities. It definitely looks like we got all the memos on the latest fashion. And all of that’s cool, heck I love Victoria’s Secret. But all I’m saying is, why do we ignore the things that really could make a difference in the way we live?
My intention is not to preach or advice. I know, many times, I don’t fulfill my own intentions of being sensitive, when I’m in India. One of the reasons for that, very sadly, is the fact that we Indians are used to second hand treatment. We don’t expect “thank you”s or “goodbye”s or “how’re you doing”s and neither do we expect other people to expect it out of us. We’re ok with being treated like we don’t exist or worse, like scum. And we tolerate it extremely well. It’s when someone is nice to us that we think something’s fishy. “Hmmm, I wonder why that guy just smiled at me. I wonder what he wants”.
I met a very interesting person this time when I went to Virginia. His name is Robert Swap and we got into a conversation about how people don’t respond to crimes and victims of crimes; how they’re forgotten by everyone else except the family of the ones affected. He said to me “Every single day I walk past someone and I don’t acknowledge them, I’m contributing to the community that doesn’t care”. I thought it was a revelation. It’s something I had never thought about.
I’m posing a question to all of you and to myself. Why don’t we try? You know, I myself think about how it is humanly possible to say hello and smile at all the people we walk across on the street everyday. Well then don’t. But say hello to the sales girl when you walk in to a store. Ask her how her day is going. Smile at the waiter when he takes your order and tell him that he did a good job. Hold the door open for an old couple when they’re a few feet behind you, leaving a restaurant. Smile at the customer when you’re delivering flowers for his/her birthday. Oh it’s not always easy. When I saw the tired, cranky, immigration officer at the airport, I almost didn’t want to wish him good morning. But guess what, when I did, he actually smiled. Though at first he looked at me as if to say “Are you on crack child?”. But he did smile.
We need to wear some new attitude around here. Shake things up a bit. I’m going to start today. I’m going to start acknowledging people around me, being sensitive to them, even if they think I’m nuts beyond the line of no return. There will be some people who *ISS me off (like the sales girl at the grocery store who lets people break the line if they have one item to bill), but heck, I’ll try and be nice to them too. P.S: DON’T BREAK LINES, LINE-BREAKERS!
It’s really simple actually. We’re actually pretty cool people – poor, young, corrupted politicians and all. We just need a little bit of heart. I’m still proud to be Indian.
Most of the time. 🙂