Sense and Sensibility

Posted by Stuti Khosla on June 1, 2017

One morning while I was sitting at the airport, I saw someone accidentally spill coffee over a middle aged man, who happened to brush against his shoulder as he hurriedly walked past him. This is how the conversation between them progressed-

“Hey Bhagwaan! Saari shirt ka satyanaash kar diya!”
“Isme meri kya ghalati hai? Aap dekhkar nahi chal sakte kya?”
“Arre coffee peeni nahi aati toh khareedi kyun?!”
“Oh Bhai Saab! Mujhe mat seekhaiye. Aap khud dhang se dekhkar chalna kyun nahi seekh lete? Aapki aankhein hain ya button?!”

At this point I just gave up and went back to doing what I was doing. About five-seven minutes later I saw the men disperse, still muttering gibberish. One of them appeared to be a college going student- a backpack on his back, headphones around his neck, casually dressed. The other person was supposedly a working professional- he wore formal clothes and had a laptop bag in his hand. Educated adults.

It got me wondering how easily they could have prevented the matter from escalating to the level that it did, only by apologising to each other. Five easy letters, one simple word- Sorry. Because in any case, nothing could have possibly undone the damage. So why not avoid creating a ruckus over something one cannot help anymore?!

This must have been a kindergarten lesson, if I am not mistaken- manners and etiquette- how one should behave in front of other people. Words and phrases like ‘sorry’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘after you’ etc., are extremely commonplace. I am sure we all must have at least heard or read them somewhere, if not made them a part of our daily vocabulary. Basic concept. Our first step towards being civilised human beings. We all love to boast about how well educated we all are. But do we really know what being educated means or is it merely a fancy term we use in place of being ‘literate’?

I am forced to consider questioning whether we have genuinely forgotten these fundamentals, or are we choosing to forget them. Is it that we unintentionally happen to vent out our frustration on random strangers, or do we actually choose to ignore the setting that we are in and prefer being barbaric?

Ever heard of the word ‘knock’? A simple way of letting someone know that one is outside their room and wants to get in. Easy, right? Then why do we forget (or choose to ignore) to put ourselves into the habit of doing so? Similarly, why do we not cover our mouths and noses while we cough and sneeze? Why do some of us start fidgeting with our noses in the middle of nowhere, with utter disregard for people around, who are forced to be a witness to that unpleasant sight? Gross, you say? YES! EXACTLY. Why do we not flush and re-place the toilet seat once we are done using it, at least in public toilets, because hello, other people use them too? (Call me crazy but I think it is time we spoke up!)

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The Prime Minister seems to be extremely concerned about the prevailing unhygienic conditions in the country. Rightfully so. I am glad at least someone brought it up on a scale that he did. Because we do not care where the kaam waali bai throws the garbage, do we? As long as it is not in the house, the problem is not ours. She could have thrown it right behind the building on a pile of trash that just magically started existing- because we never went out to throw anything there, did we? And while it sits there, why not throw our garbage in too? What big a difference could it possibly make? Let’s face it- nobody wants to walk those ten extra steps to the end of the lane and back only to put our garbage in the right place. Bhaarat swachh ho na ho, apna ghar toh saaf ho gaya na? Bas.

We talk so very often about respect for women, their rights and miseries. But why do women keep forgetting that true empowerment will only come to us when we will believe we are as able as men are? If we can expect a man to give his seat away to a woman out of chivalry and respect, why can’t a woman get up and give her seat away to an elderly fellow who walks in a train or a bus? Why does the tag “reserved for women passengers” become so important then? Why do we then let our manners and etiquette go for a toss?

How difficult can it be to turn around and apologise for stepping on to someone’s shoe? How troublesome can it be to thank the driver who got you home safely, or the liftman or the grocery vendor for their respective services? How much can one’s ego be hurt by letting a woman or a child ahead while entering a room? Not much, I suppose.

Regulating our behaviour to some extent, especially when we are not in the boundaries of our homes, is something that requires working at. We need to stop “forgetting” and start reminding ourselves that we live in a social set up where our actions have a direct or indirect impact on others. The least we can do to not bother the people around us is to mend our uncouthly ways (and eat almonds every day, since we keep forgetting so often!).

It is time we opened our eyes widely and realised that the solutions to most of our day to day problems lie with us. We only need to alter our approach towards things. We have to learn to accept that it is never too late to start afresh. Amends must be made in the way we conduct ourselves in public. It is time to put into practice the things we learnt in school. It is time to go back to fundamentals and basics.

* munches * Almonds?