Sunday, July 20, 2008

Simple courtesies - a thing of the past?

The other day I called to complain about the phone service. A government department known for their lethargy and disinterest. Imagine my surprise when the lady was not only polite but promised to have the problem rectified. I found myself relating the incident to many and later it struck me that it was disheartening that the pleasant customer service had taken me by surprise. Shouldn't this be the norm? I am baffled when I find a banner stating 'Customer Service Week' in a bank or a super market. Shouldn't it be customer service all the year round?

Forget organisations. At a personal level I find that simple courtesies seem to be a thing of the past. How many instances are there when you find someone trying not to meet your eye to avoid greeting you. Do men offer a lady or an elderly person a seat in a crowded bus? How many people hold open a door for others?

At public places we are sometimes shoved aside without the polite excuse me. At a show people talk loudly and do not put off their mobiles even after several requests. Niceties like thank you, please and excuse me are terms that seem to be forgotten . People jump the queue. Children are allowed to run and throw tantrums in public places while the parents do nothing about them.

Pleasantries are not about the other person you are dealing with. Whether they deserve it is not important. It should be a natural behaviour on one's part. It is a reflection of who you are, and how you were raised. And it is a trait that is worth passing on to your children.


  1. I do think in India we reserve courtesy only for the family,immediate and connected.We turn into a competitive race in public context.In public we are a nation in great hurry to outdo each other,to reserve that special place for ourselves.Infact courtesy could be interepreted as a sign of weakness.Public life in our country still has strong shades of the jungle raj,where 'might' enjoys better success than other human traits and hence promotes such behaviour.While parents expect children to be courteous within their family/friend context, they also set clear examples of dealing with ways of public life.There is a latent or explicit expectation to develop that rough public side,one that helps you get ahead of the queue,lets you win that table at the restaurant,have a good shout at the mechanic,autorickshaw driver,maid,to get that job done.
    To practise courtesy one needs to respect another's personal space and context.We need to slow down and breathe easy to begin appreciating what that means.In a public race which only seems to get hotter by the day,more materialistic and self-preserving by the hour,courtesies will surely be precious to come by.

  2. I partially agree with your comments. A nephew in NY observes that the only people who push to get into the train are the Chinese and the Indians. I do encourage my children to be agressive - I would not like them to be bullied. However I hope they continue to be courteous!!

  3. The Chinese observation is quite interesting indeed Aunty.I guess similar survival instincts when you are from a large populace.While I was trying to reason out why we are so,there is no excuse for not practising some basic courtesies and importantly passing them on.


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