I have been travelling to India every 3-4 years, but this year was different becuase I got to stay in one place for two months; I was working in that one place; and for the first time, I travelled and lived on my own in India. This gave me a different perspective on things than when I travelled earlier with my father.
Most times I was okay however there were times when I would get completely frustrated by certain situations or people. So these are the things that bugged me and they are not in any particular order....(do remember that my experience is that of north India....although some of it is true all over India)
- Garbage: this is always the first thing that I notice. There is garbage everywhere. How can Indians bear to live in a trash can? Most homes don't even have a garbage bin (dustbin). Most places where the large trash collection points are, just stink because the trash never gets picked up. The stench and sight are unbearable Every place is littered with trash. No place is sacred.
- Traffic rules: or lack thereof. It seems that knowing driving or the rules for driving are not a requirement to be on the road, only a vehicle and someone to operate it, are needed. Everyone on the road believes the road is made only for them. (I try not to look at the traffic when I am in the car, but I could not help it....so morbid of me to just keep looking)
- Interruptions: no matter who you are talking to and where you are, it was quite normal for a third person to come and start talking to me or the person I was talking to, without any regard to whetherI was having a private conversation, or without any concern for interrupting someone's conversation. Status of the person also does not matter. There is no expectation of privacy anywhere.(Even doctors' offices are not private. Everyone can hear everyone's conversations.) It got to a point where in some cases I would just get up and leave. What is the point? The person you were talking to obviously is not able to keep up with two conversations! And quite honestly, it is so common that people don't even realize they are doing it...or offending anyone.
- Rudeness: there is no politeness in anyone's voice anymore. Very few people are actually nice to talk to. It seems to me that most people are trying to just get rid of you so that they can get back to......whatever.
- Staring: why do people stare so much in India? Or are they just staring at me? (that would be embarrassing)
- Time: no one is on time for anything. Enough said.
- Cell phones: these should be now taught in Anatomy as an appendage to the human body; especially in Indian text books. No one can breathe without a cell phone. Indians have not figured out where the "silent" or "off" switch is on their phones; and everyone takes their call no matter where they are or to whom they are talking to. And no one seems to care about this rude behaviour, they just wait for the other person to finish talking. (Why is this acceptable?)
- No personal space: people stand so close in lines and sit so close in buses and other public transportations. Men and women usually don't sit together in temples or parties; but in these lines and public vehicles no one cares if the poor woman gets crushed between two guys.
- No respect: there is a general errosion of respect in the society. People push each other, elbow each other, cut lines, are rude to each other......all for what? who knows?
The best expresssion for the lack of etiquettes and culture is what I heard from a comedian, Merill Markoe, "There are so many socially acceptable ways to show a lack of empathy". So true...it seems we are caring less and less about other people's feelings or how we behave in public.