An Epilogue to Etiquette

The Manners Malaise


An Epilogue to Etiquette

Scenario 1

It was when I was waiting to purchase movie tickets in a mall when two trendy girls looking rather perturbed made an appearance. They peered over the shoulder of the man ahead of me and loudly said ‘excuse me…excuse me…’ to the girl dispensing tickets behind the window. Although it was my turn next, I assumed they were agitated because they were getting late for their show so I gestured that they should move ahead of me. One girl with straightened and coloured hair, moved into my place, without either acknowledging my gesture or bothering to say ‘thank you’. The other girl pushed past me to stand alongside her friend.

They then proceeded to address the girl behind the ticket counter (GBCT):

GBTC: Good afternoon ma’am how can I help you?

Girls: Listen, we have a booking for Hate Story 3 but we never got a confirmation.

GBTC:  (Confused) Sorry Ma’am…?

Girls: What ‘Sorry’? We said we never got a confirmation.

GBTC: Ma’am please show me your booking number.

Girls: Arre! I’ve told you a hundred times already that we did not get a confirmation. But our money got deducted.

GBCT: Ma’am then you must’ve got another message saying the transaction failed.

One girl to the other: Gosh! How irritating this dumb woman is!

Then spelling it out (as if to a 3 year old): No we NEVER get a booking confirmation in this mall.  Show us your computer, we’ll show you on the screen which seats we’ve booked.

GBCT: Ma’am that won’t make a difference. I need to have a booking id to issue the tickets.

Girls, raising their voices: Yaar…are you stupid or plain irritating?  We’re telling you……

I moved away. I didn’t want to be subjected to rudeness anymore.


Scenario 2

My mother and aunt went to the local park where they thought they’d enjoy the winter sunshine and the sound of the birds while ambling along admiring the flowers. Behind them were four young boys evidently from ‘good families’ talking and laughing loudly. That, in itself was not offensive except that their conversation was littered with the choicest abuse words (sentence enchanters?) involving each other’s female relatives. Their comments disgusted the two ladies.

Unable to bear it any longer my mother said: Beta, it’s not nice to use such words, especially in a public place where people may not want to hear them.”

“Auntiji, if you have a problem then why don’t you go to another place?” One smart Alec retorted. The other boys guffawed and slapped him on his back.

The two old ladies walked back home.

The question is how many such situations can we walk away from? Or shall we quietly accept that rudeness surrounds us and good manners are passé? ‘Thank you’ is obsolete because every institution (schools, sports, beauty parlours and restaurants) is seen as a service provider that’s been paid. ‘Sorry’ is archaic because kids are not taught to put themselves in another’s shoes and ‘excuse me’ is used only when a person wants to make a point, usually aggressively.

Most people don’t think a moment before talking loudly in their mobiles in public places or not acknowledging another person’s kindness or putting their feet up on someone’s sofa or asking strangers personal questions in an overfamiliar way.

Many middle-class parents appear to believe that ”manners” are some kind of dreadful constraints on their precious offspring’s personality. Training children in developing concern for others or for the environment is not a part of the parenting deal.

However, neglecting to do this would mean confining them to the limited parameters of their own understanding and capability.

Do we really want that for our children?

This ‘middle’ appeared in The Tribune on the 17th of Dec, 2015








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