During my visit to the U.S. this year, I noticed that my cousin always made sure that she left a generous tip wherever a tip was due, never ate messily or with her fingers publicly and did not do anything that is classified as "desi" behaviour. It is partly that she has been there for nearly 2 decades but I noticed that there was a conscious effort. When I mentioned this to her she said that when someone ridicules desis for these, she feels offended and hence the effort to make sure to avoid behaviour that left a negative impression about Indians as a whole.
Predictably this led to a heated argument between us on why it was bad to be different and why whatever American was better than anything Indian etc. But I do appreciate her desire not to be ridiculed, not to do anything that marked you out as different particularly when you have chosen to live there and make it your home.

We all make these kind of adjustments and consciously avoid certain kind of behaviour the moment we are in public or in the company of outsiders - like not belching or eating noisily. We have been told it is not polite and we do it out of respect for the sensibilities of others. We do it as much for fear of being judged or ridiculed behind our backs. Some of us, particularly the menfolk, shed this politeness at the doorstep along with their shoes when they enter their house and as long as there are no outsiders around they feel fine to let go and belch and fart freely. But there is a general understanding and respect for accepted public behaviour.

So why do some people feel offended when we talk about insufferable behaviour of Indians on flights from Singapore, Malaysia, Srilanka, and the Gulf countries - Pestering the attendants for free stuff, grabbing as much alcohol as possible, stuffing airline cutlery into their baggage and leaving the toilet in a mess? Criticism of their behaviour is considered class snobbery towards the poor labouring masses who want to get the maximum value for the fare they have paid for through their hard earned money.

I agree that the burden of the fare is more on them than the business traveller or holidayer. But why is it snooty to expect them to rise above that kind of behaviour? Is it bad to let them know that the other passengers have spent money on their tickets too and hence it is important to be considerate toward their fellow passengers by not shoving and shouting or by observing better toilet manners? I see that these very same people are capable of better behaviour when there are fines and punishments deterring these. Why is it bad to teach them to use freedom more responsibly and with consideration for fellow humans? I don't agree with this attitude that education and money has to be constantly apologetic and bend over backwards toward those who are uneducated or poorer. I can understand if they advocated patience - in stead they seem to justify that kind of behaviour and even seem to suggest that they have earned the right to it by virtue of having paid for the ticket. Should not the self appointed champions of the masses be happy if they learnt more civilised behaviour rather than being laughed at? And moneyed or non-moneyed, educated or not, class or mass - aren't we all seen as Indians the moment we are in a foreign airliner or foreign land? At least for that, should we not bring them up rather than going down to their level? There are times when we dont have to be like this only.
On one of the Television shows on the lives of celebrities, Cricketer Yuvraj Singh was the guest. Initially I got the impression that here was another rich spoilt kid who had it all tailor made for him until I heard him say that as a child he wanted to be a skater and he even won the National championship. But when he took the medal to his father he threw it out of the window and said he wanted to see his son play cricket and not a girl's game and for good measure he also threated Yuvraj that he would break his leg if he played any sport other than cricket.
And then they played a recorded footage where the father (Punjabi actor and former cricketer Yograj Singh) told his son that he had to play cricket and be the best for no reason except for the sake of his father. Apparently he was pained when his son played other sports without any special interest in Cricket and so one day he told him:
"Son, how do you want me to live in this world with the same face if you don't complete my dream? I want you to play cricket for the country and complete my unfulfilled dream."

And then followed years of rigorous training - six hours on the ground and four hours at home in the nights - and the rest as they say is history.

For those of you who do not know the saga of Yograj Singh, here it is in his words:
Years ago somebody snatched my right to play for the country. I lived this game all my life and then someone who was afraid that I would take his place in the team snatched it from me. These so-called living legends took the life out of my soul. the hurt they have caused will go with me to my grave.

If you are interested, you can read the rest of his words in this interview here where he says he breathes through his son. In fact you can read any interview with Yograj Singh. This is all he says over and over again.

I do not understand this whole business of sons fulfilling fathers' dreams - what about the son's own dreams? Why the hell is he made to live his father's life by proxy? And what kind of a father uses his child to have his revenge on people who were unfair to him? Of course our mythology has examples of this - for example Drupad who observed severe penance to please the Gods so as to have a son who would kill Drona and a daughter who would marry Arjuna through whom Drona caused his disgrace. That is all their purpose in life was to be - tools to help their father avenge the shame he suffered.

In the case of Yuvraj it all ended happily but what if he did not possess the talent or perseverance required? Imagine putting a child through this kind of torture if all he wanted was to skate or to play tennis. It seems like a classic case of child abuse to me. I know a boy who took to drugs in college to escape his sense of failure at not being able to live up to parental expectations - a very bright boy, only he did not enjoy doing what his parents wanted him to pursue. Left to himself, he might have been successful following his own passion.

Speaking of child abuse, I think the same of parents who put the child through similar torture in academics. For every Yuvraj tortured into cricket there are a thousand boys who are kept forcibly away from taking sport as a career. The arguments are too familiar to repeat.

I know some parents who start their day by taking the child to some tuition or other and then feed them breakfast and drop them in the school. In the evening they are waiting outside the school with snacks and a change of clothing after which the child is taken to some coaching class or other. They feel proud of their superior parenting skills. I say "Please let the child be." It is one thing to be supportive and encouraging. This is pushing, stifling, suffocating, imposing parental ego on the child killing his desires and passions. But they tell me that the child will thank them for all this when he gets into IIT or REC or one of the top engineering colleges. The child does not even know what he wants to do with his life. He is not allowed to think - the parents have already done it all for him. And I have heard many parents say that they wanted to be something but could not so they hope that their child would do it and "fulfill their dream."

Time we realised that we have the right to dream only for ourselves . Let the children have their own dreams. Too bad if we did not achieve ours in our lifetime - we have no business to dump it on someone else, even if we gave birth to that someone. Whatever else we can give them is of no use, if we snatch their dreams away from them.