I frequent a departmental store which has one swinging door to enter and exit through – you know the type you push from either side to open? Around this store you have two five-star hospitals, three or four offices of MNCs, and one of the top management schools of the country. Why are these details important? So that you know the type of clients that visit this store.
You’d expect a minimum level of courtesy, manners and sensitivity from such people? Wrong.
Every time I go there people are walking in and out of the swinging doors never once holding it open ever so slightly for another person to enter or exit but letting that door swing back rapidly right on their face if they are not careful! If they have to exit, it does not matter who is on the other side – senior citizen, child, pregnant lady or a someone carrying a child – it is the same. Push the door and let it swing back without even looking back.

When I mentioned this to a young person he laughed and said “chivalry is dead and the feminists killed it.” Chivalry, who said anything about Chivalry? True there are fewer damsels in distress today needing knights in shining armours to protect them. They are quite capable of taking care of themselves, thank you. But what has that got to do with simple courtesies and good manners from either sex - why throw the baby out with the bath water? Holding doors open may have been part of chivalrous behaviour but it is as much simple manners and good behaviour. I expect that in women as well as men. Are those dead too? That would indeed be a sad day for humanity. If anything they are needed much more today than ever in human history.

One smartie even told me that it is a cultural thing . We don't do such things in this country. Men always walked in first and women came behind. Yes they did but it was in those days when danger lurked everywhere and men went first so their women and children were not exposed to it. How do you argue with someone who doesn't even know this? There may be hundred arguments in favour of bad behaviour but good behaviour needs no justification - it is just the right thing to do, period.

To be ‘considerate and caring’ – is it only for the girl scouts? Not for the rest of us? At school one of the first things we were taught was to let others pass and not rush. Older girls always ensured that the teachers and children got out before them and the younger ones picked up the habit soon. It seems to me that nobody teaches them these things today. In fact I have seen some parents telling their children to rush and push out of international flights in order to get to the immigration counters first – they show them how to do it by their own example. Getting up even before the flight has come to a complete halt, opening overhead storages, blocking walkways – name it. And it is n’t just the labourers coming back home who block the area around the luggage carousel making it impossible for others even to look if their boxes are there – many of them work in MNCs and have impressive degrees. After a long haul flight everyone is eager to go home but elbowing, pushing and blocking are not the best of solutions to expedite matters. Granted that the facilities and services at the airports are pathetic but we make it worse for ourselves with our behaviour. Put a seemingly gentle and soft spoken Indian in a situation like this and see his worst come out – ‘it is “me” against the rest and I am getting it whatever it takes’ seems to be the attitude.

This generation is highly competitive and they want to be ahead of every one everywhere. Try waiting at any pedestrian crossing without an automated signal or a policeman and see how many vehicles slow down to let you pass by – even if it is a school-going child or a senior citizen trying to cross the road - not just the buses and autos driven by the choicest boors but the plush ones driven by uniformed drivers and by smartly dressed yuppies of both gender. We are all in a hurry and there is no time for meaningless delays - meaningless as they are not going to help us get ahead in our career or finances. It is no excuse that others are like that and you'd be a fool or (the even more descriptive) "loser" to try to be different. I don't know. I'd rather be rated a 'loser' than lose my manners and be a winner.

While I can at least understand ( not accept) this behaviour in the above situation, I cannot understand it at a super market or a multiplex cinema hall. Here there is no hurry to get out but simple apathy and lack of manners. Funnily the doors of the auditoriums in this cinema hall in Bangalore has no stoppers. So invariably the door keeps swinging back and people push it and get out and let it swing back in your face. I always hold it for the next one to pass but the next one just walks through and then I am left holding it forever or until someone observant comes along . Young college girls and boys, yuppy men, older gentlemen, middle aged ladies – no distinction. No one thinks of the next person in line. It is I, me and myself only.

Today’s life is on the fast lane and we all seem to be hurrying from one thing to the next all the time. But it is sad if consideration, courtesy and good manners are the casualties in this race. Life may be short but not so short that there is no time for simple courteous behaviour towards one another. Meantime I will still stand holding doors while people nonchalantly walk past. After all , as the wise one said:
The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.
42 Responses
  1. ~nm Says:

    Totally there with you! Courtesies are required. No one is expecting you to wait at the doors and open the car doors but yes we do expect some basic courtesies.

    The ones which should be done mutually. Its not about a girl or a guy!

    I have felt the same so many times and in fact had a big jhagda with a couple who were trying to overtake us in a queue. I had glass of juice in my hand it because they pushed it fell on ANirudh's head. I yelled at them and they started to talk back too. I simply told them "Itna sab bolne ke liye muh khol sakte ho. 'Excuse me' bolne ke liye nahi khol sakte?" And they walked away sheepishly.

  2. Sunita Says:

    So understand. In my prev organization, I used to travel with my colleagues. Once abroad, they hold the door for you and the gori mem behind and offer you water first and do all that nice things. Once back, they will bang the door on your face. After one such incident, I told them not to hold the door for me anywhere, atleast that way we are consistent.

  3. Mama - Mia Says:

    i know what you mean! :(

    once M stopped to let two l'il kids cross which must have taken approx 20secs and people behind him honked as if they would have been on moon if not for him!

    hopefully we as parents will be able to sensitize our kids more and have basic courtesies back in fashion! :)

    lovely post as always Usha.


  4. Anonymous Says:

    Usha: I think your last paragraph sums up the key reason very well.

    In the UK, most people are considerate and hold doors irresp of gender etc. In that respect, feminists made it _better_ not worse, because it is ok for women to hold doors for men.

    When I worked in the US in a well-known Ivy Leage school, I soon gained a reputation for telling people off for their bad manners. I asked them exactly what they could gain from shaving that extra second from their march on to greatness, except to earn a reputation as an uncouth, if armed with Ivy League degree, savage in the eyes of others.

    I also think there are confusing signals from people. I have seen women telling men off for holding a door for them. When is it about manners and when is it about politics, how are men to know. They are to behave differently at a date (definitely hold door) than they do at work (definitely do NOT hold door). Women seem to be enjoying an unfair game rather too much.

    That said, women are not the only species around. Old people appreciate help which is not too full of "oh, you poor thing" kind of sentiment.

    But mama-mia also shares the peril of holding doors - many more go through as if you are doing them a favour. In such a case, banging the door on the faces of a few is so tempting... :-)

    Always thought-provoking this topic, so thank you.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Ivy League of course, NOT Ivy Leage... Sorry.

  6. Well said and it's applicable everywhere. Case in point - my fellow countrymen (and women) at work are polite, hold doors open for person in front and person behind etc etc, but once you get into an Indian supermarket all these niceties are forgotten. I guess they feel right at home in such a place and get back to the way they would behave in a crowded supermarket back in India.

    And yes, it'll be a great cultural change and will solve most of the country's problems, if we learn to respect others and be a little considerate.

  7. Sumana Says:

    People cannot wait or be kind to anybody. Especially in the bus, while getting on and off, people are on your feet not realising they are stamping a 3 year old's feet and the kid is screaming. To top all this the bus was not crowded at all, just the hurry to get off. With the 3 year old i would have avoided boarding the bus, but the autoes were not ready for a small distance. After staying for a few years in the west, i thought i should not unlearn that one good quality i learnt there. Saying Please, Thankyou, Sorry and holding the door for the next person.

  8. Very well written post.
    Do you know that people around you will laugh at you if such things are done. They tease you by saying.. 'Too much of goodiness' and they argue 'Do you think if you do it alone, you can change the world'.. I fail to understand why does everybody think in changing the world, when it can make a huge difference if we do it ourselves.

    About the traffic thing, I notice few people who drive in moderate spead and roads while get restless when they reach signal, I think its some kind of syndrome.

    B-Schools, MNC's do teach them the courtesy thing, may be for their 'foriegn clients'... :-)
    I beleive its all about upbringing.

  9. Sujatha Says:

    One funny thing with holding doors open in the States: I've noticed that the men get uneasy when ladies hold the door open as a courtesy to them. Then a veritable flurry of 'Pehle aap' handwaving goes on till one or the other caves in and marches through. Reverse chivalry throws them off balance.

  10. B o o Says:

    Forget about others holding doors for you. Once I held the door open for the person who was coming behind me and one by one everyone is passing by as if Im the door man and I was nt able to leave the door as I was afraid I ll hurt someone if the door hit them! How about that? And like Veena says, people really irritate me with these "dont be so good" lectures! I just held a door for Gods sake!

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I guess it's how it is in India. People see that kind of behaviour as a way of asserting their importance perhaps - "I am too busy and important to hold the door for you" attitude. Here is another take on something similar written by Laksh though..
    Do I? Do I not?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Courtesy and gratitude is a thing that is visible so much in the West.

    The other day, while walking past a door, a woman from the other side opened it and the door almost hit me on my head. Not her fault because the door was tinted and she couldn't see the other side. But the moment she knew I was going to be hit, she apologised so much that I thought she would fall at my feet in sometime! She was so apologetic and she held my hands and touched my forehead to see if I was ok :)

    I have learned a lot of manners, that were rarely put to use earlier while in India, after coming here. Holding the door, greeting the person at the counter, not crossing roads whenever you feel like, appreciation, etc are some very apparent things in the West. Even the children are taught the same things. I once heard a very small girl tell another boy "We do not push. Momma says its a bad thing to do. You do not push others". I was surprised at the way kids are taught these simple things at school/home.
    Infact, I found some desis behaving in the same way here like you mentioned. Pitiable situation!

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I completely agree. In fact, I just wrote a post on a similar topic yesterday. This was some coincidence.

  14. I used to keep saying this earlier "whats the big rush? where do these people think they can rush off to - by shaving off one second, cutting someone off?" Now I dont. No one's even listening. Just do my bit and move on. And hope sonny is watching his mom - and learning. Thats the best I can do.

  15. Unknown Says:

    A nice post. At the cost of being a Devil's Advocate, it's not just the upbringing. In America, very many people are considerate -- you almost always see people hold doors, small talk with you in the elevator and in short be courteous.

    But, a lot of that courtesy goes out the window when you are in a big city, and more so in a rush/crowd. Expecting courtesy in a NY subway or a Chicago train is a futile excercise -- You are pushed around and tiffs are not uncommon. What seems to make people lose their sanity is the need to fend for self in a big crowd.

    I'm in no way justifying uncourteous behavior, just an observation as to why sanity makes a dash for the exit when people feel threatened --and, in India, we know how things are...

  16. dipali Says:

    So very true and so sad that boorishness is so common. Bah.

  17. Shruthi Says: -- I had written about this once....

  18. Noobcode Says:

    i completely agree with you...

    very well written..

  19. Hip Grandma Says:

    i agree with every word said.but then who is responsible?a friend said that the fighting spirit encouraged by us in our children has perhaps backfired and our children as a result have decided that one has to push others,even those not in competition, to succeed.It is their understanding that those who care for others are weaklings.there is no way one can move an inch but the person behind you will honk as if you are deaf and he is the only one who needs to reach his destination on time.The list can go on and on but the situation i am afraid will not improve.we had better get used to swinging doors banging right into our faces since that is life.

  20. Praveen Says:

    "you'd be a fool or "loser" to try to be different. Thats how I've felt wherever I have been courteous. Totally agree with Veena Shivanna.

    I dont even like to talk about the traffic scene in Bangalore.

  21. Pixie Says:

    I agree with what you have said...
    de-lurking for the first time...
    Love your writing - your thoughts on various issues...
    Enjoy reading your blog :-)

  22. "It seems to me that nobody teaches them these things today."

    Courtesy,manners dont come by teaching,old habits die hard.It is all in their upbringing and the charaacter of the person.

    I totally agree with the points that you have put forward.

    The other way of seeing things is as follows.One will see more elbowing,more pushing around.although my thought might be too far fecthed ,it is all due to the basic fact of population.people in bangalore say 10 years before used to take 30 minutes to " x" place ,now take almost or rather more than 2x amount of time ,why ? coz of more vehicles,why more vehicles,coz more people .So ultimately when there is lesser space or than what people were used to before there is bound to be conflicts,it is only a matter of time before we see it more blatantly.this is the reality...

  23. diya Says:

    A teacher once said there is a difference between mere literacy and an education, you can say that the majority in India are literate and have degrees but are not receiving an education in the proper sense of the term.While growing up I used to hear the phrase 'convent educated' which signified a person with a certain class,I know what it signifies now for good manners were infused in us by the sisters in our school. Everyone was to be treated with courtesy. I'm afraid the nuns of yesteryears are gone and I believe courtesy is out of fashion now.

    Chivalry is out but there is something called humanity which has not caught on yet! Instead of moral Sience I believe ther should be a subject called the 'The Art of Being Human' where compasion, tolerance and understanding may be grilled into the so called educated folk with multiple degrees.

  24. Alapana Says:

    In the college where i teach have special classes for making you a better leader.How i wish there were classes to make them all better human beings.I guess as a teacher we can do our bit but i try and try and fail most of the time.And i started from home now,husband would n rush through the traffic,i will box his ears if he honks while waiting and no breaking the traffic signal and he would rather wait than to sneak in between two buses.He hates to travel when i am there with him but he is learning and in the process i know that practice makes it easy to preach.If anyone is walking behind me at any super market or other place i will still hold the door open for them,even if they look amused but sure there are times when i get a thank you and i will never forget to thank the guard who opens the door for me, for him its the duty,for me its humanity and it always need to be thanked for.
    I read the post when the comments were nil but was lazy to comment then,but if i am not wrong there was a line which said men walked in first and women followed and that it is not our culture or something? Ha ha ha ha for the line and for the person who said.Don't know about olden days but i just know today its just the convenience and i walk in first because i get out of the car first and the man is busy searching for the parking space.I hold the door for him obviously because he is behind me and yes,if there is any danger i am capable enough to take care of him and myself,both, thank you.
    Jokes apart, we have become busy, more tech savvy and more CULTURED but we have lost basic,simple courtesies of life.But all is not lost isn't it.There are still people like us and we will be like this only:))

    Nect time you go to that store with 2 five star hospitals,3 or 4 MNCs, one top mngt schools of the country,look around,i might be there too. Woh kya hain ki hum bhi wahi aas paas 2 km ki doori mein rehthe hain:) You understand hindi,Don't you;p

  25. Anonymous Says:

    With you all the way! Although *sheepish grin* I must admit I wasn't this way until a while ago. Then I got married and the husband changed my mind by example.

    On a side note, I love the way things are done here in the US - the small courtesies are still observed and very graciously too. Of course one can argue that these folks do have the time and energy for it - the same is notoriously absent in NYC, I've seen.

  26. chitra Says:

    True, Good manners are confused with chivalry. Well , my comments can go as long as ur post , but yes, u struck a right chord!!

    Enjoyed your style of writing. Hoping to frequent ur blog regularly.

  27. rajk Says:

    I totally agree with you. Unimaginable that so called "decent folks" lack the basic manners.
    My hubby and I have travelled to a few countries in Asia and the West and we've noticed this "Me First" attitude not just in India but other Asian countries too. My hubby says it's because of the high population that people have developed this "push or be pushed" attitude here while it's not the case in the Western countries.
    What do you think?

  28. i loved the last line. i am always mourning the lack of manners around us.

    tagged by the way! on the food crisis post.

  29. Usha Says:

    Hi all, Going through all the comments it seems it is time for urgent action. Could we start observing a "be nice to all" day every month , hallmark cards for the occasion complete with flowers and chocolates so that people may be inspired to start behaving courteously?

    Madmomma, am travelling right now. will come back and take up the tag.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Where manner are concerned I wonder if they ever existed in India. I mean, people are rude all the time, from rickshaw drivers and bus conducters to shopkeepers! And strangers too at malls...its as if people reserve their manner for those they are close to or friends with. Why just today I held the door open for a lady at a restaurant and she stared at me as if I were from another planet! :)
    Even on the internet its those who are my regular readers who have the manners! :) So I think the test of good manners is how we behave towards people we have never met or don't know!

  31. Mahadevan Says:

    Fully agree with you. To be polite, courteous and considerate to others' sensibilities are basic human qualities one need to cultivate. 'Not known to this country or 'not necessary in this country', are mere excuses to justify one's action.

    One has to be like Oliver Goldsmith's Dr. Primrose - Simple, generous and inoffensive.

  32. kivina Says:

    I so agree with you, Usha. Yet another example to prove money doesn't buy class.

    We should definitely observe a "be nice" day although going by the reaction to "no honking" day in Mumbai, I'm not sure how much impact it would have. Should try nevertheless, what

  33. Anonymous Says:

    But even good manners can make you feel like an idiot at times. Felt so this weekend at a wedding. While in a queue to go wish the bride and groom, people formed their own lines and though my family stood back to let those through, even while being in the front, people just kept going in front with no consideration. This lasted for a full 15mins. And these are not old folks raised in third world countries, where you have to push forward to get something first; but younger generations of engineers, accountants, business persons, etc. I guess South Asians have a long way to go before paying attention to manners.


  34. Unmana Says:

    Tagged you! Please do it.

  35. Swati Says:

    Ohh talk about stores , People bang doors on others in offices as well. They rush into the lifts without waiting for others to make space for them. I mean let the ones inside come out first.

    Courtsey is a forgotten word.

  36. hillgrandmom Says:

    I agree so with you. I notice also, that a large number of parents these days think nothing of lying in front of their children, push through a queue, and in general behave in a totally boorish manner, with young children around. Then how will you ever expect children to be polite!! Good manners need to be taught and people should be made to understand that it is the oil that smooths the running of society's wheels.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    How true...A great article indeed. I think the IT boom has created a sense of arrogance among the people. They dont care anymore. Our elders would stress on courtesies (remember we were not even allowed to cross out legs in front of elders ?) and manners while growing up.
    I think money has diluted our values. And as some one rightly pointed out, money cannot buy class. I think the dilution has much to do with the influx and influence of people from the other areas in the country. I am not disappointed with the behavior of new generation bangaloreans. They dont seem to have balanced heads on their shoulders anymore. But I am sure that time will pass and the past glory will be established.

  38. sanguine Says:

    first time here .
    very intersting reads , will keep coming for more .
    cheers !!

  39. Anonymous Says:

    Usha, just got back from the grocery store where an old man offered to take my cart back into the store in order to save me the walk. I was so flabbergasted that i didn't know how to respond to that. Hastily thanked him and ran away. But that sweet act substantially improved my mood and on the drive home i voluntarily allowed a car to cut ahead of me (i am a super competitive driver BTW!)I guess good deeds get passed around.

    Love your writing!

  40. Usha Says:

    Nita: I agree totlally about the test of manners.
    And yes, the level of rudeness over the internet is appalling. I have seen it in some chat rooms.

    Mahadevan: I find that it is the highly educated and well employed ones who seem to care little about how they treat others. There still seems to be a basic level of courtesy among the less educated and poorer sections.

    Kivina: :)

    Kajan: I think we seem to need some training in forming queues. happened to me while queuing up for boarding a flight. suddenly I found that there were 3 or 4 tributaries to the main line and I who was 4th in the line was somewhere lost in that crowd.

    Swati: That is alarming. Next time it happens give them a piece of your mind!Or write about it in your office newsletter.

    Hillgmom: yes, I blame the parents too. What can you expect from the guy who pushes the door in your face at the super market - what can he teach his child?

    anon: It is all the more shocking if that behaviour is from the creme de la creme. Very sad.

    Sanguine: Pls do.

    Globalindyan: hehe... That's a good one. Ya let us try being polite in the hope it will ripple across.

  41. I once held a door open at some place in Chennai for some people that were a step behind me. They gave me weird stares!

  42. chanakya Says:

    every one knows that their time is wasted sometime or other in a day. be it waiting for somebody or for a bus or train in addition to viewing tv. but they are hurry on the road and public place. In clinics, they will influence the attender to go first. in dept. stores they dont wait till his or her turn comes. this has become a habit and talking in mobile loudly is another nuisance. it is going from worse to worst.