While the prompt asks us to write a letter to a stranger who made an impression on us, I have taken the liberty of addressing the letter to a variety of strangers who have made an impression on me, read the letter to understand more of what I am talking about.
Since it is practically impossible and impractical to write separate letters to each and every one of you, I am writing a combined letter to all you. For ease of your understanding, I have addressed each and every one of you separately.
The ones who urinate in public places
I have seen you in most Indian cities that I have visited and lived in. While you are prevalent in some cities more than others, without an exception, you are present in all Indian cities that I have been to. I wonder if what it is that you drink that makes your bowels so uncontrollable that you have to empty them even if it means unzipping in public and urinating in complete view of the entire road. While I understand that the urgency might be too much to control in some cases, the fact remains that most Indian cities today have public toilets (free or charged with a nominal fee of Re 1 in most cases) which have been specifically built with the sole purpose of catering to urgencies like yours.
While I can empathize to a smaller extent to the uneducated ones among you, what surprises me is the fact that there are lot educated ones in your group. There you are, wearing a tie (probably a salesman) or lugging a laptop on your shoulder (IT company types for sure) or wearing a decent set of formal clothes who park your two wheeler on the side of the road, and unzip to do the deed without any hesitation thereof.
What is it that will make you understand the necessity of public hygiene in the country? You strangers have left quite a ‘stinky’ impression on me.
The ones who jump the queues
You, I have seen in almost all places where there are queues, ranging from bus stops, counters at Govt. offices, supermarkets, cinema theatres, security checks at airports, to any place which demands an organized congregation of people.
While most of us stand in line, wait our turn, you folks seem to be in such a tearing hurry to save those precious few minutes of your life that you conveniently ignore all the dirty stares, at times verbal abuse from us, and just go straight ahead to the head of the queue and extend your hand into the counter.
On multiple occasions I have publicly stated my disapproval of your attitude and your technique, and also have physically moved your hand away from the counter window (which in any case is small enough only for one fist to go through), but you never seemed to care about what I or anyone else thought of your boorish behavior.
While I understand that growing up in the chaotic milieu that India today is teaches you that you need to be a ‘go getter’ to move forward in life, don’t take it so literally that you start disrespecting everyone who stands in a queue and just move forward at the cost of all their time and energy.
The ones who treat elevators and suburban trains as a game of ‘who rushes in first’
While I have encountered you in elevators only, given that I have not travelled in suburban trains too much, I have heard enough stories about you from friends in Mumbai and Chennai. You are the ones who treat elevators and trains as games of ‘who rushes in first’ without giving an iota of thought for the people who are disembarking. Funnily enough, you also crib about how people rush into elevators and trains, when you are at the receiving end of such treatment.
You are part of that group of elite few who seem to have been trained in elbow taekwondo (or an equivalent martial art). As soon as the elevator or train arrives, you invariably push your way into the same pushing people to your left and right by poking them with your elbows. You don’t even seem to care for the ‘oncoming traffic’ of people who are disembarking and make your way into these crowded places.
And then there are some among you who add a backpack to the mix. Despite the fact that you operate in crowded places where you are barely in control of your own body, the added appendage to your back in the form of a backpack ensures that the unfortunate person behind you is poked in the eye, chest, shoulders or other body parts depending on their relative height when compared to yours. Why is it that you refuse to take off your back pack and hold the same in your hands when you have to get into a crowded elevator or a train. Will it take special orientation classes for you to understand that it makes a lot of sense to hold your luggage in your hands on such occasions?
The ones who blatantly break traffic rules
Once again, I have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance in every Indian city that I have been in. You are the ones who follow the rule – “If I am not going to get caught, then I don’t have any qualms breaking traffic rules.”
You are the ones who drive on the wrong (or is that the ‘right’) side of the roads, the ones who drive through red lights when there is no traffic cop nearby, the ones who think that helmets are vehicular accessories which are put up as totems on the two wheeler handles, you are the ones who think that seat belts are for ‘loser drivers’ who have no confidence in their abilities, you are the ones who think that one hand is enough to maneuver cars and two wheelers while the other one is busy cradling the mobile phone to your ears, you are the ones who think sending a SMS or a Whatsapp message when driving is cool.
All the things that you folks do all over the country scare the stuffing out of me. As it is, the roads are filled with drivers who simply don’t seem to care about all the other users of the road, and you folks, with all or some of the above anomalies add to the dangers of driving in Indian roads today.
All you wonderful strangers who have made extremely strong impressions on me, this letter was meant for you to reflect on your personalities, your actions and see if there is anything you can do to change my impression of you.
Yours exasperatedly………..just another stranger
Image courtesy : Google image search for ‘stranger’ cartoon
- The Office Courtesy Series: 8 Elevator Etiquette Essentials (mydoorsign.com)
- Letters Unsent # 2 (writetribe.com)