India… what I see after a year

I have seen many friends and family return for holidays to India. I always wondered how they felt about India after these many years at another country. For the first time, I was able to experience the changes for myself this time. I document them with mixed feelings.

1) The first change I noticed was even before I reached India. It was in London, Heathrow. I was to take the Heathrow to Bangalore flight. Not surprisingly, the entire crowd was only Indians.  I was waiting with my brother near the gate to board my flight when the first announcement came through-“At this time we would request people with special needs or those traveling with young children to board.” As I sat there looking at the boarding pass in my hand waiting for my turn, I noticed that EVERY ONE stood up and went near the gate. I mean every single person. No one seemed to bother that they did not have any special needs nor did they have kids with them.

2)I started to think quick. I was remembering the times when I used to plan my entry into the local buses so that I could get that one empty seat in the bus that the 50 others were also vying for. I planned out the entire course of action in my mind like sherlock holmes does in the 2009 movie. (Use my right elbow to stop the guy with the red shirt. Use the bag on my back to block those behind me, the left elbow and hand needed to be free to hold onto something. The head was still free. i could use it to plow through the crowd incase the others got there before me). This memory caused a mental shift inside me and I knew I had to get up and stand in the queue myself. I did not have any special needs or children. But I had one of the last seats in the tail section of the flight. I knew the flight was traveling full capacity. If I let this mob pass through before me, I might not find enough place to store my luggage. I stood like the others in the ‘queue’ feeling guilty that behind me there really were some old people who might need the special attention.

3) The problems did not stop there. There was no queue at the gate. I could see atleast 4 different lines each trying to outrun the other… I could not understand why? Weren’t the seats already booked? It wasn’t like if you rushed in, you would get the business class seats. There were people ducking under the queue manager to break the lines. In front of me, there was a lady who was accompanied by her parents. As our wait time was going to be atleast 3-4 minutes, she ushered them to the business class line as that line was empty. They clearly had only the economy class tickets as they were standing in that line until now. her parents were reluctant to break the line by stepping over the barricades. she stepped forward, removed the barriaced, ushered her parents through that and followed them and went to the business class line.

4) that brings me to point 4. Usually there are multiple announcements at the gate. First for kids and special needs, then for elite class members and business class. Then for the first class, followed by economy seating starting from the rear end. But what struck me as odd was that, there was just this one announcement made at the start with no further announcements being made to ask the people to wait till their turns were called. If economy class people were being allowed to board from a business class line, it only shows that the staff at Heathrow must be used to this behaviour. They know that the crowd is just going to walk and announcements are futile.

This for me was the most disappointing fact. Especially, i had seen a few of these people in my flight from PHL to Heathrow. They were following all the rules, and were well behaved. So what caused them to change? Was it because there were Americans along with them and they wanted to look good and well behaved in front of them? Thats the only reason I can think of. This time they knew there were only Indians among them. So why bother looking good? Why bother being well behaved? It is said that if dogs are not mentored or tamed for 3 generations, then even the most well behaved purebred dogs can turn savage. With the Indians at Heathrow, this happened within a matter of hours.

Bangalore, is also pretty much the software capital of india. The people here are supposed to have more polished behaviour. But to see such a  conduct from grownups at Heathrow was very disspointing.

On the bright side, I was able to fit my luggage overhead. Just in time at that. The guy sitting next to me arrived 3 minutes after me and he had to keep his cabin bag by his leg for the next 9 hours. India… I still love my country. I am hoping I can change my opinion about the people by the time I leave.


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