Monday, October 11, 2010

Is good manners a western thing?

My education about driving in Bengaluru continues. Last Sunday morning I was cruising in the left lane of a flyover and a speeding bus flashing headlights came parallel to me. Not surprising, but the bus lane is to the left as we get off the flyover! I decided to go defensive and tried to get into the right lane behind the bus and thus avoid one more brush with an aggressive bus driver as he turned left later.

This annoyed the car driver behind me, but I chose to ignore his imperious honking to warn me. It was not a caution that I was straying into his space, but a command to get off from his intended spot behind the bus. I know by now that going ahead even by a few yards is paramount for a Bengaluru driver.

A few seconds later as we got off the flyover the bus driver chose to continue in the right lane! No surprise again! Then the road widened and the furious car driver drove past me and cut in to show me his anger. Luckily he was driving a Lexus and I guess he just wanted to teach me a lesson and not bash my car. He also turned his head to stare at me and if his eyes could kill I would be dead!

I wish I had taken the car's number to write to the owner of the car. I presume it was the driver not the owner of the car. Anyway I have learnt my lessons not to tangle with a 'poor' bus driver who could become callous or the 'luxury car' driver arrogant with the power the car or its owner gives him!

I recall that my driver in Bangkok would be ever courteous to drivers of Benz cars. His explanation: 'They are Officials or Mafia!'.

As I was mulling over my experiences and wishing that there is a solution to this lack of courtesy in our drivers I saw an article 'Manners make the middle class' by Dipankar Gupta, former professor of JNU, in yesterday's TOI.

Here are some quotes:
'Before a middle class society came into existence, there was patronage and privilege. While the lesser orders bowed and scraped as good courtesans, the nobility could be filthy and abusive'
'The emphasis was not on acquisitions or wealth, but on how one related to other people'
'Catching up with the West begins with good manners'
'Manners are all about how we treat others whom we don't know personally, and probably never will'
'Copy cat materialism is not working'

His solution:
'It is not in yellow pages, but there is a one-stop shop for good manners. It is run by the Welfare State and open only to middle class'

I liked the article, but he managed to depress me. I have no hopes of our people developing such manners!

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