10 Things we should learn from the Americans!!

We ape western countries!! There is no doubt about that… even if many do not agree with me.

They say ‘Yoga’ is best and suddenly many of us start exercising yoga and many yoga instructors suddenly surface like mushrooms after rains ……

They say vegetarian diet is best and suddenly we start eating those same grains but now with english names….

NASA says Sanskrit is the best language for computer commands and we start giving importance to the ancient language like never before…

Why have we forgotten the good things which have been in our country since centuries?

We watch Hollywood movies and roll our tongues to twirl our R’s or skip our G and T’s to sound like Americans. Fake accents …really? Is that only the way to ape?

It is not wrong to cultivate new habits and new mannerism. And I can think of some ten habits(there is a possibility there are more which I might have failed to count) which we should actually ape from the Americans to become better people and better country….

1. Respect. I was quite impressed by the way Americans show respect to the social helpers like garbage collectors, bus drivers, shopkeepers etc. They do not have caste system and hence all are equal…..no one is looked down upon because of the work they do. Instead human labor is highly valued in the country.

Since all are equal hence everybody does their own work and the concept of ‘kaamwali- bai’, ‘dhobi’ or ‘kachrewala’ is not common among average Americans (the house-cleaners are quite expensive if their services are used)

Can we imagine anybody appreciating or greeting a road sweeper in our country? Honestly…I never did it either(but now I have decided to gradually incorporate a habit of appreciating the rickshaw wallahs, sweepers and garbage collectors, at the least say a little thank you every time). Most of the time we shoo them away, we  are arrogant with them and never ever pay them what they actually deserve instead we haggle for the last rupee till the poor thing agrees to our terms and conditions.

Half of our effort goes in saying “Tu janata nahi hai main kaun hoon?” (you don’t know who you are talking to….implying that the person can do whatever he feels like and nobody can object). Instead if we could be polite and respectful and ignore the rave and rants of a misbehaving person there would less of squabbles. We show respect to people who either have power to hurt….the politicians, the bhais(hoodlum) or have a lot of money (basically brains are ignored).

Women,  in many homes in our country, are not given enough credit for their opinions or freedom to exercise their choices. Honor killings are still prevalent in our society….can we call that civilized? Are the people indulging in such acts human? What about the rapes? Women can not exercise their  choice of clothes, can not step out of home without the fear of being molested? Strict laws against dowry harassment, female infanticide are still not being implemented? Is that how women are should be shown respect in any society? Do we even have the right to judge the morals of western people when our own moral and ethics vis-à-vis women are so twisted and perverted? Are women’s denials even considered as an option by their husbands who see the wives as an object of  sexual gratification and a personal servant?

Many will say this doesn’t happen in our homes….its the problem of uneducated people…..No Sir! It is very much prevalent in so-called educated families too!!

We are not enough polite and we do not show enough respect to fellow human beings….that is the reality!!

How difficult is it to adopt a more accepting attitude and being respectful towards everybody. Why not ape this?

2.Small Courtesies. Way back in 1990 a film “Maine Pyar Kiya” was released and a dialogue from the movie has since become the mantra …” Friendship me no sorry no thank you”.

Hello, why not? What is wrong in acknowledging someone’s help? Who wants to be taken granted? And mind you(those who feel that I am advocating foreign manners), hindi language has always had words like “Dhanyavad” and it is still considered a good manner to say it, only nobody does it these days! What is the harm in saying please, sorry and thank you. It doesn’t make anyone less of a friend if they say or expect these small courtesies.

Americans greeted us though none of them knew us. An eye contact was enough to elicit a smile, a “How are you doing today?” or a “Good Morning” or a “Have a good day”. We however do not even greet the grocer, news paper man etc whom we meet everyday, let alone a stranger.

It is not that greeting everybody wasn’t ever in practice, but while we busied ourselves in aping western slang, clothes or food…we forgot our own culture of politeness and brotherhood.

3. Stand in a queue. Oh yes we do stand in a line…on bus stands, railway stations or basically wherever compulsory but the moment nobody is watching we crowd over everywhere pushing, elbowing, trampling other’s foot without a care….. If there is a woman in a bus the men stand so close till their front is literally rubbing the woman’s behind! And if there is no sign indicating the need for a queue…..Oh! yes!! we rush around like a toddler who is still learning the motor skills. On the escalators we occupy the entire step instead of standing on one side leaving one side free for people who might prefer to walk. While in queue if a gap develops between two people, we will urge the person to move even if the queue ahead is yet standing still. We stand so close to each other in queues that we might as well identify the brand of deodorant and perfumes or the lack of it from the person ahead of us! And do we ever even consider that the person standing slightly away from the queue might actually be in the same queue?

The whole month that I visited various cities in America, I did not see a sign which would point out to stand in a queue ….yet the people stood patiently in a queue! Whether you want to take a picture of some display, use a washroom, order food from a street food kiosks, on an escalator or stairs, boarding a bus, boat or even a train.

Is it so difficult for us to not push while in a line and not snigger at the discomfort of the other people?

4. Wait for your turn!Do we ever bother to not cross in front of the camera when somebody is taking a picture? Aren’t most of our pictures wasted due to somebody else lurking in the same frame? While at an exhibition, do we take care before stopping at an exhibit, to see whether we are obstructing somebody else’s line of sight?

There they do!!  Every time that we wanted to take a picture the pedestrians would pause to allow us finish our photography and some even offered to shoot our family photograph. They  wait for the other person to move away from the exhibits in a museum or an art gallery, from the vending machine or the ATM.

I always thought we were well-mannered but I was forced to do a reality-check of myself…..and I failed too. Are we impatient by choice or we just don’t have the civility gene in us?

5. Schools first! How much importance do we give to our schools and the quality of Happy School kidseducation? Does the proximity to a school govern our decision to buy property? Do we aim to find the teacher’s ability in school or we  just  go for a good looking school? Does the school’s reputation in our country, dictates the development of the neighborhood? Do the school children get a dedicated pathway to reach safely at school? Are the government schools in our country, first choice among the upper middle class strata of society?

The prices of real estate in our country depends on the proximity of airport or railway station or if the property belongs to some politician. However in America the quality of education in a particular school decides the rise in price of real estate….the better the school higher the price. The government schools are compulsorily at a walking distance and hence each residential area has a school.

If only we could give similar importance to educating our kids and demand a better quality in schools may be our kids will be spared from travelling long distances in search of  a good school.

6. Follow road rules. I spent a month vacationing in different cities of the USA and I did Manhattan Trafficnot see a single traffic jam, a single road fight or any accident. I did not see any traffic police officer trying hard to make people stick to their lanes or to follow the traffic light signals. In fact I did not come across a single traffic police officer! The cars stopped when lights went red and even if there was no vehicle coming from opposite direction, they kept waiting for the signal to turn green. I did not see cars honking away to make way. I did not see people stopping their vehicles on middle of the road. I did not see any car bump into the car ahead though they have more cars than we have in our country.

Friends and family in America, warned us about traffic in Los Angeles but one day, the three of us, me my husband and our daughter were crossing a street when the signal for pedestrians turned red. I was the only one still on the footpath while my husband and daughter had already crossed half the street. Although it was the signal for traffic, yet all the cars stopped for me and as I debated to cross or not, a gentleman in one of the cars waved at me to go join my family.

Can we even imagine people in our country stopping for so long? We are always in a hurry to reach somewhere(and God knows where or may be the rash driver knows that too), so we start driving when the traffic signal just about turns yellow. Can we imagine pedestrians being given the right of way? Can we imagine drivers of two cars not being at loggerheads blaming each other after  jumping their respective traffic signals?

I did not see traffic crowding entire width of the road…. at the signals the cars waited in a single line leaving the rest of the road for the oncoming traffic. They did not honk horns thus avoiding unnecessary chaos and noise on the roads. When my husband stops at red light and doesn’t budge from his place till  the signal actually turns green…..people give us dirty looks. I noticed that the Americans gestured a thank you if the car ahead gave way for the car at back to overtake. But in our country we are greeted with a fist gesture and a barrage of expletives if we do not heed the incessant honking of the car behind us !!

Can we imagine people acknowledging other drivers, even in metropolitan cities in our country?Is it so difficult for us to follow traffic rules? Wouldn’t it save us a hell lot of time if we stuck to road rules and not honk so much?

7. No littering. The common excuse most of us lament is that the government authorities have not provided enough dustbins throughout any city and so the garbage lies everywhere. Agreed, that there is some truth to this but lets please cross our hearts and honestly answer the question; How many times have we bothered to make sure that the garbage is actually thrown in the bins? Even the educated people who can afford to zip around in cars roll down the car windows and callously dispose off the paper napkins, banana peels or plastic packets just like that…on the road or in the countryside. In fact many a times when we drive and I have insisted on collecting all fruit peels, disposable coffee cups, paper napkins etc in a plastic bag to dispose later in a bin, I have met resistance from my own extended family !! Some of them think I am taking cleanliness drive a bit too far.

Americans pick up after themselves…..even their dog’s poop. I did not see any pile of garbage rotting away on roadside, no plastic bag marring the street view, nobody spitting out the orange residue of ‘gutkha’. The everyday garbage picking staff in America if compared to the poor ‘jhaduwalas’ in our Garbage pick- up staffcountry are dressed so neatly that if they do not have a broom in hand, they don’t look different from rest of the people in the street and there was hardly anything to sweep on the roads!

All my growing up years my mother made sure that me and my sister put the garbage in proper dustbins, at home and outside. She used to tell us that if each person put their share of garbage in the bins, our country would become  clean eventually. I am almost forty years old now but even after so many years I can not find clean streets. Was my mother the only one teaching us to care about our country? Was she the only one who taught cleanliness. I believe in my mother’s optimism and have made sure my daughter follows the same rule. But when my daughter questions me about unclean schools and streets….I have no answer!

Do we have a neatness gene in us or not? Can we not be as clean? Why even compare to the US….our own village Mawlynong  near Shillong, Meghalaya is known as the cleanest village in Asia. The villagers do not litter on the village streets and the use of plastic bags is banned. After having visited Mawlynong a few years back I realised that if there is will, our cities can be as clean too.

Is it really so difficult for us to be clean and tidy?

8. Respect  Armed Forces. We were visiting “Sea World” San Diego, California. Among other attractions, there was a show featuring the killer whales Orca. Before the show could begin, the whale trainers encouraged all the viewers to spare a moment and show gratitude to all the military personnel whether living or departed. The crowd applauded the bravery of the men and women in uniform.

Arlington Cemetery, Washinton D.CAnother instance where the respect for the military was very clear was a tour of “Arlington Cemetery”, Washington D.C. Irrespective of whether the cemetery had a tombstone of a loved one, the Americans observed silence in the cemetery in honor of the soldiers who gave away their lives for the country. Again the cemetery which occupies a huge area was well maintained without any littered area. The cemetery also had a memorial for the soldiers whose next of kin could not be traced or who died as unknown people. And yet they respected these  unknown soldiers by keeping the area clean and offering their prayers for them.

Our soldiers have died not only in the wars in 1965, 1971 or the Kargil war but also during rescue missions during floods and landslides. However it is the politician who gets the high pay and a pat on shoulder. Also the people have the nerve to retort that nobody forced the men to join military, it is the job they have chosen of free will!! Well of course  nobody asked them to join military but yet they chose to die for the ungrateful nation. What if nobody joins the military? Who will protect the politicians, the rich and everybody?

Only thing a defense personnel asks for is a little respect…can’t we give them that?

9. Preserve heritage. We have centuries old structures, the temples and forts which are great examples of construction techniques, sculpting and the way society functioned…..Americans have relatively lesser history. However, they preserve whatever heritage they have….they are proud of it and present it to the world with a sense of belonging.

Where is our sense of belonging? I have seen scribblings on the white marble walls of Taj Mahal even! It is as if people deliberately plan to take a sharp object with them to scratch the walls of monuments…they spit on the walls, they get in destroying different religion’s prayer houses and do not bat an eyelid before retorting “tumhara hai kya jo beech me bol rahe ho?”( Is it yours that you are objecting?) Is that a sense of belonging? Of course each and every part of the country belongs to each and every citizen and not only one’s house….so each one of us needs to have this sense of belonging and preserve our heritage.

It doesn’t help to cling to the names of leaders of yesteryears…..if they worked for the country’s independence…then may be we should emulate their thought process and work towards what they left for us.

10For God’s your own sake…..work!! Since we have this retirement and pension thing….people start looking forward to put up their feet and retire and basically not WORK!! Why retire till the body functions? Why can people find other ways to earn and be busy and not waste away time in front of television, expecting rest of the family members to rally around them?

I saw 75 year olds involving themselves in marathon at Washington D.C and retired 75-year-old army pilot flying tourists at Grand Canyon….

Many women in our society are homemakers. How come they are never allowed to retire?   One such person, I have come across, feels that post retirement he has the right to just relax…watch tv, play cards with his friends, go for a walk, sleep and eat!! His wife for last fifty years has been a homemaker and she has had no chance to retire….this person doesn’t make his own tea let alone do it for his wife. He retorts that I can not do kitchen work because I don’t know how to….plain and simple!! But if his wife retires and sits in front of television all day…would be acceptable? And hell, if the wives can continue working why not these ‘retired men’? It is not as if they are the only ones working!!

Why can we not do away with this pension system so that everybody is self-reliant? Nobody will need to make a will in children’s name so no danger of  the property being snatched by scrupulous offsprings and no need to lament about being sent to some old age home!

Other benefits of working, post-retirement, would be a longer duration of active brain and body, lesser excuses of tiredness, best use of time and hence lesser laments that nobody has time for old people!

Retirement should only be an option for physically weak or people having disability or  long sickness.

If somebody is active enough for driving, meeting friends, watching movies, going to restaurants…..then please WORK and stop cribbing  about younger people or emotionally blackmailing them about their duties!!

Phew!! That is one long rant from me…..but seriously we need to re-look at why the country ….the largest democracy, the home of so many beautiful cultures has still not reached where it should have been globally.

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About shoma abhyankar

I like to believe that I am a creative person. I read, write, paint, sketch, rustle up some quick and some elaborate meals for friends and family, love chess, su-doku and scrabble, can hum an old Hindi song tentatively, always stand up for women rights, hate fake people, bugs, roaches, spiders and cigarette smokers!! I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Architecture in 1998. Soon after, I married an officer in Indian Air Force and have been on move since then. For a brief time of two years when we were posted in Pune, I worked as a junior architect in a firm. Being aware of frequent movement that we would have to live with, I chose to be a homemaker and concentrated on creating a warm and welcoming home for my family. But sitting at home without any creative activity was not my cup of tea. I learnt candle making and soon put up an exhibition at Poona Club when my daughter was barely a year old. I also enjoyed a short stint as a home-based entrepreneur, supplying chocolates and cakes on demand, while we were posted in Bareilly. With an inclination towards writing, I completed a diploma in ‘Creative Writing in English’ from Symbiosis College of Distance Learning, Pune. Then I discovered the blogosphere. Now I hope to not only travel and share my experiences with the world but also to pen a book someday....
This entry was posted in American Holiday, Life, Travel Tales, Travel Tales From America and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 10 Things we should learn from the Americans!!

  1. I love the way you put it! We have a lot to learn…!

    Like

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