Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I love my family too. That does not mean that I don’t criticise them. Consider this.
July 2003. I am in Bristol, UK. On a short assignment of about 3-4 months. I take up the membership of the Bristol Public Library. It is free. For borrowing books, or for browsing on their computers. You do have to pay for music CD’s, and movies – VHS tapes, and DVD’s. One pound per week per DVD. Fifty pence for music CD’s. I have been borrowing books and music CD’s over the last two months. The process is simple. You make the payment when you check out the items. They have magnetic strips for the CDs and the DVDs. Try to take them out without making the payment, and a sensor at the out gate will, well you know go beeeeeeeeeep. 🙂
The only day I can visit the library happens to be a Saturday, since they are closed before I reach home from work. Today, I am borrowing a DVD and a few CD’s apart from the books. I get to the counter to check out, and see only two ladies, instead of the normal three at work. Maybe it is the Saturday effect. I greet them, give them my membership card, and walk through the gate to the other side. I take my purse out, and am waiting to hear the amount that I need to pay. The lady hands over the DVD, the CD’s and the books. She starts to attend to the next customer. Wanting to get back to my apartment, I ask her, “How much do I need to pay?”. “Pardon me?”, she responds. “The DVD and the CD’s – you have not charged me for them”, I say.
For a moment she is perplexed. “I didn’t?”, she says. “Oh! I’m sorry. Ooh! Thank you for letting me know!”. Turning around, she tells her colleague about this, and now both of them thank me again. All this for what? Two pounds? Maybe three.
Now, please turn your attention to the country with the five thousand year old history now. I am sure, you, dear reader, have experienced situations, where you have handed over Rs. 50 to a shopkeeper for a Rs. 20 item, only to get back Rs. 80. Now, as some would say, that is his bad luck. Do not turn away “Lakshmi” when she is coming to you. We get cheated too, say others. So far, whenever I have returned the excess amount, be it in a neighbourhood grocery shop, or to a vegetable vendor, or in a large store, I have never heard a “Thank you”.
Why? It is that they feel ashamed to have made a mistake? Or is it the Lakshmi factor?
It is not us, say some. Not in our culture. Saying “thank you” is alien to us, say others. Dhanyavad, Nanri, Dhanyavada in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada do not seem alien words to me.
During lunch time, we have some support staff who help clean the tables of spilled food. Then there are the security staff who are assigned to check bags of staff. Doing their work diligently. Someone holds the door open fractionally longer than they need to so that you can come through. Do we need to say “Thank you” to them? How many do? Should it not be embedded in our pysche? What can we do to make this happen?