Sunday, December 17, 2006

Are we polite,eh?

"Sorry," said one. "Sorry," said the second one. "Sorry," said the third. "Sorry," said the fourth. "Sorry," said the fifth passer by. I checked my self, my shoes, my bag, my jacket. Everything seemed fine. Then why were all these passers by saying sorry to me. Was it just because they overtook me? After a few weeks, on my first day on the sky train, a stranger fellow passenger said, "Hi! How are you?" Well, none of your business, I thought to myself. But I did manage a half hearted smile - out of courtesy.
Coming from New Delhi, I had never heard of greeting strangers, passers-by. Never experienced it either till I'd set my foot on this multi-cultural land. Canada came as a surprise to me. A pleasant one. So did the people in BC. Well, I cannot say about places like Toronto or Montreal. I have heard horror stories about these two places. Just kidding! Toronto was ranked third by Reader's Digest in the global courtesy ratings. Montreal was 21st.
As a new Indo-Canadian, I found it so difficult to smile at strangers or greet them. Something as simple as saying hello, became a fight for me. It just didn't come naturally. Every time I had to force myself to at least return the smile. The result: I stopped looking at people, pretending I was in a rush. At times on the sky train, I even pretended I was on the phone to avoid having a conversation with my fellow boarders.
Things have changed since then. I have completed almost 10 months in Vancouver (actually Surrey) and now I proudly and comfortably say sorry, hello, how are you to strangers, passengers etc etc. And I smile at anybody and everybody. Most recently, I even caught myself striking a conversation with a fellow sky train boarder. Believe me, I did.
No matter how much I loved and appreciated this courteous nature, deep inside I felt this politeness would crack under test - in a desperate situation. I was wrong. And I am glad I was proven wrong. During this month's heavy snowfall, the courteous level did go down, but negligible. The day after the heavy snowfall, I was walking down to the nearest bus stop in the morning. Had no choice but to share the snow-covered road with the vehicles. Out of 10 motorists that passed by, nine slowed down to avoid splashing snow at me. One didn't.
In the evening after work, due to bad weather and some other technical reasons, lesser number of sky trains was plying. The ones plying were over loaded. At Columbia sky train station, we had to wait in a long queue to board the expo line to King George. Some pushing and pulling did happen, but with a smile. Some did break the queue but said sorry. While some completely lost it acting as if they were the only ones stuck in a bad situation.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed being in queue after 10 months. In India, one has to stand in a queue almost everyday and everywhere. Let me shed some light on how the capital city of India works. (By the way I am proud to be an Indian, eh. None of the following shows my prejudice, only an insight into one of the most populous cities.) As I mentioned above, New Delhi is one of the most populated cities in the world. You see people anywhere, everywhere, every time, all the time. It simply becomes the survival of the fittest. It’s a situation of less supply and more demand. You want to be ahead of others to grab what is available.
About the queues, well, anywhere you go in Delhi there are long queues - at bus stops, at stations, airports, small shops, big shops, garment shops, shoe shops, movie halls, government offices, restaurants, fast food joints (Mac Donald’s), book stores, coffee shops, phone booths, doctor's clinics. Sometimes, even to pay a visit to a temple, one has to wait in a long queue. Now, considering the less supply and more demand situation, people have no time for politeness. It isn't that people aren’t polite. They just don’t have the time. They'd rather be earning some more money, or catching the overloaded bus than be polite. Right?
Coming back to Vancouver, or Canada as a whole, I am sure a lot of you born and raised here would not consider being courteous a big deal. Ask me - it is. Lately, I have noticed just making a short, harmless, courteous conversation with a complete stranger can be really healthy. That is because sometimes you come to know of things you weren't aware of, the other times it helps you keep your mind off a lot of trash, and finally, smiling while conversing makes you forget and forgive.
How's that, eh?

31 comments:

Nutan said...

sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry ..... this part was really good. ha ha ha...

shafeer said...

I will have to agree with Pooja here. We really do say a lot of "sorry', sometimes even without a reason. But thats the way British Columbians are.

BKhan said...

They not only say "sorry", but they also say "Thanks", "Thank you"
for everything and anything, 'often'.You know Pooja, they should write " Courteous British Columbia" on the Registration Plates of the Vehicles instead of "Beautiful British Columbia".I mean it.

Dylan said...

you know what..you are right. We live in one of the politest cities in the world. makes me feel happy.. feel like thanking someone now..ha. makes you want to dance eh!

Anonymous said...

ya the sorry part is funny. nutan's right. but somehow bkhan seems to be more sarcastic about the courteous nature, than proud.

Larry said...

hey mr anonymous, u seem to be reading too muchbetween the lines. bkhan in my opinion just enjoyed reading the article and hence wrote what came to his or her mind. but overall i completely totally trythfully agree with Bkahn. we should write courteous british columbians onour licence plates. dylan say thanks to me man. lets dance now,,,,,

karanbeer said...

i guess i am way behind all of you guys. dont know whether any of you will even respond to my comment. but i would like to say that i had the similar experience when i came to canada bout 5 years ago. its a very well written and interesting article pooja. keep up the good work. we need people like you in our community to change the general perception about indians rather indo-canadians. and for all you commentators, it was fun reading your comments. have fun and happy new year.

Anonymous said...

Hey, We are polite here in Windsor, Ontario too!!!!

hiranmayee said...

Hey..cheers.. I really enjoyed this story. I am an Indian living in Great Britain....It's fantastic to make others cheers !!!!!! yeah...lots of thanks, bags of sorry..ies..and expanded lips..smiles..it makes the life lit. Cheers..I mean it.Still India is great..

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