Why are we Indians so oblivious to etiquette?

 I recall cringing as a child on a flight from London to Delhi, when a fellow Indian traveler decided to change his attire from trousers to a dhoti right in the middle of the aisle. Needless to say a harried air hostess ushered him rather rapidly towards the lavatory. This passenger was blissfully unaware that he was the cynosure of all eyes.

Take a more recent case of Cavalleria Rusticana, an opera in one act from Italy, which was performed last week in India for the first time at Siri Fort auditorium, New Delhi (this was a collaboration of the Embassy of Italy, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and The Delhi International Arts Festival).

Agreed that even I was unaware of the finer nuances of the no-applause rule, in which the audience at an opera is not meant to applaud until the end of the final movement, and had to be informed of this rule by my friend who has more experience of attending operas than me. But again I cringed when I saw no less than the chief guest Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna and his entourage making an exit after about 40 minutes of the show. It was not the exit itself, but the way in which this was executed that was painfully embarrassing. The dignitaries climbed the stage and made an exit through the wings, as the audience and the performers looked on gobsmacked.

And here is yet another example of ‘perfect’ manners. Picture a panel discussion of luminaries in front of a select audience. While a noted academician was in the midst of a well prepared speech on feminist knowledge, an elderly couple decided that they had to leave the venue. They shuffled up to the stage to pay their respects to the main protagonist of the evening, and then with considerable difficulty made their way to the exit through the crammed hall, distracting the audience in the process. The speaker, luckily, managed to remain composed and finished her talk seamlessly, in spite of the commotion.

In this day and age of globalization and internationalization, we Indians need to learn to mind our Ps and Qs at a rapid pace. How much longer can we be oblivious to the social embarrassments that we at times unwittingly cause?


2 responses to this post.

  1. On a recent visit to India, I frequently noticed the same. They often displayed the kind of behaviour which in other countries people only show when they’re intoxicated, ie. a complete disregard of those around them. I hope those who I met and saw that were like this were at least oblivious to the way they behave, as if they were aware, well that really would be rude 🙂


    • Thanks for sharing your experiences of Indians sans etiquette. However, is it right to be oblivious to behaviour that is globally unacceptable. I would go with the rule of law that ignorance is no defence!


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