Pushing your way through

Pushing your way through


Pushing your way through

Britain’s plan to make the practice of learning how to stand patiently in a queue a prerequisite for citizenship rang bells. It took me back to a lesson in my Hindi text-book at school titled, ‘Hindustan mein Queue’.

At that age, I wondered — why on earth would anyone need to write a piece with such a title? Now, I certainly know better.  What is it about the Indian psyche that entitles one to think that she or he can walk right up to the counter bypassing the people patiently standing in the line awaiting their turn? Numerous are the occasions when I have had to tap a person who has pushed past me to draw his attention to the rest of us. The reply is almost predictable, “Oh, is there a queue?” (even when there is a mile-long line) or the more presumptuous, “I have just one item to be billed!” This malaise of queue-jumping seems to know no class barriers, and one can encounter this in every kind of place.
It is certainly an unexplainable phenomenon, as it seems to drive our countrymen to carry on in the same fashion in a country like England forcing the government to pass a regulation in this regard. Britain is a country where you can’t help but be impressed by the orderliness everywhere.

When discussing the innate sense of discipline in a Brit, I had a relative surmising that the English can afford to be so, since they live in a small country.  But I noticed that even if the queue is a mile-long as during a weekend rush, people still wait for their turn, patiently, with nary a sign of restlessness.

Wanting to impress, I decided ‘when in Britain, do as the Brits do, or even better than them’. So, on a train ride from London to Coventry, I stepped aside for all the locals to alight without realising that there was another bunch waiting to get in. Caught in the rush, I finally managed to get to the door with my heavy bag. And even as my daughter (who had managed to step out), watched in dismay, the train started to chug out of the station. 

I hit the ‘Open Door’ button but it did not work. I could see my daughter frantically gesturing to the red-shirted Virgin Railways employees. They were turning their heads sideways, as if to say ‘No!’ in a firm tone. As the train picked up momentum, a lad on the train reassured me, “It’s just ten minutes to Birmingham and then you can take a train back to Coventry.” A very courteous Virgin Railways employee was awaiting me at the Birmingham station. He unlocked the door, yelled out my name and then asked me about what had happened. 

I told him the ‘pehle aap’ story and he had a good laugh over it. He also gave me directions to find my way back to Coventry. And that is how I wound up being sent to Birmingham to be sent to Coventry or should that read being sent to Coventry by being sent to Birmingham. With all those hi-tech British trains and doors that refuse to open, I wonder, could that be why Indians have not given up the habit of trying to push their way to the front of the queue even in England?