Bangladesh Slideshow

06 June, 2008

Our manners (or lack thereof)

I went to KFC today for a bite of the Colonel’s ‘finger lickin good’ chicken. Being a Friday, the place was packed, and the queue snaked past the front door. I waited my turn patiently, but the waiting children were fidgety. Just behind me was a man with a very cranky little boy of about five or so. By the time I reached the front of the queue, the little boy’s impatience had skyrocketed, so when my turn came, I asked them to go first - waiting another two minutes wasn’t going to kill me.

The little boy darted forward to the counter he wasn’t tall enough to reach, a menu clasped in his little fist. The sight brought a smile to my face. This indulgent smile was wiped off pretty much straightaway though, when the boy’s father strode past without so much as an acknowledging nod, let alone a vocal ‘thank-you’. Noticing my exasperation, the KFC Floor Manager said, ‘Madam, nobody says thank-you anymore.’ Hmmm... Food for thought. And then, carrying their tray past me, the little boy running ahead, a glass of drink toppled over and splashed all over the floor, and over the clothes of people around. Again, the father strode past, no apologies to anyone. 'Accidents happen. Not my fault.' was writ all over him.

Thoroughly irritated, I carried my tray upstairs. Being Friday evening, the place was packed with families with young children, and their teenaged child-minders. Everyone around was digging into the food. Everyone? No, wait. Not the child-minders. They sat at the tables, patiently feeding the children, looking around, their eyes on everything but the pile of food in front of them. The families stuffed their faces (sorry but I’m not feeling particularly polite today), totally oblivious to the fact that a young girl was also at the table with them, and might have liked to have a taste. I guess since the girls were so much lower on the social ladder, they did not merit a KFC meal! Forget the fact that it is impolite to eat without offering food to the rest of one’s party.

A woman offered her half-drunk drink to her two children, and then kindly (?!) gave the remainder to the childminder - about two sips worth. The girl’s gratefulness and enjoyment was so transparent, and so pathetic, that it thoroughly disgusted me. A meal for four at KFC is probably worth a month’s salary for these girls. Would it have made any financial difference to these families to buy one more item?

How have we become so ill-mannered and insensitive, with no sense of public ethics? Children learn from their parents, and imagine what these parents are teaching their children - both by not teaching and by their crass behavior! We are raising a generation of selfish, inconsiderate, class-conscious men and women. Shudder shudder!

‘Manners,’ says Emily Post, the Diva of Etiquette, ‘are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them. Manner, on the other hand, is personality - the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude toward life.’ Manners must be really ingrained; a matter of who you are, not how you are. The attitude must be without thinking. There are those among us who still automatically say "thank you," "you're welcome," "excuse me," and "may I?" But there are many more among us who don't! And don't even think something is remiss!

Of course, it’s easier to be rude, and harder to be polite. But what happens when everyone behaves that way? Then we'll have a rudeness epidemic on our hands. And how would we cure that?? The reforms must start at home. One person at a time! We must start with ourselves, and set a good example for our children. As Mother Teresa said, when the house is dirty, don't complain or call a committee, pick up a broom and start sweeping.

Let’s get our brooms out and sweep those ill-manners out of our lives! For the sake of a better future for our families and for our country.

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