Recently, a 2:20 minute video depicting an Indian family attempting to make off with pilfered items from their hotel in Bali and getting caught went viral on social media. Not only had they stripped the hotel room bare of accessories and items like hair dryers they had even taken the hangers. In typical cringe – inducing fashion, they tried to brazen their way out by screaming at the staff who by contrast were polite but firm. This boisterous and badly behaved lot were held, their luggage examined to gather evidence of the theft and the proceedings were recorded at which point, these charming folks simmered down, put out a few faux apologies and offered repeatedly to ‘pay extra’ so they could be let off the hook. In response, one of the staff pointed out that they he was aware that they had a lot of money but this was about their lack of respect.
The collective opinion of those who saw the clip was one of humiliation and shame, which is surprising since we can hardly agree on anything anymore. The consensus was that the family’s behaviour was a disgrace and had ruined India’s image. There were calls to have this uncouth lot arrested on their return to India and revoke their passports. The internet reported similar incidents featuring the ugly behaviour of Indians in comparable scenarios in different parts of the world. Industrialist Harsh Goenka even shared a notice issued by a hotel in Gstaad only for their Indian guests. We all hung our heads in shame and condemned the actions of ugly Indians who fail to represent India with a modicum of respectability on foreign shores.
I was also reminded of the time when the semi – luxury train, Mumbai - Goa Tejas express was completely vandalized with passengers attempting to unscrew LCD screens, stealing headphones, trashing the compartment and making the loos bio – hazard zones. The problem is that as a nation we have become used to getting away with reprehensible conduct. Again, it is a question of respect. Too many don’t give a crap about the laws of this land or her people. We see evidence of this all around us. There are always those who misbehave with the staff in hotels, flights, sports arenas, theatres, etc. because we have a firmly rooted class and caste system which teaches us to look down on people who perform services for us without a shred of appreciation or gratitude.
As a nation we don’t bother with playing decent wages to the maid, tipping the waiter, waiting for our turn, driving with a care for the safety of others, keeping our surroundings clean or even doing the barest minimum for those condemned to manually clean out sewage and latrine pits with no protection. Instead we teach children to be even more entitled than we are and do whatever we think we can get away with, since we are willing to pay bribes and all. Forget about working on our image abroad, the need of the hour is to improve our behaviour right here at home, so that we learn to conduct ourselves with decency and decorum wherever we are and even if there is no accusatory camera pointed at us with the view to blame, name and shame on social media.
This column originally appeared in The New Indian Express.