At the outset let me admit that my out-of-India experiences are limited to the recent two month trip that I made to the US very recently and most of my opinions are based on personal experiences that I have had at Bangalore and at Hyderabad, mostly involving IT and BPO individuals.
The crux of this post is the sheer callousness and atrocity with which we Indians approach the whole concept of using an elevator. On more than one occassion I have wondered what is it that makes us so impatient when it comes to waiting for an elevator and actually waiting for it to move from one floor to another. Almost always when I am using the elevator in my office building, I have noticed that people for whatever reason become extremely impatient and restless the moment they step into an elevator and start fidgeting with all the buttons on the panel, especially the ones which close the doors of the elevator.
Back in the US, the elevator culture primarily consists of two or three things –
1. Almost always women are given the right of way. Whenever anybody sees a woman approaching an elevator, he/she immediately presses down the Doors Open button to ensure that the lady manages to get into the elevator and makes the trip. Contrast this to the situation in India, where as usual men have to be men, and have to muscle their way into the elevator irrespective of who else gets in or not.
2. Indians are probably the only race of people where basic courtesy of allowing people to get out of the elevator before trying to get into the elevator is missing. For whatever reason, we are in such a hurry to get into the elevator that we don’t actually care whether the people inside want to get out because their floor has arrived.
3. The tendency to play around with the Emergency Stop, Doors Close buttons is so strong in us that it reminds me of people trying to play any console game when they are in the elevator. We are so restless when it comes to waiting for that 5 seconds when the elevator stops at a floor to allow people to get in and out of the elevator.
4. The kind of lewd, sexist, and totally inappropriate remarks and conversation that people have in the elevators is quite amazing. These kind of remarks are not wrong only in elevators but in any public places around the world. Wonder when we as a race realize how boorish and rude we actually are when compared to others.
Now let me confess that I myself have done some of these things myself on more than one occassion, but the trip to the US has sensitized me to the fact that these are absolutely unacceptable and I have promised myself that I will not repeat these mistakes in the future.
Upon discussions with my friends and the Missus, one probable theory for us Indians behaving this way in elevators and in life in general boils down to the fact that culturally we are conditioned to be extremely competitive. As children, we are taught and constantly reminded that life is a race in which we have to come first at any cost. We are never taught to respect others’ feelings, emotions, time, efforts, lives in general. We have to win at all costs. And this is probably because as a nation we are more than a billion strong and the fight for basic amenities of life remains a grim reality for a majority of Indians even today.
However, that being said, fact still remains that most people who use elevators, at least in the places that I use them are at least graduates (educationally speaking) and the assumption that I make is that they have had enough contact with humans in their lives to realize the difficulties they cause when they do things like these. However, what irritates me to the core, is that they turn a blind eye to these things and continue to do these things irrespective. The rationale they give is that “Everybody else is doing it, why shouldn’t I?” Well, just because everybody else around you is a fool, should you also be one?