I am a proud Indian. That does not mean that I let my pride blind me and defend every wrong thing about my country. Let’s face it – there are so many things that we as a people need to learn: courtesy, consideration for others and the ability to follow rules top the list. Just one look at the egoistic morons behind the wheels on our roads would suffice to prove that. And that is just one example. We keep complaining and breaking the rules simultaneously. But the moment someone else points out how our people need to start behaving – whoa!! We put on our cape of convenient patriotism and start bashing them about how they have no right to judge Indians, how Indians are perfect and beyond any scope for improvement and how anyone trying to say anything against the conduct of Indians is either anti-national or racist.

Sure, not all Indians are like this. But what we fail to understand is that when a huge part of the population thrives on behaving unruly, it causes a blanketed impression about everyone else in the eyes of others. Let’s not act all noble suddenly – we do have the tendency to generalize and say “People from the West are like this” or “All Pakistanis are terrorists”. If our people can do that, how can we ask others not to? I admit, it’s not fair to be judged based on what others from my country do, but wouldn’t it be much better if our people can learn to behave better?

You might be wondering why I am writing about this all on a sudden. Well, I happened to be going through articles and news pieces on the Emirates flight from Trivandrum to Dubai that crash-landed the other day. Even as I appreciate the pilot for his efficiency in averting a huge disaster, I can’t help thinking that there was a major role that luck played in the whole episode. Because just moments after the plane was evacuated, it caught fire completely and exploded. If that had happened just a minute before, we would have been reading about one of the biggest aviation-related disasters in the recent past.

And then I happened to read about and watch videos of our beloved countrymen scampering about the burning plane retrieving their cabin baggage – when the highly combustible aviation fuel was already on its way to catching fire and causing an explosion, and when they had already been told of the urgency of the situation and the need to evacuate in seconds. I wouldn’t say they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, because people were shrieking and shouting already. But did that stop them from going for their cabin baggage? Nooo!! Apparently, whatever was in their bag was way more important than their life and others’ lives too.

When reports on this came out, the social network gurus, who believe in making everything either a tear-jerking episode or an angry backlash, started defending these morons. The very logical reasons that were presented in defense were on the lines of – “Before criticizing please understand that there might have been things more valuable than life in their bags – like their passport, money and medicines.” Yeah right! Passport, money and medicines – more valuable than life indeed! I couldn’t help wondering if these preaching idiots have working brains or not. After a flight crash-lands and catches fire, do you seriously think the airport authorities are going to deny entry to the passengers saying they need passports??? There are people from both the countries’ embassies who would work towards helping the passengers, not just with their passports, but also with their necessary requirements – including money and medicines. After all, a plane crash-landing is not really taken as a joke by them.

People can definitely point out the fact that such behaviour has been seen before elsewhere as well. For instance, when a British Airways airplane caught fire in Las Vegas last year, passengers acted in a similar manner. The only difference is that no one came to their defense saying they did the right thing. That act was widely condemned. And this “whatever we do is right” defensive attitude and breaking rules which has almost become a norm is exactly what I have a problem with fellow Indians.

Moreover, what I don’t understand is, if at all these things were that important that you just wouldn’t leave the plane without them, why couldn’t you put these in a small sling pouch and keep it on your person throughout the flight? I mean, it would just be a very small and light pouch on you that would in no way cause inconvenience to you or others. That way, even if there is an emergency evacuation, you just have to get out as instructed!

But rules, logic, importance of time, and even the importance of others’ lives – all these are things that go over our heads right? So when an ex-flight attendant who watched this video posted his frustration regarding flying the Indian sector and dealing with Indian passengers, all hell broke loose. (It would! We are people who abused Maria Sharapova in every Indian language, for the crime of saying she didn’t know Sachin Tendulkar!) People started hailing Indian culture and ranting about the angels that our people are, and calling this person a racist. Sure, his/her (I’m not sure) comments were pretty harsh. But trust me, I don’t blame him. I can understand the frustration of someone who for years had to deal with shit and still put on a smile in the name of customer service. I’m not saying there aren’t unruly passengers in other countries, or that all Indians are bad passengers. However, as a person who has travelled out of the country multiple times, to multiple destinations, I can say with complete conviction that I have never met a more unruly group of passengers than our own countrymen.

The idea of standing in a queue is so alien to most of them that if there is a queue that is already formed, our people go and stand in front of the first person! And it’s only at gates where there is a flight bound to an Indian destination that I have seen passengers huddling in huge numbers, right in front of the gate entrance. No matter how many times an announcement is made that the boarding would be made sequentially based on boarding groups, there would always be people from groups 2-5 huddling at the entrance blocking the way for the people from group 1, and thus delaying the entire boarding process. It reminds me of people rushing in front of the dining hall at wedding receptions, or struggling to get into transport buses in the fear that they wouldn’t get a seat. Many a time, I’ve curbed the urge to yell, “Even if you are the last one to board, your seat would still be there, you morons!!!”

The drama doesn’t end at the gate either. Once inside the flight, the crew members have to take on the role of kindergarten teachers, patiently telling our people over and over again to wear their seat belts and not walk around to chit chat when the seat belt sign is on, even during turbulence. And then there are doting mothers who argue shamelessly with the crew saying they want their 3 or 4 year old kids to sit on their lap and not safely buckled up on their own seats, even during take-off and landing. I have marveled at the ability of the crew to remain polite and smiling, even when they have to listen to the long, lame arguments and say “No”. And how can I forget the never-ending chatter, amplified in such a way that every other passenger can hear the supposedly private conversations happening between our uncles and aunties?

These are just a few of the things out of many, many irritating and embarrassing things I’ve noticed. I’ve often seen people from other countries looking on with a smile of amusement when these kinds of antics go on. And I can just imagine what must be going on behind that smile of amusement. Trust me, those are times when the proud Indian in me cries inside and runs to take a seat far from my countrymen. If that makes me anti-national, so be it!