The Pushy Indian

A great place to find pushers

A great place to find pushers

You have seen them everywhere but I don’t think you are conscious of them.

Some would say the Nadellas, the Nadars, the Murthys, the Modis are perhaps examples of pushy Indians. In many ways they pushed the boundaries of achievement. But this is not the pushy Indian I refer to.

Think of a crowded place, any crowded place. Picture yourself standing at any given spot in this crowded place. This spot could be you standing in line, you standing waiting for someone, or something, or it could you even be searching for the right spot to stand in. I can guarantee that every 10 seconds or so, you will be physically moved from the spot simply because someone has pushed past you or is attempting to walk through you (like you were a ghost). Chances are that the person doing this is an Indian. This is the Pushy Indian I am talking about.

I don’t understand this Indian or what makes this person tick.

I am standing in my spot. I have mass. I breathe. I am alive. I am an individual. I am not disturbing anyone. My hands are protecting my wallet or my genitals depending on the crowd I am in. So why am I being pushed and shoved like I am some paper in the wind? I have stared in disbelief at the amount I have been shoved around and on the odd occasion I have even stopped the person and spoken my mind. Over the years I have evolved a theory about this pushing and shoving and classified the “pushers”.

The “I am so busy” pusher: this is generally a male ranging in ages from 10 years to about 40. Some of the 40 years behave like 10 year-olds but that’s a whole different story. This type of pusher generally thinks any standing or even mobile person in front of him is a ghost or is a door that needs to be pushed open. He is adept at using his hands and doesn’t hesitate to use them to push you or even to rest them on your shoulder. I have also encountered the more sophisticated one where the shoulder is put to use, sometimes causing pain to the pushed. The pusher is generally unconscious of his act and if you stopped him, as I often have, and asked him where the fire was, he would look at you blankly! This pusher, I suspect is on some sort of drug or medication that is causing temporary amnesia coupled with some sort of blindness and hallucinations. He could also be suffering from a brain disorder that makes him think human beings are doors, ghosts, nobodies or simply objects that need to be pushed and or shoved. He strides with purpose and I have often wondered at the purpose. The classier version of this pusher is the one dressed in a suit, tie, and swinging a brief case. When spotted, I tend to focus on the bag in case it threatens to tango with some part of my body. My conclusion is that he is in a hurry to get nowhere but has a subconscious desire to project that he has somewhere to go. My sample survey isn’t large enough since I tend to lose my cool if I am shoved. I rarely get the opportunity to politely ask questions.

The “please move on” pusher: this is generally an elderly person man or woman between the ages of 40 and 80; provided the 80-year olds can still walk. The 40-year olds I think are wannabe 80-year olds. They are usually found hanging around narrow entrances like ones leading to a mall, to a movie theater or any narrow entrance that has a sea of people trying to squeeze through, one at a time. This pusher will use hands akin to pushing a stalled vehicle. They have no qualms of using both. They sometimes stand erect and try to push with their body (I promise you this is the most unsettling way to push). At other times, they choose to use you as a walking stick or a crutch, clinging on to your arm or even worse pressing down on your shoulder. There are many that are genuinely in need of assistance and I am sympathetic towards them. These individuals ask for assistance. But the vast majority is clearly oblivious about you. They believe it is their birthright to push, shove, cling and generally treat you like furniture. When queried, I have received blank stares and some more militant ones asking me to “please move on”. I have stepped aside and showed them the sea before me and I sensed they wanted me to join their tribe and push forward. Given my sense and sensibility, I refuse, always. Whenever I have verbally responded to the “move on” jibe I have received sullen looks, “at least try” and even worse have been ‘looked through’ like I was made of glass. I really hate being treated like I am made of glass.

The “no contacts pusher”: this is by far the most interesting (read annoying) type I have encountered. At one point in time I thought they only inhabited North India but I have found them to be scattered all across the country. The one place I found them to be near extinction is in the hills of Mussoorie. The “no contacts pusher” has a lot of commonality with other types of pushers. They seem to think you don’t exist and or even if you do, you are of no consequence. There is little or no physical contact with you and yet they will surge past you in the blink of an eye.

If you have traveled via public transport you will recognize them. Imagine the New Delhi Railway station where bags are being placed in a security scanner. You are standing in a short queue waiting to place your bag when suddenly a bag appears from your blind side and is thrust ahead of yours on the conveyor belt. You just spotted a ‘no contacts pusher’. I have stopped and stared at the individual and have been amazed at the lack of eye contact or the feigning ‘innocence’ at the act. I try to forget them by reconciling to the fact that they are village dwellers used to pushing and not as sophisticated as ‘city dwellers’. But then the city dwellers are no less.

As luck would have it I tend to travel more by air than by rail these days. At airport security I have found that while I am busy reaching for a tray to place my laptop in, an educated city dweller has yanked a tray from another stack, surged ahead of me and planted himself in front of me. I am again befuddled. He refuses to look in my direction and busies himself unloading his laptop and then thrusting it on to the conveyor belt. The characteristic “I can’t see you” look remains. Here I have no real rationale on why he would do this. Why is it that the person can’t see I am ahead of him in the queue? What is it that propels him to go ahead and what does he achieve by his action?

The other area I see the no contact pusher’s tribe growing is on New Delhi roads. Think of any perfect road where traffic in opposite directions is divided by a two-feet thick divider. You want to cruise along your side of the road thinking you are safe when suddenly you see something coming at you. This could be an auto rickshaw, a motorcyclist and even an SUV. You are being asked to move from your trajectory to accommodate a person on the wrong side of the road. How ridiculous is that!!! I am tempted to stop the car and ask the driver if he could comment on why the authorities have placed a thick divider in the middle of the road and why a significant number of people choose to be on the other side of the divider? In the past, I have asked the question and not really received an answer. I have got back blank stares (“you don’t exist” types), smiles (sometimes sheepish), frowns (“what are you talking about?”) and rarely, an apology. I save my favourite barb for the ones driving expensive cars. I have often politely smiled at them and reminded them that they forgot to pick up their brains when they bought the car. I urge them to go back to the showroom and retrieve this priceless and most important accessory of their car. Most times the reaction is that of a 10-year-old being told about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity!

Picture yourself standing in line at a traffic signal. The light could be right next to you or some distance away. The key is that a divider doesn’t separate the opposite side of the road AND there isn’t any traffic coming past you. While you remain standing still, you sense a vehicle before you see it come from behind you and then race past on the wrong side of the road. Then another follows until there is a parallel line formed on the wrong side of the road! The traffic light turns green and your queue (the legitimate one) now starts inching forward. The illegitimate line suddenly starts moving towards you and wants to move into the space you occupy. It gets worse if there is traffic coming from the opposite side. You now start feeling like fruit in a hand juicer being gently squeezed. Try to stand your ground and you are most likely going to be threatened. I have usually inched forward ignoring the threats. The look in my eyes says it all and I keep my mouth shut. There have been times where I have parked my car in front of the car coming in from the opposite direction (wrong direction for the approaching car) and haven’t given room for the person to get back into the legitimate line. On more than one occasion I have even switched off my engine demonstrating my determination. In the end making the other person reverse and go back to the end of the legitimate line. I am not a proponent of road rage and rarely have I lost my temper on the road. That doesn’t mean one can turn the proverbial “other cheek” at such blatant abuse of public roads.

The most dangerous of them all of course is the pusher running traffic lights and or turning from the wrong lane. This one truly scares me. I have written about this in the past but I really can’t stress this enough. Jumping lights and turning from the wrong lanes are two acts that can cause grave harm to both the person in the act and innocents who follow rules. I just cannot imagine why someone would risk life and limb to get ahead by a few minutes.

I try to spot the Pushy Indian overseas and I come back disappointed. I rarely spot them in foreign lands. Their disciplined cousins are often found. I wonder if they are disciplined cousins or better evolved humans or worse, a species mutating in a foreign land? I think it is fear that has helped cause this mutation; fear of the law of the land. Either way the discipline is something every Indian would love to see in his own land.

PS: I dont have a gender bias. I have used the proverbial masculine instead of using he/she throughout this article. The he may please be read as he/she.


About Vivek Mehra

I am currently the MD & CEO of SAGE Publications India. But I wear many hats that make me the person I am. Between the (public) professional life and the very deep and private recesses of my brain lies a universe of thoughts, actions and beliefs. These have been shaped by events, people and perhaps Karma. It's this universe I seek to put in words. When everything else failed me professionally, it was the power of my words that not just resurrected a career but brought back life to life. It is with these words that I continue to make a difference with those whose karma connects mine. Sometimes it's direct and most times it's not. But the essence of who I am never changes and I remain a person searching for himself. Update: In 2014 I published my first book on Kindle. It was written in 1999 and it never saw the light of day. Reader input welcome...
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12 Responses to The Pushy Indian

  1. Dear Vivek,
    Your push metaphor is a beautiful, truthful piece. You have realistically captured the Indian art of pushing. After coming back from the West in 2003 I thought India has a huge number of homosexuals because in any public queue people push all the time, even when the line does not move.
    Later I understood that people are forever in a hurry, although everything goes slowly when it comes to work.
    Much later I understood that Indians hate discipline due to being in the world’s biggest democratic country.
    Much, much later I realised Indian men love to caress unknown women secretly. Here push comes to shove. In different social research, I have heard Indian women complain about the sexual push behaviour of men in public transport. That’s really awful. Indian women have more class and dignity than men.
    At a later stage, after Modi’s call for Make in India, I imagined people are in a hurry to push to move faster to cover up their deficiency in skill and capability.
    All sections of people push, whether rich or otherwise, in every part of the country. You can see it in an airport security queue. If you say, “Why are you pushing?” the reply is, “Why are you not travelling in first class?”
    In addition, you also have the push to upgrade in politics, society and career. These are disastrous pushes because such pushers are ruthless and without competence.
    Love & courage,


  2. Sagar Kumar says:

    Yes! Your write-up is really very practical. It so happened many a time to me where I personally tried to convince the pushers, “where is the fire?”, but to no avail.

    No doubt we Indians vertically seem to be busy doing nothing trying to push and shove others with our extreme weird behavior.

    Very true Sir, we should learn to keep patience and be disciplined all the time.


  3. Sagar Kumar says:

    Yes! Your write-up is really very practical. It so happened many a time to me where I personally tried to convince the pushers, “where is the fire?”, but to no avail.

    No doubt we Indians vertically seem to be busy doing nothing trying to push and shove others with our extreme weird behavior.

    Very true Sir, we should learn to keep patience and be disciplined all the time.


  4. Amit k Ghosh says:

    That is a deep and insightful observation.

    Often we get so used to “pushers” in our everyday life that we tend to forget it is WRONG. While reading your post yesterday, realized everyday while going to the office and coming back, I encounter so many of them.

    Today I tried observing, analyzing, and understand some of them. While It is difficult to answer why do they behave a certain way? However, as I look back at how people behaved in my native village and then compare it with the “Pushers” of Delhi, there’s sure lack of containment, desire to lead somebody else’s life (minus their perseverance and endurance of course!), lack of empathy towards fellow humans, their pains, struggle & agony (read it as zero tolerance towards humanity) and diminishing conscience. Everything else are offshoots of these primary reasons.

    Then I asked myself, are they bad humans or just suffering from some ailment? Is it contagious? Will we get affected also? May be it is an epidemic that’s engulfing more and more people every day. Can we cure them? Or what we are seeing is just a mirror reflection. Would like to know your take on this.


  5. Biplab Biswas says:

    Real Story and 100% true.


  6. So well described Vivek ! I have been a victim of the pushy Indian syndrome, since I returned to reside in India. You are right, this species is practically non existent in developed countries, for no other reason, than the fear of being hauled up the law.
    In India, famed for its ‘hospitality’, most Indians surprisingly have no civic courtesy or manners. I don’t think you need education for this, just common sense, that the first in the queue deserves to go first.

    Even when you hold the door open or the lift for someone, they will sail past you without the slightest acknowledgment of your courtesy, let alone thanking you for your kindness. You are left wondering if they actually believe, that they did you a favour by availing of your courteous gesture.

    I have been a victim of every type of pushy Indian you describe so well, everyone from the queue jumpers who are quite happy to nudge you out of the queue (to get ahead of you) to those who lean on you, to those who come and stick to you whether in a queue to buy cinema tickets/ to interact with the bank teller/to register yourself somewhere, even in a hospital !!

    Perhaps they feel that by breathing down your neck or standing right beside you and looking over your shoulder is a done thing, so what if you are filling in a form that requires classified information ! They don’t mind.

    One of the worst is indeed those, who drive right past you and block the on-coming traffic. Perhaps they assume that you were just enjoying the scenery.

    Whatever be the motivation that drives this self-centred species, I must admit, they do make you stronger (whatever doesn’t kill you…..) However, there is an exception even in this category, since we Indians like to cover the full spectrum of human sampling, mention must be made, of those who cut across traffic signals, jay walking and those who drive towards you at hurtling sped, in your lane !! They don’t mind endangering others’ life and safety. All in a day’s work. Hey, on the road out there, it’s each man for himself, isn’t that the law of the jungle ?


  7. Ashish Narayan Sharma says:

    Sir, it is beautiful that you stand in a crowd and observe, think. I remember when I first went to Delhi in 1989 looking for a job. I stayed at Tourist Camp on Asaf Ali Road. Being from Mussoorie it was a shock and one day while I stood on the crossing on the Bahadur Shah Zafar road I saw commuters be it on scooters, cars mumbling away to themselves, and I got addicted. It became a routine and everyday after giving interviews in different companies I made sure that I was standing there and watching people mumbling away. I thought I was crazy after all these years when I think about it but now feels great there are others who think and see things the way I did. 😊


  8. Leena says:

    Glad to know that there are other supposedly calm n sane people who can feel so enraged by these things. Unfortunate and pessimistic I know I sound when I say there is absolutely no hope for most Indians in India. When the stick ain’t there, we are ruffians! And those who aren’t learn to live with the anxiety of “being left behind”.


  9. Manoj says:

    Dear Vivek
    Its a very close observation by you about the “PUSHERS” which is now really become common of our life, as mentioned its on Roads, Airports and Railway station and almost taken as part of our life.
    As I am in Mumbai its part of my life and for all Mumbaikars, its almost very common in every place in Local Trains, Footpaths, Road etc, but i think the pusher can be different at different places like in Locals they have mainly the working group in all streams who have make a place for themselves to reach on time and have no options,
    But its very surprising to see educated pushers at Airports, Malls and also in Temples as if the God will be running away from the Temple if they are late.

    I don’t think there is any way to train the pushers unless they learn on their own, till then its almost going to be part of our Life, No options 🙂


  10. Gautam Johar says:

    Yes Vivek, it’s real n true. It appears that these pushers have Brain/mental disorder.
    We need to understand whether it is Mental illness or Neurological disorder or Anxiety Disorder or its psychiatry related …. Many Questions still need to be answered to rectify.


  11. Shambhu Sahu says:

    Excellent analysis and classification of ‘the pushy Indian’; plus a very good read. Agree with you Sir that they (should I say we?) lack public-place etiquette or even basic concept of respecting fellow human being and his/her space.


  12. Alex DXB says:

    Vivek, so true. The first thing that amazed (and delighted) me when I got here was that no one wanted to touch (push) me 🙂 This disease (pushy, queue jumpers etc.) in my opinion is the weird combination of peoples insecurities (I will miss that bus!!) and king-sized egos (All the rest are peasants) !!


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