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.