Life's Like That

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Inconsiderate Great Indian Junta

We went to watch a play yesterday. Waiting for Godot featuring Naseeruddin Shah, Benjamin Gilani, Randeep Hooda. Considered one of the most significant plays of the 20th century, it was certainly not entertainment remotely suitable for children, leave alone babies. The fact that it was a play, with actors performing live, makes it all the more important that there be no distractions/disturbances from the audience. Yet just as the lights dimmed, and the play started, a baby started wailing from somewhere behind us. For a split second I thought perhaps it was part of the play. Surely noone would be idiotic enough to bring a BABY to a play! But as it turns out, there are such amazing parents around. Thankfully they were ushered out immediately. The tickets clearly state that no children below the age of 8 will be allowed inside. Yet not only did these people decide to bring what looked like a 3 month old baby to the play, the organizers, who checked the tickets at the entrance, and could not have missed seeing the baby, allowed them to go inside anyways. With such display of stupidity and utter disregard of basic courtesy towards other people including the actors on stage, I only wish certain places would be declared child free.

I know I'm probably courting controversy by writing this, somehow to say that you dont want someones baby wailing through a theatre performance or someones child bonking you on the head as you try to eat your dinner at an expensive restaurant, amounts to you being a child hater, and that is completely unacceptable in this country. Especially if you are a woman. Im not a child hater. I like children as much as the next person and I positively adore small babies. Not in a play though. And not in a movie theatre. And not in a certain kind of restaurant. I have no problems with them on flights and trains...the parents do need to travel. I do however have a problem with inconsiderate parents. Sometime back, travelling back from Chennai on a train there was a 2-3 year old kid in the same compartment. As people started to go down for the night,switching off lights etc, this kid started crying. This was at around 10 p.m. The parents tried to shush her. She only got more hysterical. This continued till 11 p.m., when almost everyone was in their berths, clearly trying hard to sleep. The kid screeched and wailed louder with every passing second. Im not a parent, but it seems to me,that if your child has been screaming murder for more than an hour, you take the child somewhere else, with some fresh air and possibly more distractions, to calm her down. Walking up and down also helps sometimes as I have noticed in my limited experience. You don't just sit in a darkened compartment and shush the kid listlessly. Especially if you are in a public space with people trying to sleep. Especially when, unlike a plane, you have the option of taking the kid outside near the loos where the lights are on and there is fresh air and a door to prevent her screams from reaching the others. But that would probably be expecting a tad too much consideration from some people. After all, its a child. In India, you cannot object to anything a child does, even if it has been kicking you continuously from behind as you try to watch a movie. A child's kicking has to be forgiven and smiled indulgently at.

But then why just parents? We seem to be a nation of inconsiderate people. Last night as the play progressed, 2 people walked onto the stage, disturbing the actors who stared at them dumbfounded. They were upset about people who had parked their cars outside their garages and gates and chose to disrupt the play, walking onto the stage mid performance, to announce the car numbers and threaten to call the cops. Naseeruddin Shah exploded...and justifiably so..and stormed off stage followed by the rest of the cast. We sat shell shocked, not believing this was actually happening. Anyone who lives in Bangalore, knows Chowdiah Memorial Hall and knows that parking can be a problem. Of late, the organizers facilitate parking on this open area behind the hall. However getting the cars out of there after the performance is over can be a time consuming affair. Therefore, some people choose to park their cars in the narrow lanes around the theatre blocking the lanes, and evidently, blocking people's gates as well. These are educated, so called "cultured" people mind you. Driving the biggest and the best cars. The home owners are no philistines themselves. To own a home in that area you can't afford to be. The two people who walked onto the stage were well dressed affluent looking people, clearly well educated as well. Yet they chose to indulge in this appalling display of disrespect to everyone in that theatre. The organisers quickly called out the car numbers so that their awesomely cultured and educated owners could go move the cars. I'm glad, to say the rest of us sitting there sarcastically applauded each car owner as they walked out.

I don't know how things are in other countries. But Indians seem incapable of basic manners and courtesy. Just drive in any Indian city (especially Bangalore! OH. MY.GOD!!) and you will be left with no illusions about the courtesy offered by people around. In the absence of the manners chip in our collective brains, perhaps stringent rules would not be a bad idea. Child free zones, impounding cars parked in no parking zones, parking in a way that obstructs other vehicles from moving freely, immediate heavy fines for jumping lanes, heavier fines for jumping signals, maybe even suspension of licenses, immediate expulsion from movies or theatres for leaving mobiles on and answering calls / texting people during the performance (this too was in evidence last evening) would be a good start in my opinion. Are the authorities listening?


  • Appalling it was - the total lack of security, management of any kind, and you forgot to mention the screeching and squeaking seats every time someone moved! Chowdiah needs an uprade, quick! But Ron, even otherwise, we're going for the next good play, aren't we? (And I promise to be "better behaved" :P)

    By Blogger Priya, at 8:52 PM  

  • Soooo loved ur blog!!!! i am gonna post this on Fb

    By Blogger saina, at 10:27 PM  

  • Aaaaargh! There is no end to unculteredness even in the heart of cultured places. As for traffic--Delhi is notorious, of course. And if we protest, we just might find ourselves loking down the barrel of a gun!

    By Blogger LAK, at 2:24 AM  

  • oops, I meant uncultured-ness!

    By Blogger LAK, at 2:25 AM  

  • There definitely exists a lack of social culture in the vast majority of India. In fact was witness to it just today/yesterday. Was on a 16 hour flight, with a white family + infant in front of me. Flight takes off, infant starts yowling. In 10 mins of unsuccessful tries, the mother gets up, requests the crew to help her. The crew find them a place nearer the back of the plane where they can get up and walk around easily and not disturb the people.
    Scene 2 : I change flights at Dubai. Same scene, except family is Indian. Take off, followed by yowling. The mother calls the air hostess and says following : 'Don't you have any facilities on board for children ? My child can't tolerate all this noise. Why is your place so noisy ?' And the husband beside her vigorously nodding his head going 'I dont know how you let us sit in these cramped seats when we have a baby'.
    It's entirely possible I met the good and the bad of two cultures in one day, but something tells me that such incidents involving the same types of people are not entirely unusual.

    By Blogger Soham Pablo, at 5:12 PM  

  • Before I had kids, I used to get really upset when there were howling babies on board a flight.
    After I had kids, I realised that there is very little the parents can do about it. They do need to get from place A to place B, and have no option.

    But I don't understand how and why people take kids to restaurants, and movie theaters and other places where they know the kid will only make a nucisence of himself and drive everyone crazy. What can be avoided should be avoided! But that is too much consideration to expect, isn't it?

    By Blogger Natasha, at 9:02 PM  

  • Nice blog.. was watching the play myself.. while the couple who walked on stage really shook things up, i think that was the best part of the play!:-)

    By Anonymous ashish, at 9:17 PM  

  • Ufff... All that you have mentioned here, I am sure most people would have expereinced. Kids kicking your seat (and when u ask the kid to stop doing that, parents look at u with utter disgust-- as if u did something terrible to their kid).. and uncivilized people in plays and concerts... I donno why they even take the trouble of coming all the way. Painful!

    And yes, I would always find it terribly annoying to have wailing kids on trains and flights... And now when my daughter does the same, I can soo empathize with dirty glances that people give. At least this is unavoidable... But torture kids and the audience by taking them to plays??!! I dont understand! Unacceptable.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 PM  

  • @Priya, hmmmm, I shall think about it.

    @saina :D

    @LAK: hey where have you been? This friend of mine and I were just discussing the other day, how we would probably be shot if we were driving in Delhi, given how prone to road rage fits we both are :(

    @Soham: They wanted the plane to fly quieter just so their kid could sleep!!!??

    @Rayna, I have no issues with children on trains and planes. I do realize parents have to travel. However I do have an issue with inconsiderate behaviour. In this case, that child could have been taken outside earlier.

    @Ashish, once again I thought maybe it was part of the play, and this other part of my brain went Nooooooo shes in a salwar kameez thats just wrong :P
    When it restarted and the sound of dogs barking filled the theatre, I was quite sure dogs had walked into the hall...I mean the organizers seemed to have no checks in place so why not dogs :D

    @Gauri: Like I said I understand when a kid cries on a train or a plane. They are kids after all. I dont understand why their parents have to be so damn insolent about it. See Sohams comment..thats what I mean.

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:46 PM  

  • Kids are a NO-NO at plays/ performances.. I think the organizers at Chowdiah had to be a a little more watchful at the entrance. Because unfortunately, we still have people who think it is perfectly alright to bend rules, even at the cost of causing others extreme annoyance.

    But trains, Ron, you gotta live with that. Avoid II AC - it is usually replete with couples and their babies/toddlers! he he

    By Blogger Annapoorna R Shinu, at 11:54 PM  

  • Arre I do live with kids on trains. But when the parents do absolutely nothing to help a situation like the one I described, thats when I get irritated. As for Chowdiah, like I just said, I wouldnt be surprised if after the baby and the stagecrashers, dogs had sauntered in. They seem to have no screening process.

    By Blogger Ron, at 12:02 AM  

  • are people going to hunt me down if i say i hate kids? and that's the reason i choose not to have any of my own. then why, pray tell me, do i have to tolerate yours?! especially in a plane, where i'm desperately trying to catch some shut eye before i head to 9 hours of stress? i swear i feel like slapping the parents. and apparently some airlines charge extra for kids - what for? are the parents being provided with mommy-zones or summat like that?

    sorry for venting, but i just couldn't help myself. and thanks for blogging what i keep cribbing about all the time.

    By Blogger S, at 10:52 AM  

  • so thoughtful of you to bring it up...I remember on one such performances of Ravi Shankar in Kolkata, a "gentleman's" mobile continuously rang and he answered each call with his booming voice. Needless to say, Pandit Shankar was offended and he stopped playing, but this nerd babbled on. He then grabbed the mic and requested him to turn it off. Such an insensitive nerd! Wonder why such "busy" people oblige the performers by attending the shows.

    By Blogger Amrita, at 1:51 PM  

  • Since you are no parent let me explain! A toddler can scream until he/she shuts down himself! That's called toddler tantrums. Sometimes parents just sit and stare at it because thats the only way he/she will calm down.
    But anyways your point about theatres is something I agree to. But I dont agree that restaurants are a place where children or toddlers or babies should not go to. So when will i get a chance to eat in a good restaurant. When my babies are 15?
    I disagree!
    But restaurants can provide high chairs with belts as an alternative to avoid toddlers runnning around!
    About the blog, it has been my first time here, but I like your style of writing, so will visit again. Till then keep posting!

    By Blogger Shalet, at 1:21 AM  

  • @S: ah well, the parents also have to travel, so I try to be lenient.

    @Amrita: Seriously what is wrong with people!!?

    @Foodie: No Im no parent, but in my experience, its impossible to make toddlers sit in their high chairs if they dont want to. Belting them to the high chair will probably result in full blown tantrums. As for staring at a child while its having a tantrum..Im all far it, as long as its not in a public place. In a public place, the parents should consider the other people there. Im sure there are plenty of child friendly restaurants where parents can go to, Mac Donalds, Pizza Hut etc where noone would frown on the child being a child. I, and plenty of others do however object to badly behaved children at a fine dining restaurant where Im paying good money for not just the food but the experience. To have it marred by someones child is not on. If one cant get a babysitter, then maybe opting out of taking the kid to a fine dining restaurant is a good idea.

    By Blogger Ron, at 2:13 AM  

  • I disagree still Ron, Parents and families should be able to eat good food as well not just pizza or Mc junk!! Probably there should be then restaurants where children are 'prohibited' and where children are allowed!! I live in a european city and I have been to many fine dining restaurants with my toddler and a baby, after calling and confirming that they can take them in.. So I guess there are places in the world where a family can fine dine with silverware....

    By Blogger Shalet, at 4:22 AM  

  • I have a 3 year old and while for years I travelled the globe and north america in reckless abandonment. I have to say, yes you can can control your toddler. (No hitting , no smacking involved or any forms of child abuse)
    you have to discipline them when they are young, they dont know any better. A toddler might think its a great idea to stick a steel fork in an electrical circuit, would any sane parent not correct him/her?
    As far as really young infants go, they might need to be fed,changed,rocked or distracted.
    I roll my eyes when parents say there is nothing we can do...really? Really?..then dont have about that huh?
    Desi parents especially think its ok, if a young child smacks someone or kiks someone..heck no its not...and really I just wanna smakc the parent back.
    Step up to the plate and take responsibilty for your kid.
    Regardign eating out, yes, you have a right to eat out, but why not start going out to family oriented places and then progress on up when they are toddlers and used to it to better places. Most places will give children, coloring pages etc to keep them occupied, I always carry some in my bag, some books and toys when we eat out, really folks its not rocket science its called planning, something desis are quite inept at. Just look at the condition of the roads, rivers and the country....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:19 PM  

  • Nice blog.... true that there are many of not so cultured people ... but blaming one entire community or people of entire nation is not fair is what i thought ... its just my thought :) ....

    By Blogger Venky, at 5:14 AM  

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