On Standing in Line in India

The title above is misleading. No one stands in line in India.

If you are the first at a counter and wait politely to let the dealing clerk finish whatever he is doing before you make your request, chances are that the next person in will walk up right to the counter and in an authoritative voice tell him, “Give me two tickets to Ambala..” or whatever and be served first. The person behind the counter will shift to look at him and in Pavlovian response hand him whatever he wants. You look helplessly on or mutter something like “I was here first.” to no effect whatsoever.

There are variations on this theme. Ten people are waiting in line, I speak figuratively. The eleventh walks right up ignoring the ten. When you say, “Yahaan line hai”, he gives a start, says, “Sorry, nahin dekha.”

Back to the line. You are No 1. No 2 walks up, stands at the counter to your right. No 3 walks up and squeezes in on your left. No 4 stands behind No 3. Latecomer No 5 stands behind No 4, seeing that there’s already a queue. You who came first are now out of the queue and the latecomers look daggers at you.
“Pata nahin kahan kahaan se aa jaathe hain. Oye mister, dehkthe nahin yahaan line hai.” While you were engrossed in watching the queue develop on your left, No 2 has already got his work done and left.

Well has some geometer said “There are no straight lines in nature. Queues are unnatural and prohibited as such by Macaulay’s Indian Penal Code. Indeed the Supreme Court has even ruled on this. So you might as well lump it.

Another problem with standing in line here is the casual way people stand right up against you rubbing various body parts against you without invitation. The concept of personal space does not exist in India. People bang into each other, push each other etc. without thinking too much about it. And in a queue, the closer you are to the person in front without actually being in his trousers, the better. India is a crowded place after all.

I usually maintain about a foot from the chappie in front and add another if it’s a lady. I cannot afford Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers. So what do you do if someone persists in pushing his frontal parts into your rear?

A friend of mine told me that that while standing in line in Mumbai to board a flight, the person behind kept on rubbing up against him. So after a few such moments, he turned around and addressed the offender. “Hi, since we’ve already become so intimate, it’s only fair that we introduce ourselves. I’m ….. And you are…?”

I did something similar the other day. Boarding a flight the other day and being squeezed between a couple of people out of line, I said very loudly, “Don’t push.”
The person behind got upset. “Who do you think you are?”, he asked.
“I’m Group Capt Sukumaran, Indian Air Force retired, and I don’t care who you are.” 
And with that I stomped up the stairs leaving him presumably stumped.

But I’ve now thought up a new one to handle persistent rearpushers. This will be in Shuddh Hindi.
“Main samlaingikon ki bahut khadr kartha hoon. Kya aap samlaingik ho? Afsos, main nahin hoon. Isliye thoda door rahiye.”

Just to clarify. I am all for gay rights. I don’t have the time to attend court sessions in case of a suit.