When saying ‘sorry’ isn’t good enough

  • Neela Sood, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 29, 2014 14:59 IST

The Shatabdi Express was rolling into the Chandigarh railway station and passengers had already begun crowding at the exit doors of coaches a good ten minutes before the train’s expected arrival time. In a country where impatience has come to be seen as almost as a virtue, a young boy came up from behind saying, “Excuse me, excuse me,” and forced his way across the aisle, disturbing those sitting on the side seats. He got down even before those who were already at the exit, in the process hurting an elderly woman with his heavy suitcase. Seeing her in pain, he showed his face through the window, muttered “sorry” and then vanished. In my opinion this is simply a farce and has little meaning.

It is a fact that the word “sorry” for most of us has become a premise on a simple stratagem: the indication of repentance for the sake of form, of saying sorry perfunctorily and because it is the done thing. Saying sorry is admitting culpability rather than owing responsibility. The expression loses its effect if it is not followed by concrete action to make amends. One may do so emotionally, financially or psychologically — it all depends on the situation. Saying “sorry” then hardly matters.

I remember I was once travelling from Delhi to Ambala by the intercity train in a second class coach. At Kurukshetra station a rural woman with three small kids joined us. To get some relief from them, she took out her lunch box that opened accidentally, the food scattering over the bags of co-passengers.

None of us felt offended as we understood the situation. But, after about ten minutes, we noticed she had begun to clean some of the bags with a wet sponge cloth. In this instance do you think she needed to say “sorry”? After all, actions speak louder than words.

We all teach our children to become successful and learn good manners, but it is equally important to teach them to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, without which most of our accomplishments will sound hollow.

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