The other day I was enjoying a rare sit-out in the park when a cheery voice hailed me “ Hi Aunty! How you doin'? Seen Arshiya around?” Before I could answer, my young daughter’s very young friend floored me with yet another cheeky remark.
“If you see her, tell her I am looking for her. She better call me!” — all in the same breath, with nary a ‘please’ nor a ‘thank you’ punctuating her short, matter-of-fact directive that demanded immediate compliance. “Phew!! That’s some cheek,” I fumed, even as I vowed to tick off my daughter for the ‘company’ she kept and ban her from further interaction with Smriti.
Later, in a calmer frame of mind I reasoned that perhaps Smriti had done no wrong. She was after all a child of her times and was only following what she may have observed the elders doing In an ideal situation had little Smriti worded her request more politely, something like, ‘“Excuse me Aunty, have you seen Arshiya? When you meet her will you please tell her that I am looking for her. Thank you", she would have got not just my ear but also the ‘immediate compliance’ she was seeking!
In the fast-paced, quick-fix times we live in, one may just as well ask “Manners! Who has time for it?” Wouldn’t it sound hugely ‘archaic and funny’ in the hip, hot happening world of today, where being ‘brash is cool’ and ‘being polite is sissy’! Well, not really.
There’s nothing like a polite greeting or a ‘thank you’ or a genuinely meant ‘sorry’, to help forge social bonding and open doors of opportunity. We seem to have abandoned all the good things our parents and teachers taught us.
Blame it on the times we live in, but the fact of the matter is social etiquette, charity, thoughtfulness have taken a sound beating. We fear being ridiculed and tagged as ‘quaint’ for being polite, as being ‘tough and aggro’ (aggressive) is fashionable.
And because we do not want to be left out of the pack we find it easier to go with the flow. But I take heart from what somebody said many eons ago “It is by politeness, etiquette and charity that society is saved from falling into a heap of savagery. Manners are lessons in character building, tolerance, and mutual respect.”