During my visit to India in 2012, I traveled from Thiruanathapuram to Kollam in Kerala on the State Transport bus. The ticket was for Rs 9 and I handed over a Rs 10 currency note to the conductor. I requested the conductor to drop me off at a particular stop and when the bus reached my stop, the conductor stopped the bus and nodded me to get off. I went to the conductor and he put his hand into to his bag, may be to return Re 1 which he owed me. I said “Thank You” for his service of dropping me off at the correct stop. The driver gave a flabbergasted look – Is it that he never expected someone to thank him for a such service?
After landing in Canada, one day I asked our son to make me a cup of coffee, which he did immediately. He brought it to my table and I took a sip, continuing to read the book I was immersed in. Our son waited for a few seconds and said “Welcome”. It really knocked me down. Then our son said – “What does it cost you to say THANK YOU?”.
I learnt this value from the Canadian society, as they always express their gratitude for any little service or help one does for someone else, even if it may not be from the bottom of one’s heart. Canadians are well known for their courteous behaviour. Modern Canadian children are usually permitted to be relatively outspoken and independent from a young age. They may speak to adults, even teachers or parents, in the same casual style they use for friends. The same is mostly true for employer-employee relations, and maintaining a friendly workplace where everyone acts as if they are on the same level.
I for one hardly ever thanked anyone during my days working in India; mainly subordinates for any help they rendered. I hardly appreciated anyone for any work done by them. We are very poor at appreciating our children and subordinates – may be thinking that it will spoil them. It does not cost anything; but may make a day for the person who gets appreciated. Everyone wants to be appreciated.
When our son graduated from Grade 8 (Middle School, they have a graduation ceremony – to instill in the students that they are going to High School next and got to be more serious about it and that the fun time is over. He was the valedictorian and after he gave his valedictory address all the “Canadian” parents stood up and gave a standing ovation and all parents from our sub-continent kept slitting. We even ration appreciation for a small kid.
This ‘rationing’ approach to appreciation for our children, I feel has come from the society back home. Recently my wife confessed that she realised how incorrect she was in bringing up our daughter when back home; how she used to castigate our daughter for the 8% marks she lost in her test, rather than appreciating her for the 92% she scored. This may be the result of my wife’s upbringing back home that one must get 100% in all tests, whether the child has interest in that subject or the child is capable of achieving it.
Many children had to hide their interests in non-academic activities like poem writing, story writing, arts, sports etc because the parents never encouraged any distractions from their academic goals. Any inclination to a non-academic activity was severely condemned and brutally nipped in the bud. Had the parents and children followed the academic model in North America, we would have surely produced many a greats in all fields of life.
The major impediment back home is the way the marks of all tests are announced publicly in the class and to make the situation worse, the teachers tend to pass unwarranted comments along with it. This is further complicated by the boastful parents who would announce to the world as to how their child scored so high marks and what the scores of other children were. In the Canadian schools, test results are never displayed or announced and are kept confidential.
Attending the Parent-Teacher interviews used to be very scary back home as one would often hear only complaints about our wards and hardly any words of appreciation. The Parent-Teacher interviews in Canada, one experienced the opposite. It was more of a celebration of the hard work and achievement of the child and it always begun with “Your son is doing real well …”
The Canadians are stereotyped as being excessively, or even absurdly polite, even if not entirely warranted. They never miss an opportunity to appreciate or compliment while Canadians deal with one another. Mrs Lalita George, wife of Late Colonel Raju George, while on her visit to Niagara, was really taken aback when a girl at a ticket counter appreciated the hand-bag she was carrying. The girl asked her about he source and when informed that it was from India, she expressed her dream of visiting India after her graduation.
On receiving the progress report of our son, I (may be because of my upbringing back home), enquired from my son as to how others in their class had performed. He said that it was indecent to ask others in the class what their grades were and in case I had to see the class performance, the mean and median for each subject is given in the report card. That was when I realized the application of those statistical terms we were taught in school.
Every year for Christmas, I fly to India to spend a few days with my mother. On arrival in India, the first person one mostly deals with is the Immigration authority at the counter. Almost all the countries I have been, these immigration authorities are mostly pleasant and very courteous. The interaction with them generally culminates with “Welcome to (their country)”. Anyone who has ever passed through the Indian Immigration counters will always have the opposite story to narrate. I often felt that the Ministry of External Affairs has imparted special training to all those who man the immigration counters, to be putting up with such morose faces and least courteous conversation. The final look they give you while returning the documents almost conveys ‘Why the hell are you back?’
So please think it over and make small efforts at your level – it may make a difference to someone and it does not cost you anything.