"Our apartment price starts at 90 lakhs; would you be able to afford that?",asks a scurrilous sales-agent to one of my friends who 'dared' to ask him about the residential project details.
"Make up your mind if you want to buy half-sleeves or full!", asks bluntly a very disinterested, impatient and rude salesman when I asked him to open a few shirt pieces so that I can compare both before buying. This happened in a leading Menswear store in Trivandrum a couple of years back.
"It will be easier for you to pay the EMI. Also the Insurance will cover your repayments even if you default", the answer given to me by my previous Bank Manager on questioning about some radical, uninformed changes to my home loan agreement. I had requested for a loan term of 10 years (which was increased to 15) and had an surprise 1.5 lakh addendum in the name of a policy (which I hadn't asked for or previously discussed with me).
"Listen, it can only be that much cold, this is not Himalayam", utters a sarcastic fruit juice vendor in Kumarakam when we complained about the Soda being room temperature. We were on a pleasure trip from college and had specifically requested for 'chilled' lemon-soda.
"If you don't know where Lissie Hospital is then don't travel", the response given to a nun by a KSRTC conductor when she asked if the bus had a halt near Lissie Hospital, Cochin. The conductor's initial response was an abrupt "Dont know!!" in the face of the reverent lady, and received the above response when she said she was asking because she didn't know where the hospital was. The incident happened in Trichur.
"We don't have Woodland but have Parkland and Bootland", says a shopkeeper in Trivandrum when asked if he had Woodland shoes in stock.
Agreed, the last one is an outrageous comedy! It happened in mid 2000s when yours truly and pals were on a shoe-hunt. The poor guy wasn't ignorant but surely didn't know what he was saying. The incident attained epic proportions, produced instantly enjoyable variants and still lightens our moments everytime we get together. Sad, that shop wasn't there in Pulimoodu when I checked this summer :(
The above scripted half-a-dozen instances are real-life, all-too-common occurrences if you're a customer. Ok, the KSRTC conductor personifies a typical government employee who infests on the helpless common public. The term 'public servant' is a terrible misnomer; perhaps 'public dictator/tyrant' would be a good replacement word for Indian babus. Let's not talk about them more.
But seriously, what the heck is wrong with the folks in some of our business establishments? Why is there an overwhelming and persistent unwelcome feeling? Not everywhere, but I bet all of us have been subjected to such acrimonious conducts as customers on a not-so-rare basis. I don't know, perhaps they all hate their bosses or had a tiff with their wives or may be constipated.
The guy in the first story anyway succeeded in his mission. The builder, who apparently sold (or wanted to sell) his apartments from 90 lakhs up has gone bust. My friend, who enquired about it and got laughed at can consider himself very lucky, I must say. Perhaps his modest looks and unorthodox way of enquiry may have prompted the sales dude to laugh him off but is that the way a sales guy is supposed to talk? No, you needn't be an IIM graduate to learn basic manners and politeness.
Same goes with the shirt-tale. I felt many times I was doing a great injustice and unfavour to some people by walking into their shops. The first eye contact itself sends me a "why the heck have you come here now" signal. And the salesman in the 'shirt-story' was in so much hurry that he appeared to be on the verge of a climax after a very long, exhaustive masturbatory effort when I interrupted him. No other reason why he wanted to piss me off and go back to firing blanks.
Lack of education? May be. Attitude? hmmm yes. Ignorance? More like it! But what about the Bank Manager who should be more than well-qualified for the high-profile job? She didn't have the courtesy to ask me before adding on an extra heavy component to my loan and committed the serious injustice of extending my loan tenure at her will. All these alterations were done at the last moment just before I put the pen to paper!
Now this is arrogance, or plain ignorance. She is in no way better than the Bus conductor who treated that nun like shite.
Keralites are not well known entrepreneurship, except in certain pockets. May be the political and social climate of the state may have created that psyche but the 'I don't care' attitude is everywhere to be seen. With Kerala relying heavily on tourism, we've acquired the ways to respect and treat our guests with dignity, but we still got a long way to go.
Be it the notoriously slack Air India employees, the head clerk at the village office, the official at the Embassy and Consulates, the imbecilic boy who asks for your credit-card pin at the filling station, or the condescending militant labour unions who rip apart house-owners and business men like predators, it all points out to what the great man once told "Education means change in behaviour; he who doesn't exhibit a change in behaviour isn't educated."
Couldn't we easily estimate the virtues of education in some of the blissfully indifferent friends we see around us?
in the Immigration Officer at the Airport who throws the Passports and documents at your face and treats passengers like criminals...
in the petty rickshaw-walla who gives you the dirty look or act deaf when requesting a ride to a nearby point, or the ones who are out for daylight robbery...
in the receptionist at the hotel who doesn't bother to greet or smile at the guests...
in the supermarket girl who says "I don't know", instead of finding out where the item the customer has requested is placed...
The fact is that these ignorant little fools constitute only a minor fraction of our society but that's more than enough to leave a very sour taste in the mouth.
May you be selling a lemon-soda, a plastic toy, a candy, lettuce, cheese-burger, i-pod, a duplex or your state's natural beauty, before opening our doors to welcome our guests some of us are forgetting perhaps the most important lesson of all.
Smile please :=)