No flight to or from India is without incident, even if the incident isn’t necessarily traumatic for passengers. Representation pic
I was, like a lot of sane people, appalled at reports of men urinating on women during long-haul flights from Paris and New York. Experience has taught me that the wait for a lavatory while flying can sometimes be excruciating, but I couldn't understand why the men couldn't hold it in. What was harder to fathom is how their inebriation didn't allow them to urinate on male passengers. There will be inquiries and a lot of questions about how the airline's employees handled this, and what they could or should not have done, but what we should ask ourselves is whether any of us was genuinely surprised hearing about these incidents. I wasn't, because of a long-held belief that Indian men are the worst travellers on the planet.
No flight to or from India is without incident, even if the incident isn't necessarily traumatic for passengers. It begins with a casual disregard for rules and stays that way until the seatbelt sign is switched off. The reason we accept this as normal is our acceptance of bad behaviour as intrinsic to our culture. We laugh it off as a quirk, instead of identifying it as the abnormality it is, and the horror it is treated as by people from most other countries. Speak to an air hostess about the entitlement of Indian travellers, and the tales may horrify even the most jaded among you.
Consider what the father of one of those urinating delinquents said when approached by journalists for a comment. He began by proclaiming his son's innocence, then pointed out that the fault obviously lay with alcohol and exhaustion. His son had done nothing wrong and couldn't possibly be held responsible for urinating on a woman because he wasn't raised that way. How could he be responsible if an air hostess had pulled back his head and poured large quantities of whiskey down his throat? What else could a tired banker do but urinate on a fellow passenger? It boggles my mind to think about the poor women in that household, and how they must have to live on tenterhooks whenever a male member of the family is exhausted or drunk.
Also Read: In praise of nepo babies
A lot of people used these reports to blame Indian travellers for being the worst behaved on flights anywhere. I refuse to accept this, because I believe Indian women are among the best behaved people to fly with; it is only Indian men who should be screened in advance. If you don't believe me, ask any woman you know, in your family or outside, what she fears most about flying. It won't be an airline or the food it serves, the security protocols or possibility of turbulence; it will almost always be the seat next to hers. She won't be at ease until she knows whom the seat has been allocated to, and what that person is going to be like. Ten times out of ten, the person responsible for ruining any woman's trip in the air will be an Indian man seated beside, behind, or in front of her.
Naturally, this will be disputed by Indian men who don't behave badly, and there may even be quite a few of them. But, they are easily outnumbered by folk who believe airline employees are their servants, and that purchasing a ticket grants them permission to treat the airline as their fiefdom for the duration of a flight. Our inability to condemn this now entrenched behaviour is what gives us our poor reputation as international travellers.
Nothing can be done about this until we accept that we are a bunch of badly behaved clowns who need to be schooled in basic manners. Nothing will change until we accept that buffoonery and a blatant disregard of rules has nothing to do with our culture. We must acknowledge who we become when we step outside our borders: ambassadors for the people we leave behind, and learn to act accordingly.
It's easy to blame economic conditions, illiteracy, or ignorance on why so many men behave the way they do in public. The truth of the matter is we simply aren't raised right, and the father of that urinating moron epitomises everything that is wrong with many of us. These won't be the last incidents of bad behaviour to come into the public domain, but I hope more of us call it out when it happens around us. We are our own worst enemies, but also the only ones who can save us from ourselves.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira
Send your feedback to email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.