NRI

Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

The Aggressive Indian

The Aggressive Indian

February 28, 2012

For anyone that believes we are a passive race, just visit your local Indian grocery store.

Indians have a strange affinity to vegetables. We have to have our share of okra and methi every week or we will turn lunatic. This is why there is always a certain sense of urgency and a lot of pushing and shoving in Indian Stores. In any other outlet, the same bunch of folks would appear well mannered, gracious and disciplined. But being under the roof of a certain grocery store brings an amazing transformations within them. The smiles disappear, the congeniality vanishes and they appear like F1 race car drivers on a mission.

In the city I live in, there are two Indian grocery stores. One is a little crammed for space but there is a strict weekly schedule announcing the arrival of fresh vegetables. The other store is spacious but their stock is not always fresh. No points on guessing which one would be more crowded. This crammed store is the host of many queer personalities.

As soon as you enter, there is a place reserved for carts. You will always find this place empty because the carts are discarded at will. Nobody has the patience or graciousness to return the carts to the designated spots because frankly, their shopping is done. So the carts are littered along the aisles and near the cash counters. If you do not watch out, you would be freewheeling in one of them and end up crash landing in the frozen section. To be fair, even in some of the other grocery stores, where there are designated spots to return your carts, most of them are either parked gingerly to the sides of the car or left dangerously near the medians. Where is the joy in returning the carts to the spots anyway?

Indians buy okra by testing its tenderness. We break the ends to see if the vegetable is fresh. This takes time. So forget the okra, even as you pull a cover to bag the coriander, a hand would creep up from behind and beat you to the bunch. You think it is rude, but then you are naïve. Who has the patience to stand behind you in line for two seconds until you pick the fresh bunch? Besides this is an accepted shopping practice in India. Just because we live abroad and learn to stand in line to use the restroom we will not adhere to this under the roof of our own Indian Store. We are here and hence we are entitled to interrupt your shopping trance by barging and shoving you to bag the fresh stalk of vegetables.

If you want to get a taste of how New Jersey and California are densely populated with Indians, visit the Indian store on weekends. Here you will find a separate breed of Indians. They will park the cart in the long winding queue and then go around shopping for essentials. Even if it is not explicitly stated, you are responsible for moving your cart and theirs as per Indian queue principles. Sometimes you will find yourself in charge of a toddler seated and staring at you. Duh? You are supposed to keep them entertained. Even in a city like ours where the queue is not as winding like a snake, people will still place their carts in line and go around shopping. If you sidestep them, you will be abused in certain dialects you did not even know existed in the Indian sub-continent.

Also I have learnt to pay close attention to what the cashier is billing me for. The cashier himself is a sweet old man, but he is constantly interrupted with questions about a packet of kawan’s rotis or fresh paneer. Instead of charging me $0.90 for a bunch of green chillies, he will charge me $5.00 for a packet of paneer. If I do not watch closely, I could very well be paying for the paneer that I will not relish later in the week. While we are busy teaching our kids not to interrupt us when we talk, we will not extend this to the rest of the world because we are in a hurry. Amidst all this, the sinister looking lady, who has paid her bill before me, will stealthily slip the $1.00 curry leaf packet in her shopping bag. If the cashier is further distracted, she will have the guts to quietly snuggle the bag of onions. Sometimes I wonder if they are a gang of thieves aiming to con the cashier but I would never know.

Finally after all the melodrama, you tuck away the bags in your trunk and pull out of the parking lot. The tamasha doesn’t end yet. You will be stuck between a car backing up and another which has landed itself squarely in front refusing to move. While in malls, we indicate the designated spot for parking and wait patiently for the car to ease out. In Indian stores, we will blatantly shun all conventional traffic rules and prod forward aggressively. It is indeed quite fair for everybody else to make way for you. (This is true even in the parking spaces of Indian restaurants.)

While it is amusing to see the aggressive Indian emerge in his natural and accustomed habitat, it is sometimes annoying and frustrating. We move to foreign lands not just to improve our lifestyle but to augment our perspectives as well. Travel is supposed to strengthen our etiquette and make us more cognizant of our surroundings. But if we refuse to shed our uncouth behavior, we also bring down the image of our country. Because when you live outside of India, you represent the nation and India has much more to offer than just the aggressive Indian.

Photo credit: pamudjiphotography.com 

31 Comments

  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    26.05.12 09:36 PM
    @RL,

    Well there is no way you could stop people staring at you. Refuse to notice, refuse to take offence and decide to look the other way you have the all the answers with you. You will be a happier person.

    I have gone through all this. If someone stares at me I think there is something in me to be admired. Being in strange places under strange circumstances I have managed to walk up to strange people using the lamest of excuses to start up a conversation to put them at ease even if they at first stared at me.

    It’s you and you alone could make the difference in the way you see things. I have a friend who wears tinted glasses because of his weak eyes. Without knowing his problem another man whom we met at a cafe in an autumn afternoon questioned him why he wore dark glasses when there was no sunshine at all?

    Well I butted in to save my friend going the harangue of giving an adequate explanation and said “Oh! That is because he is a very optimistic guy who thinks the sun might show up any moment. This guy laughed and we had all the time explaining why my friend was doing what he was.
  • RL
    By
    RL
    26.05.12 08:04 PM
    I totally agree that no one has the right to look down on any one. Unfortunately many non-Indians do judge and view Indians negatively because some Indians behave in "aggressive" ways like the author of the article mentioned. It is not fair to stereotype but sadly people stereotype other people everywhere. Also, sometimes there are just cultural differences that I think some Indians are unaware of when they migrate to America. For example, in my previous comment I mentioned that it is considered rude to stare in the US but from my understanding that is normal in India. So when an American sees an Indian staring they assume that the Indian is being intentionally rude.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    26.05.12 09:56 AM
    @Neeraj,

    You are right, no one has the right to look down on any one. Would it not be the normal way all noble people could think and act?

    Yet unfortunately there are plenty of people born abnormal who make it their right to look down on others.
  • Neeraj
    By
    Neeraj
    24.05.12 06:47 PM
    @Alka, nobody has the right to "look down" on anybody.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    23.05.12 08:49 PM
    @RL,

    Keep laughing no matter what they say. I have often confronted such people and you won't believe that some of them are good friends of mine today. I showed every one of them they can't hurt me by insulting me.

    They are weak in their education, and weak in their mentality and suffer from a complex. Thank God some no one has not punched them so far.

    Being a foreigner in some areas in Germany could be worse and I have walked through those places with a smile.

    Send them on a holiday to Germany and they would learn to piss before they could get to a toilet.

    Learn to laugh and fast it could be fun.
  • RL
    By
    RL
    23.05.12 06:53 PM
    Laughing would be an interesting response. I just ignore it or if the comments are really obvious I loudly say "it is so rude when people talk about goras in their presence." That shuts them up! Honestly this treatment over many years has led me to think that the majority of Indians are extremely ethnocentric and sometimes racist. I know I should not care but I can't believe sometimes how I am treated by Indians in my own country! I am concerned how this is going to affect my children when they are old enough to comprehend the bad behavior. I will have to learn to start laughing!
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    23.05.12 06:44 PM
    @RL,

    There are Indians who never learn. If it happens to me I would burst in to a fit of laughter that would make them ask me why.

    Then tell them "if I tell you why you might feel insulted".
  • RL
    By
    RL
    23.05.12 06:23 PM
    I do expect that kind of behavior in India but actually I was referring to staring and mean comments by Indians in the US. Do desis really not know that that type of behavior is rude even after they have lived in the US for a long time?
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    23.05.12 06:17 PM
    @RL

    The Indians you met in the store have never lived in the US or any wher else out India. What all you have experienced in India is all normal Indian behaviour.

    The more you learn to ignore the happier you will you will become. The Hindu god does not discriminate people people based on their skin color. Buzz word just ignore don't take those comments personally. They are the scum of the Indian society.
  • RL
    By
    RL
    23.05.12 11:34 AM
    I am a white American woman married to an Indian man and we have two children. Every time we visit an Indian store or neighborhood we become the monkeys in a zoo. Someone please tell me, are Indians who have lived in the US for years unaware that it is rude to stare and make comments in this country? (Yes, I am capable of understanding the meaning of gora and about a 1000 other words in Hindi.) And that it is rude to tell your husband who dared to bring his white wife to a Hindu temple that "he should be ashamed of himself"? Oh, I had an Indian aunty reach behind me for okra at an Indian food shop too and then she asked me how I found the store!
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    29.02.12 08:40 PM
    Correction

    @ Dee

    Ok! All Indians are born sweet guys but become aggressive due extreme life's circumstances and due to over population and get easily provoked. Only 100 out 1 Billion Indians are aggressive.

    I hope this satisfies your something?
  • sandy
    By
    sandy
    29.02.12 08:05 PM
    took us two centuries to fight for democracy but yeah we do know how to fight for our right to bhindi and methi.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    29.02.12 02:10 PM
    @ Ok! all Indians are born sweet guys but become aggressive due extreme circumstances in life due over population and get easily provoked. 100 out 1 Billion Indians are aggressive.

    I hope this satisfies you something?
  • Dee..
    By
    Dee..
    29.02.12 01:46 PM
    @raj:) hehe...
    say that pot is just like the size of universe and the drop of poison is just like the size of an ant :D

    come on yaar.... Comparison depends on the things you compare, how can you label 1 crore people as heartless for just 100 people ?
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    29.02.12 12:34 PM
    @Dee
    "Just like judging a basket full of fruits with one rotten one.."

    What about comparing one drop of poison in a large pot of milk?

    Rajpriya
  • rads
    By
    rads
    29.02.12 02:15 AM
    LOL we have one such Indian street called Devon in Chicago, as far as I know its huger compared to Indian markets anywhere in the US and like you said the whole street has no traffic rules at all, its like being in India. The pushing and shoving is just unavoidable sometimes.
  • Dee..
    By
    Dee..
    29.02.12 12:55 AM
    @Rajpriya: yeah, that was a SAD incident..
    But let me tell you, how can you judge all those who visit that place are heartless ?
    if i were there i would have done the same you did...
    It is hard to associate people from specific place with their traits...
    Just like judging a basket full of fruits with one rotten one..
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    28.02.12 11:33 PM
    I can't comment on whether this is an exaggeration of what takes place in Indian grocery stores in the US. However, in the UK I have witnessed much the same and worse, although not necessarily in stores. Weddings seem to bring out the worst in people. When food is served it's like pigs at a trough. Funnily enough I have found women to be far worse than the men. I have lost count the number of times I have been been elbowed or had my foot crushed by an overweight aunty in her rush to stuff her face. It's not like she really needed another meal. Even in a gurudwara - a spiritual place of worship - I have witnessed people behave in the most appalling way.

    I thought this was mainly a trait of punjabi people. At the risk of opening a real can of worms I would be interested to hear very frank views on whether some groups are worse than others. Taking heavy traffic as an example, all the big metros suffer from overcongested roads. But I notice a completely different attitude to drivers in Delhi compared to somewhere like Kolkata, where road users on the whole seem to be a lot more civilised and patient.

    btw there was a brilliant post published here on a similar theme, and that too from a non Indian. It's interesting to read an outsider's perspective.

    http://www.the-nri.com/index.php/2010/11/the-competitive-indian/
  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    28.02.12 10:54 PM
    @ Meera,
    Interesting observation, loved the sarcasm too :-) I can vouch for a fact that it really isn't as bad as 'push and shove' in London. Indians are mostly quite calm and patient here, or maybe I've only seen the tip of the ice-berg :-) Anyway, enjoyed reading your post.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    28.02.12 10:20 PM
    @Dee

    @RAJ PRIYA: CHENNAI, that’s the place where i live and living I have been to EA quite a times, i don’t find anything odd…"
    ===================================
    Ok let me tell you I was there last Dec at EA Aven. I was at KFC at the front of one of the many queues. Behind me a whole lot young men and women. An old man walking with the aid of a walking stick and his hardly able to walk wife came by and wanted get ahead of the queue because of their disability.

    None of the young crowd wanted to know anything and refused to allow them go forward. My wife and I were right in front. I saw this attitude of the young people and we decided to give up our place to let the old couple and went to the back end of the queue to start all over again. I must be a bad Indian?

    That's my first hand experience.

    Rajpriya
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    28.02.12 10:02 PM
    @Meera
    "It just appears as if the delay in one second means a week’s supply of okra gone.."

    Oh! No I did not say that. They get their supplies only once a week. If you are working the whole week you may not get any fresh vegetable at the week end.

    You are welcome to London and may be Harry takes you to his favorite Indian Grocery shop unless you are in London April when I will be there with my Son, Daughter in law and grand daughter Aysh. To speak to Aysh you may have to learn German.

    Have a great day

    Rajpriya
  • Meera
    By
    Meera
    28.02.12 09:35 PM
    Let me start by saying that these are not flagrant remarks but mere observations. It is amusing how people are well behaved in certain times and appear hurried and aggressive at certain other times.Like children, in their comfort zones, they would display the worst behaviour but at other spots they would appear well mannered and poster kids.
    @RajPriya: I need to visit London.. It just appears as if the delay in one second means a week's supply of okra gone..
    @Dee: Thanks for the compliment. I don't think we can associate aggressiveness to one nationality, am sure Americans get aggressive in their wedding shopping and French are aggressive around lunch times...
    @Veby: We just conveniently forget to be courteous
    @Roy: I insist that you visit India cash & carry in CA during weekends.
    @Vivek Iyer: Am sure it would be worse in Singapore.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    28.02.12 09:29 PM
    @ Meera

    You hit the nail on the head. :) I have been to New Jersey USA and also Florida twice, and one thing I found was that, we Indians will never change, even if you put us on moon. :)

    I live in UK and we are no different from yanks. Like I said Indian every where are same, when it comes to grocery shopping.

    In reality it's nothing to do with grocery shopping or stuff running out, but it's to do with our whole mentality and psychology.

    This is not our fault, because we as people who have been made to wait lot longer in India to get the services that we want, therefore we have become rude and aggressive in protest. when ever we get exposed to the same culture and environment again we become like this again subconsciously. Like you said that we are very civil every where else, but as soon as we go in the Indian domain, we loose our politeness, and become aggressive, and grocery store and the Indian restaurants are the only Indian domain left in USA and UK. That's only reason why we behave that way there, but no where else. This is bit like HULK when he gets exposed to anger.

    One thing an individual can not change is it's true nature, no matter where ever they live. This also applies to whole human race not just Indians.

    HARRY
  • Dee..
    By
    Dee..
    28.02.12 08:05 PM
    @RAJ PRIYA: CHENNAI, that's the place where i live and living :D
    I have been to EA quite a times, i don't find anything odd...

    Everyone has every TRAIT... there is nothing called exclusive trait to any nationality... this is my POV, i don't expect any others to abide it :)
  • Vivek Iyer
    By
    Vivek Iyer
    28.02.12 06:53 PM
    Well written indeed!

    Brought up in Kenya, I haven't faced such grocery store fiascos to the slightest. However, I'd agree with you in a general comparison of certain Indian-ised areas such as the famous Little India in Singapore, where the entire atmosphere, traffic patterns, aesthetics, and general look and feel, with the urgency and aggressiveness will closely resemble a Mylapore or Bandra!

    That said, the "pushing and shoving" in foreign Indian stores I think, is exaggeration!
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    28.02.12 12:33 PM
    Bullshit imagination but good writing. You better write a declaration in begning 'anything I write no relation to a person or community living or dead' coz I don't think these traits has any relation with Indian. I live in uae and I have never seen this kind of behaviour.
  • veby
    By
    veby
    28.02.12 12:23 PM
    Aggressiveness is our latest craze today in or outside India !!! From suppose-to-be courteous group discussions to wait-you-are-in-a-row, we don't forget to reveal our highly explosive aggressiveness!! And I think the whole world realize it so why don't keep it continue!! Somehow it is changing our so-far image as Budha's silent monks who are still looking for some good clients to sell their hi-tech safaris!!
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    28.02.12 12:14 PM
    @Dee

    "I have a doubt, aggressiveness is associated with any nationality ? or is that an exclusive trait of any nationality…"

    Travel to Chennai. Go to Spencer plaza or Express Avenue food courts around 1pm. Observe for 30 mins and you would know if aggressiveness is an exclusive trait of Indians or not and report back on NRI.

    Rajpriya
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    28.02.12 11:49 AM
    @Meera

    Great and excellently described realities of a rare mentality. Well in Germany the Indian grocery store in our area is run by a Sri Lankan family. I have this addiction to Okra and Methi too.

    Oh! Breaking the tail end of the Okra to find its tenderness? I learnt this trick in my childhood days from my mummy. What great way to get your money’s worth. Nevertheless the art of doing it unnoticed by the shop owner is a talent exclusive to us Indians. “Owe We Unto You” if you are caught by the shop owner.

    First they had their sales at the back of their house in a residential area but moved to the city into a neatly kept spacious store. There aren’t many Indians in our area so I rarely get to taste the Indian agressiveism. (A new word for Webster) I order by telephone my weekly requirements knowing this family for 30 years.

    Having said that, it’s a whole new experience in Indian grocery stores across London. They are well and truly cramped up with no room for two to pass each other leave alone room for shopping trolleys and worse you sweat in winter inside those shops. Rest of it goes exactly like your description in the weekends in London: cars parked at will, ageing vegetables stored out side on the pavements at buy one get three prices.

    Once an old Indian lady said something in an Indian language to me in one of those stores in North London. When I said I beg your pardon I did not understand what you said? She said Wh (o) t? You live in London and you don’t understand Gujarati? Aggressive Indian? With my head sunk in shame. I was speechless.

    Well Done.
  • Dee..
    By
    Dee..
    28.02.12 10:35 AM
    I enjoyed your articles...
    good write up !
    I have a doubt, aggressiveness is associated with any nationality ? or is that an exclusive trait of any nationality...

    i agree with your later part... when we live outside our country we always represent OUR whole unit...
  • Alka
    By
    Alka
    28.02.12 09:47 AM
    You are SO right...and then we complain when people look down at us.

Leave a comment