It is with great amusement that I recall my many interactions with strangers while traveling within India. No matter what the mode of travel is, people and their mannerisms remain the same. The only difference being the way questions are put across, some grill you bluntly and some in a refined manner. Especially for a single woman like me who hops around alone quite often, the barrage of question marks are the same but I ensure that I leave them with exclamation marks!
The last time I was at the airport at the security check, a lady who was traveling in a large troupe looked at me nervously and asked "Who is with you?", unabashedly, I said.."No one, I am alone". The look on her face would have made the most confident person on earth, go underground with fear. I could sense a question data bank being generated in her mind instantly and politely excused myself leaving her to grapple with a 'How-can-a-single-woman-travel-alone?' fantasy. Seeing the number of people with her, I am sure traveling alone was a far away fantasy for her.
The story after you settle down in your seat gets more interesting / predictable / frustrating, depending on the length of the journey. Before you are married and in case you look of the 'marriageable age' the questions hover around "Why not married?" and by the end of the talk you wonder why the opposite person is not in your family who would have taken care of you the way the concern just oozes!.
The other thing that I feel frustrated about is when I hear of people who have married fellow passengers. Believe me, we have atleast half a dozen close friends who have found the 'apple of their eye' after sharing a biscuit or banana on board a train or plane. Why, I always question, why do I always get seats next to loud, cranky children who will beat hollow the best sound proof ear phones or next to such old people who will depend on you for everything from exchanging seats to filling their forms and everything else possible! Not that I mind, but why no intelligent conversations atleast?
The next ofcourse is kids! I remember an old aunt telling me once "People will never ask you how much money you have or how many cars or houses you have, but everyone will ask, how many children you have!" Old wisdom, never dies out and though the questions around kids never cease my husband & I have come up with the most interesting answers over the years! No one has yet broken the record of this young soldier I met on a train though! On a simple 4 hour journey, he asked me the most embarrassing questions which my closest friends also have never asked. At the end of which he gave me a Doctor's address and the name of a herb that will 'definitely help'. Indeed I was looking for help and was ready to even take an anesthesia to escape his voice & tone that conveyed it all "If you have no children, your life is doomed!". I just wish wherever he is today, that he has a house full of children :)
More sophisticated people will ask, "So are you in the DINK (Double Income No Kids)category?". Earlier, I would agree hastily but now I cooly reply "No,in SINK!"
So while Indians are getting more sophisticated in all terms, I hope the 'Basic Manners' come back to where they belong..in basic upbringing. As for me I have stopped complaining after Rhonda Bryne boldly said in her not-so-secretive book called 'The Secret' that we attract all situations & people in life! Let me wrap up and meditate on attracting some intelligent people along side the next journey or some old people with loads of money (with no children!) who will be ready to make me their heir:)