I am Indian – do not try to teach me a lesson

December 24, 2006

“Indians thrive on disorder; it will take two to three generations to change their behavior.” Anil Shah

Scene: The entrance/exit/linen closet/sink/toilet area of the A1 (2nd class Air-Conditioned (AC)) bogie of the Azad Hind Express, traveling from Pune Junction to Howrah, Calcutta.

Linen Closet

Y and M, along with countless others, are traveling without a ticket. R, an engineer with the Indian Air Force, who along with three other friends, is also traveling without a ticket, helps Y and M negotiate with one of two bedding attendants in the bogie to let them have the linen closet and fold-down platform where the attendants normally sleep.

View from Linen Closet

The linen closet and fold-down platform face the two toilets on the bogie, as well as the two toilets in the 3rd class AC bogie. All evening and night, all of the next day and night, and the morning after that, Y and M watch people going to the bathroom; washing their hands, mouths, dishes, cutlery at the sink; combing their hair; spitting on the floor; and throwing trash in the small bin under the sink, out of the train doors, through the gaps in the plates connecting the bogies, and on the floor of the train.

Sign in Toilet

Y is incredulous at the number of people, including one of the conductors, who go to the bathroom while the train is stopped at a station. Y notices that sometimes, people who are not riding the train will board at a station to use the toilet.

Garbage Disposal on the Azad Hind Express

M is the first one to notice that the caterers throw all the paper, plastic, and aluminum from the breakfasts, lunches and dinners that they serve through the gap between the bogies, onto the train tracks.

M and Y stop several people from throwing garbage onto the tracks, but are not able to stop most of the others, whose action is practiced and very fast – a flick of the wrist.

There is one man, A, who is particularly objectionable because he is pointedly callous – smoking right in front of us, flicking lit cigarette butts out the train door, and leaving the toilet door and train door (which he opens when he smokes) open because M asked him the first time he came out to smoke to smoke in the next bogie.

With six hours left in the journey, the train four hours late, A, who seems to be getting more and more belligerent, urinates without entering the toilet, with most of his body in the hallway, right in front of Y and M. The ultimate insult? Show of disdain? A does not flush (has never flushed), or shut the door. He zips up in full view of Y.

M: “Excuse me, can you shut the toilet door?”

A sets his face and ignores M. Another man enters the toilet and latches the door from the inside. A is blocking M’s view, so M does not see the other man enter the toilet.

M: “Shut the door!”

A: “There is someone in there!”

M: “You have never once shut the door after going to the toilet!”

A: “You are traveling unauthorized. Did you know that?”

M: “I know now.” “So sue me.”

A: “Why would I want to do that?” “You are my guest.”

M: “I am not your guest.”

A: “You are my guest. You are a foreigner; I am an Indian. You are my guest.”

M: “Do you know that smoking is not allowed on the train?”

A: “You cannot fine me.”

M: “I just wanted to make sure we both knew that you were doing something unauthorized.”

A: You are traveling unauthorized. I could throw you off this train.”

M: “I’d like to see that.”

A: “You are a foreigner. I am Indian – do not try to teach me a lesson.”

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1 Response to “I am Indian – do not try to teach me a lesson”


  1. 1 Jean January 7, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    I am speechless!! Guys…


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