"People of every caste, creed, language, state, religion, province and street differ on virtually every other issue, but we all converge on this one ethos: the ethos of queue-jumping," says V Raghunathan in his book.

Indians and the art of queue jumpingPTI
Features Books Sunday, August 28, 2016 - 13:43

What's in a queue, most Indians ask as they invent innovative ways of queue-jumping, says a new book on the most striking characteristic that literally binds the diverse nation.

"People of every caste, creed, language, state, religion, province and street differ on virtually every other issue, but we all converge on this one ethos: the ethos of queue-jumping," says V Raghunathan in his book “The Good Indian's Guide To Queue Jumping”, published by HarperCollins.

According to him, Westerners and Indians are as different as chalk and cheese when it comes to queuing with Western queues mostly a "lifeless, boring and linear assortment of people standing somberly as if struck by life s most extreme tragedy".

But not so with Indians.

"Our average queues are full of verve and vitality, each brain in overdrive, actively evaluating all strategies to jump the queue," he writes.

"What is more, in our queues we stand really tight, unlike the Westerners, who stand apart as if the next person may be suffering from some unmentionable contagion. That is why our queues, when they exist at all, are a solid, albeit uneven, line of people with all senses on alert, rather than the relaxed and limp lines seen in the West," he goes on to add.

"In a nation of a billion people, there is no escaping queues. We find ourselves in one every day - whether to board the flight or if we are less fortunate to fetch water from a municipal tap. We no longer wait for years for a Fiat car or a rotary-dial phone but there are still queues that may last days, like those for school admissions. And then, there are the virtual ones at call centres in which there's no knowing when we will make contact with a human," the book says.

Raghunathan says that no wonder the disregard for queues has also found its way into the very folklore of the nation via Bollywood when "Amitabh Bachchan growled in his bass voice in 'Kaalia' (1981), 'Hum jahan khade ho jaate hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hai', saying in effect I will always jump to the head of the queue: stop me if you dare."

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