Indians must be among the rudest people on Earth and among Indians, we Bengalis must be among the worst. Some of the true blue Delhiwalla’s of course run us close, but while we may not win the IPL, or the National Football League, we stand alone in discourtesy and boorish behavior. It becomes especially evident if you live outside India. Here in Malaysia it is normal for people to talk to you courteously, queue up behind you without showing any signs of impatience as you fumble around in the ATM, and people often smile at you if your eyes meet. I cannot imagine this happening in good old Calcutta. The first people you meet in Calcutta are the Immigration officials who scrutinize your passport for ages, for reasons best known to them. In Malaysia they let me enter the country in about 20 seconds and smile while they let me through, but when I try to enter my native city, they ask at least three irrelevant questions, leaf through all the pages of my passport with excruciating slowness and then reluctantly stamp it with a suspicious air. “Couldn’t find anything wrong this time, but next time…..” seems to be the unspoken threat. Come next to the Taxi counter. This must be the only city in the world where people surlily ask you where you want to go and then tell you that there are no cabs because there is either a strike, or a Vishwakarma Puja is on, or Mamata Banerjee has had a bout of diarrhoea. If you do get the precious slip and you come out, there are legions of toughs who keep pestering you to let them pull your bag up to the taxi and then demand $ 10. In dollars, I kid you not. Only when you start the (abusive) dialogues that you learnt with the Calcutta air in your youth, do they realize that you are a kindred spirit and reluctantly release you. If you ask the Cab driver how long he thinks it will take to get to your destination, he will either pretend not to hear you or say something like: How do I know?” Talking normally is an art that Calcuttans have long lost. It is incredible how people who behave perfectly decently in foreign climes suddenly change their character as soon as they sniff the air of Dum Dum. In buses, in the Metro, in the Shopping Malls or in the restaurants and of course any government office, the unnecessary rudeness really staggers you. I once was witness to a loud quarrel that lasted while minibus travelled from Behala to Dalhousie Square, and all because somebody had poked somebody else, presumably inadvertently, with his briefcase. The sad thing is that you realize that this was exactly the way you used to behave till the other day. The patient in the OPD was treated like dirt by your attendant and you did nothing to stop him, You yourself were rude to the relative who wanted to know why the patient was not recovering from surgery as well as he should have and never dreamt of talking kindly to the long line of people who were waiting for admission to the scarce hospital beds. The whole of Calcutta seem to be infested with small time mastans (Goons) who make it their life’s mission to be rude and interfering. Everybody is ready to tell everybody else what to do while never doing anything his/herself. It is common to both the sexes, I have seen nurses who were as rude as any general duty attendant and the telephone operators in the Government hospitals were in a special class in their discourtesy. I feel that it is high time that a large scale campaign was put in place to teach people the virtues of common politeness. That it is not demeaning yourself to speak decently and the world will not think ill of you if you did not bully the poor guy who came to you to transact some business. Though, sometimes, I feel that it is too late. Discourtesy has become genetically ingrained in the Bengali and it is impossible to get it our without something really drastic being done.