They say character is what we do when no one’s looking. But if you have to measure the character of someone from India, just observe his actions in a flight. With a cabin full of people as witness, the things these people do are a moment of truth, ugliness and the profound scarcity we grew up with.

Whether it is the boarding process (the line, or the queue indiscipline alone is enough to make you gross out at these people), the (lack of) liteness in traveling, the violent contention and insatiable need for luggage space, unwarranted hatred towards fellow passengers, disobedience and display of big-dick attitude towards crew members — these people really show who they are.

I am unable to buy the jugaad argument to support this behavior — like Anand Mahindra said in another context — “jugaad is only when you are scarce in resources”. These people I am accusing of, display the same character even while living in a less-scarce environment or even one of abundance.

In their defense, I speculate, their hatred is not real, there is no conspiracy to their actions — except to protect what’s their own. In their offense though, this is not limited to illiterate or old people — some elite-looking people also indulge in the pleasures (!) experienced otherwise only by the illiterate and old. Discreetness is not for these people — they want their presence felt, noise heard and actions seen — regardless how badly they inconvenience others.

If you stop letting your blood boil over this drama, it is a matter of humor even. I have often noticed the attitude shift happens, especially while traveling internationally, gradually as they approach India. The closer to India they are, the less civic they become.

Perhaps it is going to be several generations before there is a shift in this behavior. Or several genetic mutations. Or both.