What passes for a queue in India is a mass of bodies jostling for position like race horses waiting to clear the gate. It makes ordinary western etiquette seem overly courtly. During my time in India I slowly learnt to adopt the Indian technique whenever I encountered a group of people swarming a shop checkout, a fruit stall, or a post office counter. I would stand beside, not behind, the person being served, waiting to muscle my way in. But just when I thought I was about to clear the gate a newcomer to the crowd would shoulder me out of the way.
“Excuse me, there’s a queue,” I publicly berated one man for pushing in front of me in the supermarket queue. What I really wanted to do was push him over with my trolley.
He ignored me.
“There’s a queue,” I leaned closer to him and raised my voice.
He smiled in embarrassment and wobbled his head. But he did not move to the back of the line, oh no, he paid for his items and went on his merry way.
I glared at the employee at the checkout counter. “You shouldn’t serve people who push in.”
All I got in return was another smile and a wobbling head.
But the fruitlessness of my reprimands did not stop me the next time I encountered a queue jumper.
“Excuse me, there’s a queue here,” I said to the man who cut in front of me at the airport security line.
“Queues in India, no such thing,” he chuckled with a wide grin.
It appears he was right.
Even after eight years in India I never mastered the art of queuing (otherwise known as shoving). I think it has to be in your DNA.