Lines in India … or a lack thereof

Lines are an essential part of life in our Western society. Not so much in India

In the USA, lines are, for the most part, extremely organized and formal. This is not the case in India, where they are something of a maddening experience of disorder, pushing and cutting.

While people still stand behind each other waiting, new people are constantly coming up to the front of the line pushing their way in. What follows is most prevalent for us in train station when we are booking our ticket, but is true for pretty much all lines in the country.

 

A line to get into the Wagha border ceremony near Amritsar, India
A line to get into the Wagha border ceremony near Amritsar, India

Train Station Lines = a Jumble of Indian Limbs

Lines in a train station start normally enough, but as people are constantly cutting to the front and sticking their hands through the reservation window to get their ticket immediately, the rest of the people waiting on line begin to push forward. As a result, what began as an orderly queue of 10 or so people is all of a sudden a mob scene that resembles a ball of people with a collection of hands shooting out towards the window.

For me, I find this completely appalling, as I have spent my life hating lines with a passion but still respecting the sanctity of them (except maybe at highway exits). However, I still have a tough time just joining into the pushing and shoving, especially since we often have questions that we need to ask the ticket person about schedules or something. We shall see how my attitude on joining in the madness changes as the weeks tick on.

 

4:12am is about the only time you'll find an empty Indian train station.
4:12am is about the only time you’ll find an empty Indian train station.

An update 3 years later:

I first wrote this post in 2009, and I remembered really enjoying the fun of pushing my way to the front of the line. It made me feel like a local. Plus, as a 6 foot+ man, I excelled at getting to the front rather quickly.

When I returned to India three years later, I once again found that joy … except while trying to buy a train ticket. Now, I found it thoroughly annoying.

 

A late night crowd at the Agra train station in India
A late night crowd at the Agra train station in India