I was going through the current issue of Science journal and got stuck on this article.
The article is "The spreading of disorder" by Keizer et al. This article discusses the spread of disorder and criminal behaviour in surroundings which are already marked by signs of pre-existing disorder in the form of litter, graffiti etc. A theory known as "Broken Window Theory" was given by Wilson and Kelling in 1982. According to this theory signs of disorder induce more disorder and petty crimes. This theory is controversial since it still has to be proved (i guess mathematical proof or something like that). Although there is a report that when in early 90s New York city was cleared of such signs of disorder, the crime in the city underwent a sudden drop. (Quite interesting!!!)
The authors of this paper carried out 6 different experiments on unsuspecting normal crowd and found that people do litter more when they observe some sort of disorder or a law broken around them. I think everybody should read this article. It made me think how much we absorb from our surroundings and how much the act of others around us goes ahead to influence us. It is scary...
This article reminded me of a practice which I do routinely. Whenever I enter a shop or a mall or even my institute, I always wipe my feet on the door-mat. Sometimes i might forget to do that. But when I notice that there are people walking behind me, I make it a point to do this. And then I walk in slowly keeping an eye on those behind me and checking whether they wipe their feet too. And I have noticed that around 80% of the junta does that. Now I am not sure if they do this after observing the person walking ahead (which is me) or they generally wipe their shoes. But i have noticed one thing that most of the time when I deliberately don't use the door-mat, very few people walking behind me do that. Hmmm... So, in a way I am trying to set a good example. If only all of us did that.
Oh yes, I remember slightly unrelated incident which has more to do with etiquette and manners (which unfortunately most of us do not have). I have noticed that more than 90% of the people of my institute take care that they don't bang the door in the face of another person walking behind them. One reason why this is a common practise at my institute is that people see each other doing that and thus they somehow get tuned to do it. I am not sure whether the same people do this outside the institute. Getting back to the incident, because of the well-mannered colleagues (they are not so well-mannered at a few other things) at my workplace, I have completely lost the habit of taking care of the door while walking through one. I have absorbed the unwritten rule which says that the person walking ahead will take care that the door doesn't shut on my face and i will take care of the person following me. I was badly mistaken... Last week when I was traveling to Delhi, I had to suffer a mild burn when half a cup of coffee spilled on my hand when a "very-sophisticated-looking-middle-aged-man" suddenly left loose the door of the A.C. compartment of the train just when I was about to enter. And the man was aware that i was walking behind him. May be it is too much to ask for...
Remember the survey conducted by the magazine Reader's Digest which gave the title of "one of the rudest cities in the world" to our Mumbai? This was one of things which they tested, "How many people open the door/hold the door open for the person/lady walking behind them?"
If Mumbai is the rudest city in the world, then for sure people have not been to the northern part of India. A post on "Why I hate Delhi" follows... I am sure that man was from Delhi and not Mumbai.