Monday 30 August 2010

The tussle between Indians, instructions and instincts

Indians and Instructions don't get along quite well! I observed this while I was in Belfast for six weeks. Our fellow hostel-mates followed instructions of any kind quite judiciously: Microwave cooking instructions, gadget instructions, and all the others (not the late-night ones, of course but we followed that well).

On the other hand, we (three Indians) who were absolutely unaccustomed to reading and following instructions found this a bit amusing. They thought the same about us!!! Now, why we don't follow instructions are because it leaves us confused and stifled. For a change, we thought we will also follow the tiny-lettered lines and to our utter dismay, we would stop after the second one. First, it was mundane and boring. Two, simple things through formal writing make it convoluted.

We best trust our instincts. I just about know if the vegetables are cooked or the food is heated. I don't have to rely on the clock to wait for the two minutes to get over so that I can switch off the gravy. I cannot do that.

Another flip side to the timer usage is that I keep checking the clock every now and then and the process leaves me so bugged that I switch-off my mind. I focus on something else and in the whole thing, forget the dish that is cooking! Phew!!

Well, now this instinct works for cooking but not for fixing gadgets. People of other nationalities (I think) are adept in that. Indians (well, mostly) are slower in that area. The first-time reading is out of curiosity and as the second instruction comes by we say, "Oh! I know this" only to later realise that we got stuck. Then we again read the instructions. And we don't understand or simply lack the patience.

Well, Indians, Instructions and Instincts! Quite a package, isn't it. Okay, now your turn. Do you religiously follow instructions while doing something for the first time? Do you like following them?

When I started this blog, there were simple instructions . . . which I could understand and well, follow!

Image courtesy: Internet


  1. I hate instructions, really I cannot stand the things. I mean, everything about them - the size of the text, their dull, monotonous tone - just makes me think, "Oh lord, must I read these things?".

    But, unfortunately, I don't have that natural instinct to just know when something is done or ready or right. I wish I did, but I don't. So for that reasons (and perhaps because the British character is used to rules) I do follow instructions, even though it pains me to do so :)

  2. should know not to ask a man if he follows instructions....they are for the weak minded obviously...if i do look at them it will only be when i am completely befuddled and sneak them into the bathroom with me so i can come out as if i had an origianl

  3. When I buy a gadget... I remove the cover, open it quickly and start operating... play with it and explore it... you know it adds fun and gives the feeling that you are discovering ex. years ago when we bought first digital camera and trying each function was kind of discovery for me and I patted myself everytime for that...

    I think Indians in general follow only one rule; not to follow rules set by others and make one for themselves! :)

  4. Well... as far as I can say the English love giving instructions... And I've got to understand them because I love everything that comes from Britain...
    But it's a fact that we are not all that different... I mean - I have this so special connection with you...I don't need to understand better or worse.I just like you andaccept you the ay you are- I must say I hate stereotypes... Only like them when it relates to all of us humans...

    Smart and slow people there are everywhere... ;)

    Hugs and ♥


  5. Susan you made me laugh... You hit the nail on the head. it is true Indians and Instructions do not go together at all! I am so going to have fun in India giving instructions and then find out that it is not being followed.....
    Looking for some helpful hints from you.

  6. My wife religiously goes by the letter
    I'd rather trust my instincts better
    To me instructions are like a fetter
    To each his own that's the end of the matter.

  7. I try to go by instincts at first. Then, if I am stuck, I go back to the manual. Mundane things need not be referred to from the manual. That's what I feel.

  8. Another wonderful post to start my morning with.;)
    Ah instructions! Well, due to my line of work, I do have to follow some instructions in my work life or i would blow up the lab, thus when i purchase something very expensive in my private life, I try to follow instructions. But I have been known also not to, usually with horrific results. Often I get to the instruction book when something is wrong or not working, hehe.;) Besides, most instructions are incomprehensible.;)
    Have a happy Tuesday dear friend,

  9. Sam:

    As you grow up, perhaps the lesser will be the need for reading those tiny letters! The Brits definitely follow them quite religiously!


    Smiles. It is a wonder to know how different people deal with reading instructions.

  10. Karan:

    I agree with you 100% when you say "Indians in general follow only one rule; not to follow rules set by others and make one for themselves!"


    The English are quite good with it! I love Britain too except for some mundane things as following instructions, for example :) All of us do have our peculiarities and that makes us unique as an individual or a race. Well-said dear sweetest!

  11. Savira:

    Welcome to India, Savira. I will write a long mail on this to you. Grinn.


    Where are you these days? My comments section so misses the verses :) Long time. How have you been? Nice to see you here.

  12. Vinay:

    The mixture of instincts and instructions is a peculiar mixture for us!


    Your words always invigorate me! Ahh, not following instruction in the lab can be quite lethal! I always rely on instructions when I go wrong with trusting my instincts :) Have a lovely remainder of the week dear Zuzana!

  13. Onderful post and gr8 observation too..

    we have lots a rules....right form smoking, drinking, copulation

    but who bothers!

    Just think about our aversity to stand in cinema queues

  14. Like you mentioned, it is purely "simply lack the patience."
    I for one cannot operate a thing by reading the manual. It has to be trial and error and learning along the way.

  15. John:

    Instructions and rules have a subtle difference but as a country we disdain both! It is my turn to thank you for the addition of 'rules.'


    Patience, yes. On second thoughts, I guess the skill and patience to read instructions is not instilled in our minds whereas in other countries, it is a lesson quickly learnt while young. Sometimes I am glad for the instincts bit.

  16. I don't want to take credit
    I am just another dim wit
    Is it time to use the identikit
    and try to find whodunnit.

    Susan,another one for the blogs I missed

  17. I was just tired after a long working day but your post given me new energy. I am looking forward to few more good posts here

  18. Living in a world with so many differences and nationalities things get easier I think when following the instructions. But not in a religiously way. Then if it makes things much easier in some levels I think I'd follow the instructions though. It's true, people in UK love to give instructions. I embrace all people's differences.

    B xx

  19. Susan... he he he... I am a teacher, right? Do I like instructions? No way in H***! No, not I! And even my students know it. I'm allergic to instructions, because they're just parameters that put our intelligence into a box. I think it's best for us to go ahead and read the instructions, and follow, yes, so we don't break any laws or get into trouble. But there is also such a thing as flexibility... very necessary ingredient. Following instructions blindly is ridiculous and demeaning... we're not machines... we are human. There are instructions... and then there are instructions... and then there is common sense.

    And that was a refreshing vent after a long day of giving instructions... graciously, I hope. ;-)


  20. Sometimes I think I can do it myself without following the instructions. Sometimes I can but most of the time I need to pull out the instruction manual after I fail a few times. :-)

  21. I'll read only the precautionary measures to take,rest I'll try to experiment with it[In case of my DSLR] :D

  22. Guessed right:

    A delight to read your rhymes :)


    Welcome to the Meanderings and thanks for the kind words :)

  23. Betty:

    Embracing everyone's differences is the primary diktat of human existence! Thanks for the visit dear Betty. xoxo


    Flexibility and instincts is the Indian way! Only after messing up, we go to the instruction manual. Ha Ha. I am glad you were refreshed. Hugs back to you dear dear Nevine :)

  24. Ron:

    We think but we don't (atleast most of the times)! I see that you have an Indian spirit! Great :)


    Welcome to the meanderings. Now that's another set of caution lines: precautionary measures! Hope the experiments prove worthy and that you don't get stuck :)

    Thanks for the following. I appreciate that :)

    Joy always.

  25. Hi. I've been reading your blog for quite some time and I like it.

    Instructions do make things boring and tedious sometimes but we must not gloss over them when there's danger or risk involved.

  26. Ajay:

    Welcome to the meanderings. I guess this welcome is long due as you have mentioned that you have been reading this blog for quite some time. I am indeed honoured by your "invisible" visits. I am also glad that you commented on this. It does mean a lot when people comment and tell me their points of view. That makes blogging a worthwhile experience with exchange of thoughts and ideas.
    You make a good point here. The Indian sensibility with instructions is a study by itself. I wish to carry it out sometime in detail.

    Joy always. Please do write your insights whenever you come by :)

  27. Ah...instructions. Often times i find that i always go back to the manual-after i must have gone ahead to experiment on my own.
    I guess there IS a reason for having instructions :)

  28. Blogoratti:

    Thanks for coming by. There is definitely a reason, we lack the patience and goodwill to pore through them :)

  29. I like having instructions, it makes me comfortable, secure in a way. However I do have a tendency to not read the instructions and just plunge right in by trial and error.

    And if it gets really frustrating, and if I'm desperate to get it going, THEN I go hunt for the instructions.

  30. Instinct first, but if I am still stumped then the manual comes out. I don't know if its an indian thing, I think everybody is like that.

  31. BM:

    Instructions do have a sense of comfort about them. They offer us with the option of 'playing safe' which is quite necessary sometimes. You have a good remainder of the week and happy September :)


    The British rigidly follow instructions. I am glad for them :)

    Joy always :)

  32. Instructions ??? Do they come in the box ??...verrrry interesting these little command posters...I must read up on them. lol

  33. King:

    Welcome to the meanderings. Nice to have you here. Instructions are there all over!!! One just has to see. I like your feigned surprise!!

    Joy always :)

  34. Susan, it's not only the Indians from India who do not follow instructions, it seems it's also the Indians from American (also known as Native Americans). My husband Alex is Navajo. He never even looks instructions, much less reads them. He will put chair legs on backwards on occasion, but usually things turn out fine. I am challenged at following instructions or directions. It's not that I don't read them, I do. But my brain switches off and I think the instructions are written n Swahili or something.

  35. Welcome to the meanderings dear Linda. The more, the merrier! Thanks for the time!

    Native Americans, I heard, trust their instincts better than anything else. I guess the right way to learn stuff is by trial and error method. But the gadgets of today are incorrigible and they defeat even the most powerful instincts :)

    Joy always :)



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