Culture, Service and Service Providers! Why are we so gullible?
For someone born in a Telugu speaking family and raised in a railway township near the city of joy, Calcutta, as a schoolchild, the similarities in the traditions and culture of people living in such distant places as Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal was intriguing and unclear. The similarities exist in spite of the clear and apparent dissimilarities in language, food habits, day-to-day life, and social norms amongst other factors added to the enigma!
A learning culture and attitude of learning is the essence of a school and crucial for its sustenance.
These similarities bind the peoples together and our family, in particular, received immense affection from the community around us. Why is it that there are similarities of such a fundamental nature between two different peoples although they are apparently so dissimilar? In addition, how or why is it that different people can also be together at the same time?
One of the similarities, clear and apparent, was the affectionate and caring attitude of the hosts towards the guests, particularly, in functions and feasts related to important family or social functions. The host or their close relatives would reach out to each guest, enquire and ensure that they are comfortable and receive the personalised service required, albeit to the extent feasible. The hosts were happy to serve the guests as per their means, to an extent that guests would consider revisiting. Service was oriented towards the guests and it flowed. The intent was to make the guests comfortable so that they enjoy, even if it is difficult for the hosts. This is one of the beautiful aspects of our culture for many years.
This culture had spread to other segments of our society to an extent that one felt this feature when hosts took the help of outsiders to extend the service as the numbers became larger and the family could not cater to them. With the dawn of the age of professional service providers, the paradigm shifted towards ease of providing service rather than serving the guest. The disposable paper, plastic glasses, paper plates, putting paper cloth on tables, buffet dinner, and employing servers reduces the hassles for the host and makes it easy to provide service at a cost.
The “service provider” keeps the food at a central place, such that it is easy for them to replenish the food in containers. The fact that this makes it difficult for the served to replenish food and continue eating easily and safely, without touching another, does not seem to be an important or pertinent factor. The guests have to search for a place to sit, or learn ways of eating while standing, in the name of changing social norms, which are oriented towards and defined by the service provider. The children and elderly people have to struggle with the plates and glasses. What is perplexing is that although the service provider serves neither the purpose of the host nor the guests both do not seem to recognise this fact. Most gullibly, we pay disproportionately more than what we did in earlier times for the reduction in service that we receive. What does this indicate? Why is it that we are unable to discern between service and service provider and demand what we require? Is it that we treat the function as a onetime affair and therefore take a compromising view?
We perceive that by paying to the service provider we can take care of the guests while being with them to enjoy quality time together. Nevertheless, is it as simple as this? For a perceptive guest at any function, it is clear that the services are not only inadequate but also deficient in most respects. The areas of serious concern are cleanliness of furniture, hygiene of the cooks and servers, quality of food, and quantity of food. Why is it that the service providers are as unethical and dishonest as to betray the basic requirements? Why is it that most people do not demand the requisite service from the service providers? When we demand the requisite service, they tell us to pay even more and the game goes on!
Is what we earn disproportionate to our effort and work and hence we do not mind over spending for any service without demanding proportional value for the amount we spend? Is this the cause for the careless and callous patterns of expenditure and expenses? Do have the capacity and the will to explore issues and questions increasingly at the levels underlying the ones experienced or known immediately? If we could go the first principles and to the basic facts, we might be able to see, the true content of service and distinguish between the value of the service and the deceptive element.
Is it not important to inculcate in our children the ability to see the true content of goods and service so that they make sound purchase decisions? Does not gullibility also imply casualness and callousness in one’s attitude, which is of more concern? How can teachers and parents educate children to understand the value of a service or product so that they make responsible choices? Where are we with respect to academics? It seems that the academic processes and teacher-student interactions are improving steadily. At the end of this year the ICSE and ISC results are expected to significantly better than the previous years, which should provide the required confidence and further impetus to the school.
The sports, games, and athletics of the school is improving steadily too. The residential PE team is in place. The strategy of inviting appropriate, value based and serious minded external coaches for improving the physical development and education of the students is working out well. Hence, in the time to come the important area of the field should come up very well. Our school participated in several inter-school events in the town and our children not only played well but also bagged some awards!
The hostels are one of the mainstays and strengths of our school. With most the house parents now having experience of a few years, the quality of supervision, guidance and counsel provided by them is much better and richer than in the previous years. The hostels seem like home away from home for most of the well-meaning children, who are interested to grow up well. The children with unacceptable language, behaviour, habits, and tendencies do not see our hostels as their home, because they cannot do what they want. Instead, we guide them, persuade, explain, and expect them to learn and change their ways. Our house parents are people of integrity, with good intent, who will not guide children in the “wrong” manner under any circumstances. They will take care of the children in the right manner, even if the children do not like it, and try to behave provocatively towards them. We observe that in the other domains of interaction with students too, our teachers are patient and take it upon themselves to correct, improve, and guide the children under all circumstances.
The efforts of our team comprising of Chairman, Chief Executive, faculty, staff, and students appears to be yielding the results that we had set out to achieve. The understanding and cooperation of the parents of our children has been extraordinary. The rich inputs provided by the well-wishers and friends of our school were invaluable. We stand grateful to all the segments of people who made the school what it is today, sound, and developing well and in the right direction.
Let us hope that the New Year will provide the requisite stability and overall platform to take it to greater heights! Orchid International School deserves to receive a good chance to contribute richly to the field of school education.