Thursday, June 25, 2009


“Thank you” used to be a word hardly used in Kerala. I am not saying Kerlaites are an ungrateful lot. No. All I mean is we are not in the habit of saying thank you after we receive a service from, say, the sales persons in textile or grocery shops, the autorick driver, the cab driver, the vegetable vendor etc.

Nor do they expect a Thank you from the customer. On many an occasion, after a purchase from a textile shop, I have turned around to thank the salesperson who had tried every trick in the trade to sell things to me, and succeeded I doing so and carried my purchase to the billing counter. At the billing counter when I turn around to thank him, he’d have vanished – without a single word to me!

I have watched the way people alight from autos. They pay the driver and walk away without acknowledging him with a smile or even making eye contact with him. “I’m paying him for his services – so why should I thank him”, seems to be the attitude.

I once told my students that they should thank the auto driver after paying him or the bus conductor when he issues tickets. The girls went into peals of laughter. “Miss. they’ll think we are nuts if we do that”, was how they reacted!

Having had all my education in convents, I’ve been a thank you person, much to the amusement of my friends. When I first started traveling in autos on my own in Kerala way back in late seventies, I remember how perplexed the auto drivers used to be when I thanked them.

“What did you say?”, one of them asked me once.
“I said thank you”, I replied. All on a sudden, he became shy.

“Did you say something?” another guy asked after I started walking away from the auto.
‘No”, I said. I didn’t remember having said anything to him at all.
“You said something. I heard you”. he seemed offended.
It was my turn to be perplexed.
“You muttered something after you paid me. I haven’t over charged you, So why do you mutter under your breath?” he asked looking quite peeved.
He sounded so upset that I tried to rewind the scene.
“I didn’t say anything other than thank you”, I said earnestly.
“Oh, that’s it. I didn’t quite catch what you said”, said he. Irritation was replaced by that shy? embarrassed? expression!

After that I made sure that I am loud and clear when I thank someone. This, I realized startle them. They appear to be caught unawares. They look up at you, surprise written large on their faces and then suddenly beam at us. “OK madam, thank you, thank you”, some would say.

Yesterday, I thanked the auto driver who brought me home from the church and he seemed to take it in his stride.

So I guess people who thank are increasing in number in Kerala.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


  1. i never used to say thanks when i was in was never a practise back there..

    but have started using it for past 4-5 years...i think its a nice thing to say thanks however you pay for the service!! its a desirable courtesy to be extended to fellow humans in the good spirit of camaraderie!

  2. You are absolutely right!
    I have been made fun of many times for thanking auto drivers, plumbers and electricians :-)

    Another thing I've noticed is how people give you strange looks when you call them 'sir' instead of the typical 'saar'

  3. its simple.. but so true.. i love the post!

  4. We may not SAY Thank you, but a smile and a nod of the head just means the same thing.

    Perhaps its that we have a different style of doing things??

  5. I started saying thank you for everything for the very same responses you have mentioned in your post - emabarassment, shyness etc
    say it most often to people who serve me food in my company :)

  6. I always smile and give a short nod if possible ...and somehow I think ppl like that more than the formal thanx.

  7. "smile and give a short nod"

    yes, that conveys more than a formal THANK YOU. do we have to imitate europeans to express our gratitude?

  8. I do thank for every service I avail of.
    And thank you for a nice post.


  9. Nice... Thank you for writing.

  10. yes, we keralites don't have a habit of saying greetings. we dont say good morning, good afternoon, and even thank you. but am sure many people smile or exchange words in such situations.

    compared to formal greetings in many other places, in our place we exchange informal news and "visheshams" with whomsoever we meet on the way. that will depend on the kind of people too, but we sure have a culture of talking with everybody we meet.

    that doesnt mean we should not be thankful or express our thanks. we SHOULD. like a smile, it can lift and ease the hearts of both the people. very often i try to say thanks in some way and i have found that helped a lot :) may be we should slowly introduce thanks in our culture.



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