Just a matter of Time

All my life I have been made to wait and I still haven’t got used to it. To make matters worse, I married a man known for his punctilious ways.  We now wait as a pair – sometimes patiently and sometimes otherwise.  I guess we are something of an anomaly in a nation that is chronically late. 

Our citizens are notorious for their late coming ways. The more powerful the person, the more likely his total disregard for extending the simple courtesy of landing up on time.  Public events hardly ever start on time.  Bus and train schedules have a mind of their own. We’d probably heave a sigh of relief if a train starts just 30 minutes from the original departure time.  Hey that’s almost on time!  On social occasions, people are more than fashionably late.   And political events can be a nightmare because VIPs can make the audience wait for hours with no concern for their time or energy.

We are not just used to this ‘late coming’ phenomenon; we are nurtured, cultured and spoilt in such an environment. 

Strangely, even though we have scant regard for punctuality, it rarely deters us from flaunting our watches!  We like them big, chunky and flashy, loaded with features we may never use.  We may prefer splashing around at the shallow end of the pool, but our watch must be a Tissot Seastar 100 Chronograph Dive watch, equipped with a dive log, depth gauge and what not.  But tell me if you are drowning in the sea, battling for breath and dear life, will you be exactly in the frame of mind to look at your watch? 

The buss duss minute is the biggest joke circulating in town.  Your AC is throwing tantrums and has started behaving like the country cousin of Niagra falls.  You punch the technician’s number desperately and coo to him in your sweetest voice.  Madamjee buss dus minute mein ayaa! Like a well chewed bubble gum, the ten minutes stretches into hours or even days, while you keep plucking your hair off the scalp with a  – will he / won’t he come.  Another oft used ploy is the Mangalwar trick.  Go to any shop any day of the week and try asking for a newly launched packet of crisps.  A true blue shopkeeper, will never admit that he is has no frigging idea about what you are talking about.   With a stoic expression he will inform you – Mangalwar ko zaroor aa jaye gaa!  You hope in vain but that Mangalwar never comes. 

The other day I was travelling by the Metro.  It was 12.30 in the afternoon and a lady was having this loud conversation on the phone for the rest of us to hear.  She had a 1’o clock flight to catch and was still in the carriage deliberating between taking the Airport line or a taxi from Chhatarpur.   She looked rather cool about it and it was me who was hyperventilating on her behalf.   Before I could shove her off the coach, good sense prevailed and she got off at the next station.  I missed the sight of the taxiwala driving his jalopy James Bond style.  Damn! 

No wonder Indians can never be terrorists - because we are always late and would have missed all 4 connecting flights. 

Is our late-coming part of our DNA?  Is it a cultural thing?  Or is it the overall environment? It would be tempting to pass off this dilatory tendency to the fact that we are a tropical country where the heat and humidity induce a languor which negates urgency.  Remember the Indian Standard Time jokes? "Expect everything and everyone to be late."  Our tendency to inevitably land up in a quagmire of delays, shortcomings and chaos is even more evident when the Nation’s prestige is at stake.  Remember the Commonwealth games? The organizers scripted its progress like a nail biting suspense.  Water logged stadiums, collapsing bridges, the village mess: each day was greeted with a new catastrophe.  The Will we - won’t we cloud hung ominously above our heads.   Barely had we put the shame and scandal of the Delhi Commonwealth Games fiasco behind us,  we were confronted with another embarrassing episode about the unpreparedness of the Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata for the World Cup cricket match.

Why is it that Punctuality as a virtue is so negated?  Can anyone respect a person who has no respect for time?  Is there a cure for this national affliction of procrastination?  

Perhaps we are addicted to the thrill of the unexpected.  The rush of adrenalin, when you drive at 180mph to catch a flight.....cook up excuses to explain your late coming ways to your boss (my landlord locked the gate and never came back / my cat ran off with my neighbor’s dog).....an unexpected chappal landing on the stage as you arrive 3 hours late....Priceless...how else will you experience such pleasures! 

Or is it, that as a nation, we are deeply philosophical whose ways are beyond the comprehension of the clockwork precise others? When the present is nothing more than a fleeting moment through which future passes to become past, how can past and future exist when the present has no time? 

If we can’t we measure time, why bother with time!

I think I’ll stick with that.

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  1. hehe. This is all a fault of our ncert syllabus. Let me explain.
    Dey hav 36 chapters in our text book to study a day before the exam.
    Now any smart student will tell you how impossible it is to rattofy it all in one gulp.
    So we do the next best thing. Put it off.
    Arey yaar baad main kar lenge....aise bhi poora nahi hone wala.
    We grow up in dat rythm n simply implement it in evrythin els as well!
    No sense of urgency...jo hoga dekh lenge attitude! So der u r! Origin of d problem :P

  2. Time is relative as Einstein said. It changes with speed and changes with frame of reference. We Indians use that theory in our day to day life.
    Oh but in some quantities we do have respect for time. Remember the Mahabharat (The old one, not the Ekta Kapoor soap). It started relegiously with a images of stars an chakras and a voice going "Main, Samay Hun" I mean, time got 5 minutes of screen time in every episode. That proves, we have some respect. Doesn't it?

  3. He he! The Indian Standard Time should be written as -5 1/2 to +5 1/2 hours...
    What amazes me is that with such punctual attitude, India still promises to become a superpower in a decade...
    I guess the "a decade" can b stretched too! :p

  4. "Saint Kabir" might be finding it difficult to swallow the Indian Standard Time.

    Where I live Budhwaar never arrives.

  5. Speaking of watches, I am yet to get over the love for watches.
    First after Giant Robot and in recent times after watching 127 hours and The Next Three days. :P
    Even I hate people who are late :@

  6. Whoa..Purba you speak like my professor (pun intended)...It is no brainer, people have adopted to coming late for no one wants to be on time and look like a fool..Supposing u r invited for a bday party n u reach on time only to find the host still to source a cake..wont that be embarassing..its more of a necessity than a habit i guess..

  7. Being punctual is so uncool! Like a lakeer ke fakeer...no creativity at all :-/

  8. I think Indian Railways does a little better down south-although I have no clue why. A former colleague was posted to Chennai from Lucknow. Now he had to travel to Trichy one time. The train reaches Trichy at 4AM. Thinking that it would reach around 7AM (as per IST), he went off to sleep. And was astonished when the train not only reached on time but also the coach attendent woke him up and informed him cordially that it was time to get off the train. :)

    This past month I've been reaching work some 5-10 minutes beyond time. I'm a little obsessive about punctuality. So I've been burdened with terrible guilt. Till a few days back when with supreme effort, I was punctual, in fact 20 minutes early to work. And what do I get? A locked office. So I cooled my heels standing out on the street till the office boy came in at 9.30 and unlocked the office.

  9. From childhood to perhaps marriage our lives are carefully managed and regimented by parents, teachers and elders. Everything task or target is identified, chunked and evaluated by sheer power of authority, there are no negotiations involved. To use an approximation we are not "independent" nor trusted to be.

    While this guarantees a minimum level of accomplishment, important in a society with no safety nets, the flip side of it is only a few of us develop a sense of what we are capable of accomplishing in a given time frame and the ability to plan complex tasks by ourselves. More worryingly everything is driven by a fear of authority backed up by threats and a desire to please. Of course people who lack this authority are taken for granted.

    Well that's my theory anyway. This is not a unique flaw of Indians by the way, every "controlling" socialist culture the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Africans suffer from this.

  10. yay! I am guilt free - coz I never liked to sport a watch since childhood :P

    Btw, I realized that if we are late comer, we are caught in a vicious cycle. I used to be late, and my friends got to be late and when they are late, I can't blame and the chain reaction goes on. Then i decided to be on time and soon everyone started meeting me on time. But then old habits are hard to change :P and am still trying hard ;)

  11. nice one again...yes, i always wondered about that too. i read somewhere that it is a general characteristic of agrarian culture...life was slow...and they were used to waiting for crops...few hours hardly mattered... punctuality did not make one efficient
    industrial revolution changed the west...to remain in competition one always had to innovate and stay ahead of competitors...so they had to learn to be fast and punctual...
    but that again is just an excuse!!

  12. i just remembered going thru ur post that my ac service guy has been walking from his shop for the last three days.thx for reminding.

  13. I remember once going to a bus station and asking the station master, "What time does the 10'O Clock bus leave?", I suddenly started realizing how stupid my words were whn the officer coolly replied, "The 10'O Clock bus leaves at 11:30" :)

    We Indians don't need watches..we'll decide what time it is n what time it shud be.. if time n tide doesn't wait for us, we'll simply return the favor n won't wait fr them either :)

  14. Great post dear Purba:) Time works wonders, especially if it is borrowed:P And i have named you The Versatile Blogger in my recent post- http://cloudninetalks.blogspot.com/2011/04/to-be-or-not-to-bethe-versatile-blogger.html

    Do visit my post and keep the flow going:) Good luck!

  15. Sadiya...LMAO what a theory...NCERT has made us procrastinators for life.

    Prats...When I was writing the piece, I was so tempted to use the Main Samay hoon monologue. Unfortunately I could not get the transcript.

    Xeno...Multiples of 10 will do :))

  16. Prateek...Ahh each locality has their special day.

    Karthick...Just sulking is not enough, we should adopt more radical measures like walking off.

    Perception...It becomes a vicious circle. Just because certain adopt late coming as a way of life, doesn't mean we should follow suit.

  17. Giribala....Gosh! I am so uncool

    Deepa...But reaching office early does help...you get time to get things organized and start with a cool head.

    gompiepie....A lot of us would have lead such a regimented lifestyle and overbearing parents don't make it any better. But in my opinion lack of respect for time stems from our "chalta hai attitude". We are always looking for ways out.

    Lakshmi...And I can't live without my watch :))

    SUB...Just an excuse for procrastination.

  18. RK....Hahaha

    Raj...LMAO @The 10'O Clock bus leaves at 11:30 (Seriously!!)

    For most of us time is but eternal and has no AM PM to it.

    Cloud nine...Thanks for the honour, much appreciate it.

  19. I am precisely on time when official matters are concerned. But with friends and family, a bit lazy and late.

  20. uh...I am still recovering from the last para...There is also the 'bas, pahunch gaya..'when the guy has not even got off the bed and lives an hour away. We have become so thick-skinned now to the IST jokes.

    btw, the L&M and I are also part of the punctual club.

  21. In the ageless and timeless culture to which we all belong, whats a few hours here or there..or even a few days?

    Time for us is just the fourth of many dimensions, and completely relative and dependent on other priorities which does not include respect for other peoples time.

    However i never fail to be amazed by how every time I am late the flight is on time and vice versa..any explanations for that?

  22. oops sorry am late in posting my comment.. :)
    your post reminded me of a joke that did the rounds a few years back.
    there was this tourist who after visiting bombay went home and when asked what he thought about the indians he replied 'oh they are all very philosophical! i was walking on the street when i was approached by this passer by and asked 'what is time?'

  23. Hmm ,

    This related to everyone , to come to any place on time is not a big deal but we being Indian has made it a great IST time to not be in time. whether its an appointment with a doc or date with a girl.

    for me its office ..i.e how to reach office in time especially ..now when mom is back to native place..waking up early is never my forte ..had to ..put 3 alarms of half hour gap to wake-up early now from 6AM to 7AM ;).
    And making Lunch and breakfast event the greatest challenge then getting ready all takes a lots of time ..being not the quicker side it takes time and reaching office oooh ..makes me feel bad..but for what we are doing job khaane ke liye phir usse samjhota kabhi nahi ...bhale he late ho jaoon.. eeeeh :)

    Take care.
    Keep smiling.

  24. Harish...With family and friends we all tend to be a little easy going.

    Zephyr... It's a nightmare getting work done in your house - schedules go haywire and by the end of it you are ready to combust at the mere mention of bas pahunch raha hoon

    Menon...That's why I keep telling you, buy your own private jet and give me a free ride.

  25. It is our chalta hai attitude which comes at fore here. We don't value niether our time nor others!!!!

    Today only my hubby was in a rush to catch his bus and we got into the lift. Somebody elses entered the lift at some other floor and the guy kept the lift on hold shouting to her wife "are you coming?" tic toc went 2 mins and my BP started shooting up. Unable to keep mum I said "he has a bus to catch" and this bugger just muttered sorry and kept the lift on hold until his wife came to hand a 10 Rs note!!! We Indians are seriously insensitive towards others time!!!!

  26. magiceye...HA...Come to think of it "time kya hua hai" is another predilection we Indians suffer from.

    Vivek...Make sure your boss reads this comment of yours. He will be more sympathetic to your late coming ways.

    Smita...The only way to counter such insensitivity individual is by creating a scene! Yes you feel lousy afterwards but at least he will think twice before he does a repeat.

  27. Very valid question and unfortunately no answers...Why are we like this? And "Traffic mein phans gaya" is a common answer.

  28. I would not go about talking much in this regard because yeah, I am used to getting late!
    Late for class, late for dates... why? because "paani bas duss minute mein aane wala hai" or "mess ka khaana bas duss minute mein bann gaya" or "dimi, i'll take just ten minutes to get ready"

    Crap, I am late.

  29. Having been brought up in a 'fauji' environment, which was living amongt relatives who were 'fauji's and studying in a school in a Cantonment, punctuality became a way of life for me. I seem to be the 'queer' one amongst a majority for whom being late is 'normal' Practising punctuality means bearing the brunt of 'leg pulling'.

  30. Alka...Why make ridiculous excuses, why not simply say ...sorry I got late.

    Enchanta....Another buss dus minute victim :D

    pmathur...But why? I am rather proud of being a stickler for time. Why bring our standards down for others?

  31. I'm more of a paanch or do minute victim. Of course, when I am to meet somebody and I'm just leaving home, I always go, "Arre I'm almost there. Wait two minutes."

    Nobody ever minds. If I attended class, I'd surely be late. I must buck up now that I'll start working. :-/

  32. Purba - my point was, being punctual is regarded as strange behavior. I too take pride in the fact that this is one habit that hasn't ever, or never will change for me.

  33. haha My old boss has left , otherwise he would have said "I will bring breakfast and lunch for you .."
    you just come in time..

  34. Awesome as always and absolutely correct. I am also a victim, as I always punctual and so end up waiting and often wasting time (though often I use up the time scribbling notes on any paper I find around)...

    But I like the conclusion the most...the past, present, future...waah waah...here philosophy saves us :)

  35. D2....Absolutely, once you start working, you cannot get away with "Arre I'm almost there".

    Mathur....It's the lackadaisical attitude that should be considered strange :)

    Vivek...HA! Now that's some incentive.

    Siddhartha...Note to myself - always keep a pen in your bag for the sake of your sanity.

  36. Well said, Purba..haha..and, frankly, it's true..I'm one of the rare few, though, who's paranoid @ being early..my watch, the wall clock-all are 10 minutes ahead. If Baroda Exp is to be caught, departure 1040 PM, better to leave by 940, and reach the station by 10 PM, have a cuppa tea and catch it at ease.:)
    Waise, do you think it's coz we have this habit of waiting? to pay a bill, to catch a bus, to book a railway ticket...anything under the sun..we just can't imagine things getting done instantly..otherwise, why wouldn't people be booking railway tickets on the net, rather than standing, sweating in this hot weather, at the station?Ah well..if they enjoy it, much joy to them.:)
    A big grin at 'my landlord locked the gate and never came back / my cat ran off with my neighbor’s dog'--aisa bhi hota hai, I guess.

  37. Weird but this suddenly made me realize that I should've been born in another country. :P just like you and your husband, I just don't approve of displaying a total disregard for punctuality. But the bad part is there are infinite number of ways in which you can be delayed in your ventures even if you, yourself, want to be on time without fail. Awesome write-up as usual! The part about the grocer's excuse of the product being available from mangalvaar is bang on.

  38. Time and tide are definitely made to wait for all Indians! Lol :) your observation that we never fail to wear fundu watches nevertheless, is hilarious. Good post!

  39. a wonderful post like always! Its been a year since i joined collge and believe me 'i have never been on time to my 9 AM class'! :P
    Although i m not that bad wen it comes to a movie show.. i m always 5min before it starts...so kinda depends on the situation u c! :D


  40. The 'sab chalta hai' attitude has taken deep roots in our country and we have no respect for time. I know of people who give talks on 'Time Management' come late to the venue!

  41. I remember going for a village function. There everything begins 2-3 hours after the time. This so called time has made us captives. The moment we all lose our watches..I mean the whole world together...we alll become free birds, floating in the sky

  42. Amit L...We do that too, always reach early whenever we have a flight/train to catch. Less stress guaranteed.

    Samadrita...Kolkata is the queen of procrastination but I still love it.

    Ambika...And we are never content with just one watch. We have to have many :))

  43. Sarah...At least someone has admitted she can never reach on time.

    Ayyangar...HA! People who give talks on 'Time Management' come late to the venue! Hope you are enjoying your vacation in sunny California :))

    Jon...Even if we lose our watches, we can't stop time can we?

  44. I had a friend who said he'd call right back after the movie ends. This was in 2007. And today, I am considering revising his status from "friend" to "past acquaintance stuck in a movie hall for 4 years" :)

    ... on a serious note, we are late because we just don't care ... and we don't care because being late is not an immediate danger to our lives ... :P

    nice post, you wrote out all the punch lines and jokes I could think of .. can't add anything more ...

  45. No wonder I am always late in putting in my comments!

  46. Yexcuse me, but coming late is cool. It's the done thing. And I'm not going to blame anyone but me.

    Like you said, it's ingrained into our DNA. The coming-lateness of a person is directly proportional to his/her awesomeness amongst that group.

    There. I said it! Kill me for it :D

  47. I think the 'Time Management' is typically modern concept - though it is essential when we are with others, it is fun sometime to 'allow' the time to just flow :-)

  48. flawsophy...Did he think you were watching "War and Peace"?

    And we don't care and don't expect others to care either.

    Umashankar...I prefer late than never.

    Kartikay...I am much aware of your late coming abilities, having experienced it first hand.

    aativas...Yes, but not at others' expense.

  49. I remember the Indian Stretchable Time jokes. We are the best at finding excuses to be late:-)

  50. For us Indians,
    5 minutes equals 30 minutes
    10 minutes equals 60 minutes
    1 day equals a week

    It's not that we don't respect time. It's just that we follow our own clocks.

  51. LOL
    Some time ago, maybe an year or two, I used to be a very punctual guy. The first two years of engineering, I held on to my virtue. Then, somehow I realized the futility. Though I still manage to get ready on time, I seldom leave on time, waiting for my dear pals, who essentially adhere to the IST.

    Indian Stretchable time.

    Nice post.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  52. The blog is very good!

  53. Sajeev...Time management is an art, making excuses is an even more challenging art.

    Angry Ganu...Almost in multiples of six...We are six times slower than the rest of the world :p

    Anshul...My friends led to my downfall? But once you start working you and your friends will clean up your act :)

    Thank you Nel.

  54. Apt post Purba...loved it! Truly shared sentiment. I have always been punctual (credited to mom n dad as they have raised us so!)...and all my life I have had to wait for someone or the other. It irritates me like hell!!!

  55. Purba,

    Nice article. I confess that I myself is usually late by miles when it comes to reaching office on time.
    I don't like that but I am trying to improve. I know it's not in DNA there are some other reasons behind that but yes that's all in mind.

  56. Nice Nice..You missed out the timeliness of govt office.Oh!yes we don't expect them to be ontime.I normally reach very early or embarrasingly late.I prefer former to later though..

  57. very true...
    IST has become Indian Stretchable time... needless to say our going on time becomes a discomfort to people at times...

  58. Deepa...I hate it when someone makes me wait.

    Dharmavirsinh...The comments section has almost become like a confession corner. Should I say "you have sinned my child"? :D

    Blue Lotus...Ahh she loves keeping people on tenterhooks.

    Dwiti...Well it gives them a reason to at least TRY and come on time.

  59. This comment has been removed by the author.

  60. Aah! This is so me(despite being a fauji kid I so lack punctuality), or like you said is it us, the nation? :P

    Very well said! Jokes apart, it's just about being callous.

  61. Lack of respect for time is lack of respect for 'other people's time', a continuation of our attitude of lack of consideration for other people, throwing our garbage outside our house, in the next lane; or trying to get ahead in a queue; or bribing to get something we are late for - basically our 'I, me and my own convenience' so IST should be ITS, as in 'I Think Selfishly' only of myself.
    Many Indians sadly take pride in getting more than their share.

  62. No wonder we cannot be terrorists. we would have missed all 4 connecting flights.

    :-) Very good. I luv it.

  63. I'd say , despite the sardonic tones in your writing - which have always been amusing, time is a perishable commodity.


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