Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time Management - The Indian Way

I had always heard a lot about Indians being known for not being punctual and that to a large extent, it is considered fashionable to be late. For people who do not know, IST is sometimes an abbreviation for 'Indian Stretchable Time', instead of the real 'Indian Standard Time'.
I had first hand experiences of people being late on my recent trip to India, about two months ago.

S called and said 'I will be there in ten minutes for sure. Can't wait to see you'. So I reach there by that time and am waiting for her in the sweltering July heat. 15 minutes have passed and there is no sign of her. I message her and ask if she is going to get late. The reply is prompt. 'Will be there in five minutes. Another 7-8 minutes and still no sign of her. I call up now. "I am leaving home now as I was forced to eat lunch". At this point I am losing patience for standing in the heat for more than half an hour. After that phone call, I decide not to call and just wait till she comes. I was losing patience faster and faster. 'Bas two minutes and I'll be there'. She finally came almost ten minutes after that. In all, I must have easily stood for 50 minutes in the sun.
I was livid and couldn't help but get mad at S although I was meeting her after more than three and a half years. I can understand that you have commitments and get late. But how much time or money does it take to just call or text a person and inform that they are running late. And that is not expecting a whole lot also! Anyway, after the meltdown, I had a great time with S and S. And we caught up on what's going on in our lives, and that we're happy where we are.
This was my first stint with punctuality or non-punctuality should I say

About a week after this, I am supposed to meet P at a restaurant at 1:30 in the afternoon. We are to meet at a popular restaurant, where it is difficult to get a table. And once you get a table, you eat your meal and leave. I reached around 1:45 PM, having been re-educated about punctuality already. I wait for about 15 minutes and then get a table. There is no sign of P at this time. It is half an hour beyond the time we were supposed to meet. I keep calling and get a call waiting. Finally around 2:15 PM, he calls and says he is leaving and was caught up in a phone interview with a person he was trying to get for some time. Again, because of the delay, I spent less time with P. Once again, no heads up that he was getting late.

My third stint was on my birthday. Another friend S was going to come around 3:30- 4:00 PM to wish me. This was coincidentally my last day in India before I took my flight to come back home. S is known to not keep time. But there was no call from her at all till about 8:00 PM. She of course didn't come till 4:00 PM, but no call after also. She called around 8 and said if she could come at 9:00. I had to say no A's parents were to come for dinner. She finally came after 10:00 PM that night. Once again, no information or notice that that person was going to be late - not by half an hour or so, but by a full six hours!

Why do people fail to think about other people's inconveniences? Why do they not think that other people are on tight schedules also, if not, tighter also? Why not spend a Rupee and just inform the other person that they're running late. Beats me how being late to some people makes them think that they are really busy and gives a sense of superiority. Have seen people in India and here in America who are professionally and socially at a much higher level, yet really respect time. It really is not very difficult to keep time. Try it.

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