Somehow, I always knew I would be a misfit in the world from way back in my childhood. A lot of people have told me that I was giving up and I ought to try to change myself. The idea was, however, rooted like an axiom in my mind. After all, if I know that I cannot get pregnant being male, what was the point in telling myself that it was all in the mind and I should try with all my heart and not give up? This was something like that but I did not know why I felt it so strongly.
Over the years I have learnt that the main reason why such is so is because I just cannot learn. To be more precise, I just cannot learn to read between the lines which seems to be an inevitable requirement to get along in Society.
The first time I was invited to a dinner party as an adult - between 5.30 PM and 9.30 PM, said the invite - I landed up promptly at 5.30 only to find the harried hosts casting horrified looks at me. The wife muttered something about inconvenient guests and losing her the help of her handyman. The handyman - err husband - had a mixture of relief and apprehension on his face. Being saved the odd jobs now may not have been worth the Vesuvius that would burst forth later. I still did not learn, not even when the first guests started trickling in around 8 PM.
My first invitation to a Delhi wedding caused equal havoc. Seeing "Arrival of Baraat" at the wedding venue around 7.30 PM, I rushed from office to there and arrived sweaty and apprehensive about being late by half-an-hour. Being from the groom's side, there was not a single known face there. After hesitantly establishing my bonafides for being present there, I sat around studiously avoiding the many curious and contemptuous looks being cast in my direction for the next three hours. It was much later that I learnt that the time fixed for "Arrival of Baraat" is actually the time that the groom's people are frantically ringing up to find if they can get a mare on which the groom can ride to the wedding venue.
Weddings may happen about the same time as indicated in the invitation in South Indian weddings but my shifting to Bangalore from Delhi showed me another side of the south. While in Delhi, if I called in a Plumber or Electrician home and he said he would arrive at 11 AM, it seemed to mean that he would arrive some time during the day. In Bangalore, though, it meant he would arrive some time in the week provided he was in the mood.
All these experiences over all these years - and innumerable such at office - and it is only now that I have realized to read between the lines and understand the apparent meaning of what is said. When you set a deadline for the completion of a job in India, it means that the job shall, at any cost, not be done BEFORE the deadline and NOT a promise to do it by that time. Even if I now understand this intellectually it is too late for me to tune my instincts to suit. (Matters are not being helped by the plumber who arrives six days later than promised and, while making small talk, complains of the fact that the mason did not turn up on time at his home - leaving me confused about whether the inherent meaning that I had derived after much effort was correct after all, considering that a prime exponent of such communication did not himself consider that to be the universal meaning.)
In a generous bid to give a leg up to the younger people who read my posts, I share my hard-earned wisdom. A deadline is not the time BY which a job should be done but the time BEFORE which the job should not be done - in India. You will save much wear and tear on your nerves if you will immerse yourself in this wise thought.