Thursday, October 17, 2013

Deadlines

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.

54 comments:

  1. Indian Standard Time is what people call it jokingly, when it comes to expecting people to come on time. Yes, almost everyone is late without informing that they are late. The funny part is that at home, we eat earlier around 7.30 pm, so it becomes an ordeal to wait hungry for guests who seem to walk in at 9 pm for a dinner invite :).

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  2. This happens to us all the time--arriving at functions on the dot and feeling like intruders.Should we also forget our principles and join the mob?Perhaps this is how late-latifi has taken hold of our country.

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    1. Hahaha! So I am not the only one to suffer? :)

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  3. Ha ha :) Nice one sir.. but you have started it as a rant against yourself for being a misfit and ended it with a rant against the World, no?

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    1. :) No! No! I am only berating myself for the inability to learn from my experiences :P

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    2. Ok then :) The piece of "wisdom" in the last para made me think so. Great post nevertheless..

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    3. Adarsh! A lot of my posts are like this - so-called rants against myself but .... :)

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    4. ha ha :D I have been reading a few other posts and I agree with that, but I felt it was a little too obvious here

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    5. For some things too much subtlety does not work

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  4. We have a lot in common. I land in trouble with my inability to read between the lines. But some women are really good at it.Their No is Yes, Yes is a Maybe and Maybe is a No. Gosh, its complicated.
    And punctuality? I am before time, courtesy my husband.

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    1. Omigosh! That much complication my pea-brain cannot handle :) Thanks Alka!

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  5. What is it with you and plumbing woes? If memory serves me right this is probably the second post in around 15 days when you have mentioned your plumber in not so gracious words. I will have to take this up with the Bruhat Bengaluru Maha Plumbers (BBMP) and we will get back to BY 9 PM today.

    As for you turning up at weddings and parties early I guess it is because you have nothing better to do with your time anways :D No offense, just kidding ;)

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    1. If you can touch base with that august organization, you are a miracle-worker :)

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  6. Good post :) finally did the plumber resolve the issue?

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    1. He said he did - but another problem has cropped up in the same pipeline :)

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    2. Instead of changing the pipe change the plumber :)

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    3. :) I may need to change my city if things are to improve :)

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  7. Great advice there...seriously in India, doesn't matter north or south, there is dearth of individuals who are punctual... N you are again looked down upon as a misfit if you expect an apology from them for being late!

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    1. You have to apologize for being on time Aditi :)

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  8. That was like reading about my life. :) About your wanting to get pregnant and not being able, I think I know what the matter is with you. You have conception envy. :D

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    1. Not at all Achyut :) It is just that I look pregnant without the hope of shedding it on one day :)

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  9. I am guilty of being late every time :( ....well that's past and history now...and i had a tough time in changing myself until my dad coined this fantastic idea...if i am invited 7pm i tell myself its a 6pm deadline....i ultimately reach by 6.55 :) :D :P

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    1. WHY??? :) Here I am trying to school myself to think that an invite for 5 PM is actually an invite for 8 PM and there you are already endowed with the ability and messing it up :)

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  10. I land up early always at small dinners, its all a part of my strategy. I eat before 8 at home, so I get to help out in the kitchen and nibble much before dinner is served.

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    1. Ah! Now that is not open to the poor benighted males :) They are not trusted to enter kitchens - except, may be, later for the dish-washing :)

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  11. So what you mean to say is, 'do the work before the deadline, and you're dead, if you care to do it later, welcome to the party'?

    It is such an appealing idea, perhaps it is high time that we rechristened IST as Indian Stretchable Time.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. This was more intended for those who awaited the job being done than for those who do the jobs
      :)

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  12. Lol on the plumber joke! I can understand, I was furious when the guests we'd invited for lunch turned up around tea-time. They had an excuse of sorts but still.

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    1. What infuriates me with even legitimate excuses is that they are offered only AFTER they come and not phoned in at the time they were expected :)

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  13. One of the most torturous moments to wait hungry for guests . I mean i can calm my mind but what about the poor stomach that makes strange sounds :D :D

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  14. If I tell you that this Indian Standard Time, made me change my profession. It is a long story so not telling it now. But an amazing post :)

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  15. I know one fact...in Bollywood,coming late is a status symbol

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  16. And here I am the only punctual soul..I am actually before time. Maybe it is my fault that even after knowing the type of late latifs around me and still arriving before time.

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  17. Unlike Khushwant Singh I don't mind people being a few minutes late at all. What I fail to understand is this collective wisdom of being hours late for every meeting except job interviews and not even an apologetic phone call. It is inconsiderate and the blase cover up afterwards (as opposed to someone feeling genuinely contrite) is off-putting and insulting.

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    1. Nor do I stick to the exact second :) And that has always been my bugbear too :)

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  18. In IT a deadline is always so close that it is like a demon to be feared. You always know that you will never be able to finish your work in that time and end up working on weekends. Deadline means that you are dead if you cross that line.

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    1. Hmm! I have no experience with IT - but, I suppose, it is because you cannot sell this definition of deadlines to the West :)

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  19. With such a dramatic increase in the need to 'read between the lines' in this country, I wonder why CBSE hasn't yet incorporated its training in their curriculum yet!

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    1. Didn't you know? :) You are supposed to read only between the lines in the CBSE texts :)

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  20. Time is a fungible concept in India. I quite enjoyed your discovery and the conclusion that followed.

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  21. Indians are well known for not being punctual and in the cases that you have pointed out, the definition of not being punctual seems to have reached new heights. And being in the IT field, Deadlines are really tough and once we miss a deadline, the consequences will ensure that we never forget the 'when' for as long as we're employed ;-)

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    1. Hmm! Thank God somewhere in India there exists the normal definition of deadlines :)

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  22. Well as they say do in Rome what Romans do. So if you belong to Indian subcontinent or France/Spain, you will be a misfit if you are punctual.

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    1. Learnt the lesson too late :) Unable to internalize it :)

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  23. The 'Wise thought'on the meaning of deadline is really wise. Indians would do well to understand & imbibe the spirit behind it

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