Indian Sense of Time

Waiting for repairmen has to be one of the biggest trials for anyone.

What is time, indeed! And no, there’s no grammatical error in the question.

 Time, as a concept, is a wholly untenable idea amongst us Indians, and I’ve noticed this far too often. It’s a laid back, casual approach to things that rules the roost most of the time. 

Granted, it’s a fine thing to not take life too seriously now and then, it’s probably healthy to laugh at some follies that are part of everyday life. But when such casualness creeps into professional and artistic life as well, certain problematic situations arise that aren’t wholly palatable.

Take, for instance, the scheduling of a Carnatic music concert. With a few exceptions, these concerts rarely begin on time. An event scheduled for 6:30, for example, has a hapless audience waiting.

And waiting. Usually, I notice that the stage is an empty space. No sign of any musician, and just when you begin wondering if you’ve made it to the right venue, they saunter in. Then begins a laborious process of tuning the violin, tuning the percussion instruments…that can take around fifteen minutes, because it can be a painfully slow process.

By the time the concert actually begins, it’s probably 7:30. Or, for example, take a scheduled appointment with a certain so-and-so. I’m usually punctual, as far as traffic allows, at any rate. 

In a fast city like Bangalore, traffic jams are about as delightful as toothache. Often, being punctual is restricted to one person alone – the other usually comes in an hour or two late. Chalta hai, na? Frankly, punctuality, at this point, seems like a myth. Like a unicorn. Or satyr. 

Someone says they’ll call you within the hour. The hour goes by, the day goes by…then they call back after a week. Waiting for repairmen has to be one of the biggest trials for anyone. At ten o’clock, they say, they’ll come over. Leaving the poor customer waiting. It’s not even like they turn up the same day. Probably the next day. Or whenever. What’s the rush? That my schedule was thwarted is of no consequence, is it? No, not at all. One must learn to adapt to these things.

 Frankly, once the frustration boils over, I’m left with a feeling of helpless resignation. Why, it’s actually been three years since I asked a bookstore to source a rare book for me. Repeated reminders had absolutely no effect. If it were impossible to get the book at all, why agree to do it? It seems I’m left with more questions than answers. Another bookstore sourced me a book after many months of waiting that had a title that vaguely sounded like the one I’d wanted. Sheer carelessness, but that’s another story.

A lackadaisical attitude is surely cumbersome, and a little adherence to the tenets of punctuality isn’t that painful to follow. But then, we are like that only.

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