Saturday, September 20, 2008

The "late" Indians: a quiet retrospection

This may sound rude or offending to some, but tell me, when's the last time you had attended a function or a meeting, with all the "Indian" attendees arrived on time? Well, my motive here is not to condemn this trait or anything, but instead, to take an interesting perspective on it.

An event pops in to my mind as I ponder more on this topic: I slept over at a friend's place on a Friday, and the referred-to episode happened the following morning around nine, as we sat sipping coffee at the living room, frisking the newspapers. My friend's elder brother and family too had come over the previous day, as they had to attend a wedding in town. The wedding was at 9:30, and there was around half an hour's drive to the venue. The elder brother had a son, aged five.

So, around 9:00, the boy tells his father "papa, lets go, or we will be late"
The father, without lifting eyes off his magazine, replies, "Its okay; no one would arrive at the scheduled time. If we are on-time, we will be the idiots"
The son, having received a precious piece of advice on life, picks up a kids' magazine and squats at the veranda. In time, he would pass on this little advice to his next generation (if not learned otherwise in due course), as his father got it from his, and he from his.

Amongst us Keralites, the dialog mentioned above is quite a popular one. Its one of the greatest pieces of advice passed on from generation to generation, equipping people to live a smart life on land. This advice and the related practice, though frowned upon by some idealists, is not considered an evil in the society (you know, each society has its own culture eg: Say "dating" in India, people freak out, while its a way of life at most places in rest-of-world; say "late" in England, people freak out, while its a way of life at some places in rest-of-world); its just that everyone "knows" that others will be late, and hence smartly adapts to the scenario.

Now wait! "Everyone knows that the others will be late"? hmm.. interesting! Being a man of science, I can't help not breaking it down into an equation, and analyzing further.

Let's take two people: 'x' and 'y', positioned at two different families. They both are to attend a function at a time 'z'. Now, 'x' thinks that 'y' would be late, and hence gets himself late to handle it smart. In the meanwhile, 'y' thinks that 'x' would be late, and hence gets himself late in response. Both turn out to be right, as the other person was late.

But hold on, isn't there something wrong? Its a freakin' catch-22 situation!!! 'x' was right about 'y', because 'y' was right about 'x',
Putting it into an equation, if ψ denotes "was right about", and β denotes "because", then,
(x ψ y) β (y ψ x)
=> x ψ y β y ψ x
=> x (ψ y β y) ψ x
=> x (0) ψ x , because (ψ y β y) is just vanity (~ bullcrap).
=> x ψ x

i.e., 'x' was late for the function, because he was late for the function!!! The other person, parameter 'y', doesn't really play a role at all in this phenomenon, as 'y' nullified itself in the equation - its just a "temporary hypothesis" borrowed to prove the phenomenon. In other words, "the others would be late" is a 'hypothesis' brought in to set up this social institution of justifying oneself to be late, and prove that one was quite right in doing so. You take out that hypothesis, and it all breaks down!

Ah! the vanity!!!

Tail piece:
Hmm.. what if I once become the President of India, and proclaim on the Republic day to the nation, "dear all, according to the recent secret survey conducted, your fellow citizens have informed my team that they wouldn't be late anymore from the 27th of January, ie, tomorrow. You might want to plan accordingly."

Would everyone think from the morning of 27th, that "Oh, all would arrive at the scheduled time; its bad if we are late - lets go early", or would they think, "brrrrr... we know them - no one would keep their word; lets go late and prove we are right!"

:-)) the catch-22 might just continue to roll on...
oh, me the bloody pessimist!!!


  1. LOL so true! But unlike functions, I cant stand it when people dont value other people's time! I am not quite a punctual person when it comes to catching my bus, but when its about someone waiting for me somewhere, I make it a point to land on time or before.
    And the equation bit was hilarious! :D

    Btw Tedy, one request if I may - could you change the background and font combination? Its killing my eyes and had to copy to Word to read.

  2. @Cris: point taken :-) Have softened the contrast, to go easier on the eye. Shall revisit the combo a few more times over the next few days (thanks, you are the first to give a feedback on the color combo)

  3. Aneeshji / അനീഷ്ജിSeptember 21, 2008 at 11:00 PM

    Tedka good point :-) As you know, i have been trying to be a punctual person all my life for the "indian" functions, but constant "sufferings" on being punctual is making me a step back.

    Agree to Cris's point... I can't have a situation where people is waiting for my arrival, so even while the "x late due to y being late" theory has started to affect me, i try to be as punctual as possible in such scenarios.

    May be all Indians will read the famous tedka blog and start being punctual.

  4. Hi :)

    very true..its make me very much annoyed when people take others time for granted.As the saying goes,what are we worth if we are not late and keep people waiting..grrr...

  5. Good subject man, I totally agree, except for that demographic formula.
    Actually I don't have a voice here, I went for a get-together almost an hour late yesterday:D

  6. Good post.

    But I think it is not just an Indian habit. It is the habit for all societies that are not so developed.

    A German(or French) team once built a railway line in Persia somewhere around 1910-1920. The workers were all local Iranians and like us they would turn up for work at least half an hour late. Fun part is that they all thought that half an hour late was actually on time. Whats the big deal about half an hour?? No end of coaxing could ever convince them that 9:30 != 9:00

    In a way, I find it okay. We may be half an hour late for everything, but we wouldn't miss even a second cousins marriage. They would be right on time but....

  7. Being an unorganised englishman I have this inner conflict. I am always late and I am also wracked with guilt when this happens. I like to rely on other people's lateness to relieve this guilt!

    Now if everyone was late for everything. Would us more tardy citizens be later still?

  8. Sorry Tedykutta, that I am "late" to comment on this :P

    Especially in Kerala, the trait is to reach right before the food is served for a parties and marriage parties :)

  9. Hey Tedy! I have tagged you! Again!!!

  10. ever heard of The 'Mañana' Syndrome ?? not a big deal but i prefer to be on time ...

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