Saturday, September 10, 2016

Indian 'Stretchable' Time


(Published in Deccan Herald on 10 Sep 2016)
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/569478/indian-stretchable-time.html
Indian 'Stretchable' Time
Brig A N Suryanarayanan (rtd)

When my younger daughter got married, the son-in-law followed stretchable time.

Captain S Ramanujam, our instructor at the Academy asked us once of the number of ways to do a thing. Our answer was: ‘Simple, sir, the right way and the wrong.’ He corrected us: ‘No, there is a third: the Army way!’ He was right; in the army if a time is mentioned, it means five minutes earlier.

Having been trained and later served for 35 years, I strictly follow it. In the army HQ, my boss would tick off even delayed seniors that while their time may not be important to them, his was to him, even if he were to be reading Blitz.

Time started having an entirely different connotation on retirement. A number of youngsters in the company I briefly worked for would always be late for the morning briefing, and when questioned would ask rhetorically if the company had lost anything. My answer was that while the company may not have, each of them had lost some of their character.

I am told that in the Indian Railways, till a few decades back, a delay of upto 30 minutes was counted as ‘on time!’ If a train was likely to be delayed further, they would let the others following to pass through, so that their statistics on timeliness would show only one train delayed on that route! I do not know if it is still so.

Once, in Ambala Cantonment, I had gone to a tailor shop to collect children’s clothes but the particular tailor was away. The owner told me: “Sahib, Pappu paanch minute ke liye baahar gayaa hai, dus minute mein wapas aa jaayega. Aap bees minute baith jayiye! (Sir, Pappu has gone out for five minutes, will return in 10, you wait for 20 minutes!)”

More was in store for me after my daughters grew up and boys would take them out for movies. I invariably questioned them on their expected time back and if they were late by even five minutes, God help them. I probably didn’t know then that when my younger daughter got married, the son-in-law followed stretchable time.

On asking what time to expect them, he would say 4 o’clock but leisurely arrive close to 5 o’clock. After a while, he started saying ‘four-ish’ and I had to say that four-ish isn’t a clock time and ask if it was my 4 or his! He understood and my daughter, too, drilled into him about punctuality. Now, he is more punctual than I!

At the parties in our colony, many guests would invariably be late; the excuse of one Brigadier is that his wife felt, he would thus have one or two drinks less, unaware that he could make all his subsequent drinks double or large! For another Major General, it would be the wife delaying in dressing up. For yet another couple, it was always an unexpected visitor landing up, even if that were untrue. And, that is how Indian Standard Time becomes Indian Stretchable Time!

12 comments:

mightyseven said...

The author has hit the nail on the head about the Indian Stretchable time. What I really liked was how he ( and his daughter )got his son in law to be punctual. I wonder whether I should appreciate this transformation or pity the poor fellow on the treatment he received !.
Colonel Balakrishnan N K ( Retd )

Karthik said...

Ha Ha! It is only when we Indians go abroad that we realize that IST doesn't work everywhere. For instance, even a children's birthday party starts and ends on the dot. Takes some getting used to, given our IST way of life.

BORN NOT TO QUIT said...

I liked this article very much.But in the Financial capital of this very INDIA,IST has great significance.Right from ' KAMWALI BAI ' to the BEST Driver Conductor,Western Central Railways Motormen / Guards,and BOMBAY's world famous,DABBEWALA,for every one TIME is like," it is impossible to breathe and swallow " at the same time.Every one is running as fast as USSEIN BOLT. One stretches only after reaching home,to get ready for next D+ 1 ......and cycle goes on and on !
Major Ravi Joshi in mumbai.BORN NOT TO QUIT.

Buku said...

A lucid article which implies the importance of both commitment and time.

SURYA said...

Thank you, Bala. NO, he doesnt object. He had a great laff.. as also my daughter and grandaughter!
Incidentally, my daughters were as equally punctual as I am..it is just that boys are the spoilers of punctuality.
Surya

SURYA said...

Thank you, Karthik. NO the real IST is followed by all armed forces personnel... I am sure, incl IAF ( your Dad). Each instance is ral, nothing cooked up. I suppose my trip to J'burg can only be in Feb.. hope the weather would be fine?

SURYA said...

Thank you, Joshi. Yeah, in aamchi Mumbai, every minute counts, as everyone commusting by rail talks of 6.47, 7.12 1753 and so on. Plus the amazing 6 sigma dabbawalas!

deekay said...

Another aspect of Time for punctuality is to keep your watch/clock 5/10 minutes ahead to hurry it up.It is nothing but to bluff yourself.This practice shows lack of self confidence and determination.DKMadan

Prabir said...

Sir, very accurate. I think all of us are experiencing this situation.
Enjoyed reading it. Have encountered numerous such situations. If one looks back, hilarious but not so when one is the Chief Guest at a large school function and at the given time, not even the chairs had been placed. Or at a marriage reception, neither party had turned up by the time more than half the invited guests had eaten and left. I did too after handing over our 'gift' to a mutual friend who had to stay on. Or when a young British lady got late for a dinner due to a traffic jam and said so, adding that she was 'not an Indian' - implying that being late was not a habit.

SURYA said...

Thank you, Deekay. That is quite right.

SURYA said...

Thank you, Prabir
Everything you have said is absolutely correct. I too have experienced / seen many. But the Middle has a word limit of 450; but the asst editor has been kind to allow a little over 500!

D Sheth said...

AS USUAL AS WE LEARNT THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME IN SCHOOL (PUNCTUALITY) AND EXPERIENCING IT MORE PROFOUNDLY IN N.C.C.BUT IN RUN OF LIFE FORGETTING AND TAKING EVERY SECOND FOR GRANTED WE SIMPLY MISS OUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ON TIME. SIR THIS ARTICLE HAS REIGNITED MY OLD FORGOTTEN BELIEVES OF TIME. FROM NOW ON
NO EXCUSES.THANK U VERY MUCH FOR THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE. - DEVALL SHETH