As I pen this poem aboard
A Continental Airlines Boeing,
I ponder the logistics and labors
That made my journey less tedious.
A splendid job is accomplished,
By hidden hands very many, I reckon.
Electronics and humans laboring in tandem
Mindful of time in flying and landing.
My mind drifts to a matter
of common knowledge,
In the land called “Time-less India”;
Some call it “Indian Punctuality”,
Others christen it “Asian Standard Time”,
This wanton disregard for keeping time
Is nonetheless a blemish on Indians’ fair name.
Consider a meeting, a public
Seven o’ clock is the stated time,
VIPs arrive not at our time,
But at eight thirty or nine,
Inconvenience indeed to so many
To them a certain status statement.
A show that starts too late,
A train late by hours too many,
They accept all, Indians have a penchant,
Grin and bear, rarely despondent.
A Minister, a State Administrator,
Throngs in attendance to hear them address;
Loud speakers blaring, people come all ears,
Sweaty brows and nerves on edge,
Alas! Minister may come, late or not at all,
Lame excuses or no excuse to give.
My trek to the West brought to focus,
This glaring Indian Curse.
I attend a wedding in Church,
Ceremonies start with Mendelssohn and Bach;
Father and daughter walk down the aisle,
A glance at watch and I note the prompt stroll,
And everything gliding with clock-work precision.
Contrast that with a dear friend’s function,
Like-wise in Church, with equal pomp.
Alas, this Indian made guests sweat and wait,
No less than twenty, maybe thirty
Very long minutes before we spot
Father and daughter all smiles, un-apologetic.
Why, I wonder they don’t do the last minute
Adjustments and such, in good time?
And make the wedding a delight
For guests and relatives all alike!
Does this tardiness permeate and foul
The army, the police, the disciplined folks?
I doubt they let it bedevil
These bastions of discipline and décor.
Schools start and close at stated time;
Exams across the country keep exact time.
A Hindu marriage conducted with exactness
On an astrologer’s exhortation,
Time to wed is dictated and followed;
Even in India events are oft controlled,
Not by chance, more by the clock.
Is there hope then, an end in sight?
For Indians minding business by the clock?
Will education infuse sense of timeliness,
A dose of discipline, pride in punctuality!
Or will this curse plague Indians forever?
If one travels back in time,
To the turbulent mid-seventies,
Across India was a State of Emergency,
Imposed on Indira’s Democracy.
Trains rolled into stations right on-time,
Cars and vehicles parked in places neat,
A rapid dose of discipline made,
Tardiness, Emergency good-bye, bade.
As Indians defy predictions in all else,
So, I have reason to hope and wish,
My home will learn, adapt and improve
And get out of this mold and imbibe
The virtues of keeping time; after all,
“Timeliness is next to godliness”, profess all!