By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
William Shakespeare has said, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late”. We Indians are generally unpunctual and do not seem to realize that this means an indiscipline approach to both life and work. Suppose a minister is going to give a speech in your town at 9’Oclock on a Sunday morning. Being a good citizen, you are keen to know more about the policies of your government. So, you decide to go and listen to the speech of the minister. You also decide that after the speech is over at 10 O’clock, you will go for an outing with your family. The children wait enthusiastically for 10 O’clock to arrive. It’s important to apologize as well, says Sheila Dramis, CEO of HR Partners, “Acknowledge that you understand it sets a bad example, impacts the team and that you are taking steps to correct it. This is better than spewing out excuses. Your manager wants to know you understand the implications and are taking steps to change.”
But things do not turn out the way you envisaged because the speech scheduled for 9 O’clock takes place finally at 1 O’clock. The work is that no one will ever tell you that the speech has been postponed. If someone had, you could have at least told your family about the change in the program. Even at the venue of the meeting, they will keep reassuring you that the minister will arrive in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or in “just a while more.” The top reasons people blame for their delay are traffic, oversleeping, bad weather, being too tired to get out of bed, and plain old procrastination. Most people regard lateness as a minor and pardonable offense and sometimes turn up to engagements intentionally late, expecting the other party to easily forgive them. This attitude towards time is very common among young people and people without demanding or busy schedules.
Let me give you another example. You have invited a few friends for tea at your home at 6 p.m. You think that after they depart, you will write a few important letters and catch up with your correspondence. But your planning goes awry because your guests arrive at 9 o’clock at the 6 o’clock tea party. Your poor wife! You perhaps felt sorry for your wife who had waited with hot snacks and tea for the guests since 6 o’clock. Don’t worry. The snacks and tea were ready at your place only at 10 o’clock at the night. It doesn’t matter. So, what if you got your tea a little late? At least you got it.
In India delay in doing every job is normal. It has become so deep-rooted that people have accepted it and even given it social recognition. In our office, if an officer or employee is late by 10-15 minutes, he is considered to have come on time. Perhaps punctuality is most important in business, as the saying goes ‘time is money. Many businessmen have ruined profitable opportunities by being late to meetings. One of the common attributes of all successful people is that they view their time as a precious resource. When you are late for appointments with people who value their time, you have wasted one of their most valuable assets and there is a good chance that you will be judged as rude, irresponsible, and disrespectful. Delays during weddings and other social functions surprise one. They are not only accepted but many excuses are also given in their favour. The Indian Railways are famous for their delays. If a train is late by half an hour, it is considered to be on time. A delay of 2 or 3 hours is a very minor thing. During the monsoon, even a delay of 8-10 hours is expected. If a train arrives dot on time, in all probability, it is a train which is all of 24 hours late!
No doubt, circumstances do arise and it’s not always possible to be on time but if you are going to be late for an appointment, we must call as soon as we know we are going to be late. Remember, punctuality shows that you are responsible, trustworthy, and can follow directions. (The author is a freelance journalist, writer & cartoonist & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)