Sunday, 4 December 2011

Incredible India: The Tasks of Men are not Made to Time

Do I have the time?

In the month that I will spend in India, it can become quite easy to want to cocoon oneself and be isolated from the vagaries of life as it happens here.

The European sense of promptness and aversion to idling are already being challenged in ways that draw on my patience but not yet to exhaustion.

Each time I have gone to the hotel reception to either ask for assistance or some service the concierge has always asked me to sit down as if to calm me down if not to remove the urgency of my request, it is to lull me into some sort of soporific amnesia.

Now, I have no aversion to pleasantries but there are times where other things just have a greater importance and priority than to idle away time with small-talk rarely broaching the substance of why I was there in the first place.

A man for every task

There are other little observations of life that might not matter but I still find interesting. There seems to be a man for every job no matter how inconsequential it might appear. That is not to say that there aren’t people who multitask but the leaders in some way seem to have men at their beck and call for all sorts of errands and activities.

Like yesterday, I had a chaperone to the shops, today, there was one man to help convert money into small change and then for even smaller denominations there was another sent to sort that out. There is a man at the door just to keep the door ajar as there is another to welcome.

When we went out for a meal with a friend who was on the same flight as I was, as all attempts to ward away beggars from our window view failed, they got another man to shoo them away. Walking the streets, I saw many situations where men were at work that we would not essentially call work when I am ensconced in my comfort zone.

You wonder about the well-worn ideas of efficiency, productivity, throughput, engagement and careers, I suppose there are ways in which what I have observed in no different from stuff I once experienced in Nigeria.

Waiting for the indeterminates of time

I will not touch the matter of time, I will just assume that at my training centre there is a lot more in professionalism and punctuality than I have seen elsewhere.

It is literally impossible to fix a time, rather a range of time is offered where you can expect the rendezvous to be later than the upper limit of that range – you have to be careful not to be driven to distraction where you depend on others.

Made to last?

Then finally, I have noticed that with most goods not imported into India, at least the ones I have bought that are perishable; there is no expiry date, rather there is a manufactured date. There probably is a rule of thumb followed to indicate how long one should keep stuff – that should be one of the questions to the better learned staff at the training centre tomorrow.

However, imagine my horror when I had to take my pills on the first night and there was only a can of Diet Coke in my fridge with the date I could read being somewhere in October just as we entered the month of December – I took just about enough to swallow my pills before pouring the rest down the drain ready to remonstrate in the morning about expired products in my fridge.

Now, I know better, Incredible India is by all means a very different place.

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