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By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
May 2012
IST—Indian-Standard-Tardy SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

Regardless of whether they live in the EST time zone or the PST, it seems to me that many people of Indian origin operate on “IST.” No matter whether they have just a high school education or are college graduates, or even a degree from an IIT or the MIT, the Indian Standard Time of tardiness seems to rule their day.

We say we’re having a dinner party at 7:00 pm, and stragglers leisurely drop by at 8:45, just as dessert is being served.

The professional meeting is scheduled to begin promptly at 9:00 am, and lo and behold, half attendees are still enjoying a cup of tea in the break room.

And who among us has not been to a wedding where guests wait interminably for the bride to make her way to the

Any suggestions about how one can find sanity in this crazy world of the tardy

Dear Friend,

“If we cultivate the habit of punctuality and acting according to programme, the index of national efficiency will go up, our advance towards our goal will be repaid, and the workers will be healthier and longer lived.” (M. K. Gandhi)

Had Gandhiji been asked about punctuality by a student seeking wisdom about the ways of the world, perhaps he would have tapped his ever-present timepiece and said, “Time will pass, but will you?”

Actually, this last quote must be attributed to my highschool physics teacher, Mr. Michael Sloan. Before each exam, he would chalk those six words on the board, point to the clock, and leave the room, trusting the students to manage our time and ourselves in an efficient and honest manner. Like Gandhiji, Mr. Sloan put much faith in swaraj (self-rule). He believed that each student should not only be punctual in terms of the external clock on the classroom wall, but also orderly in terms of an inner clock that keeps time on values such as truthfulness.

Being a punctual person myself, I have long struggled with those who are less inclined to ordering their lives by a tick-tock, tick-tock cadence. It was not until I began working at Hewlett-Packard that I learned to accept, if not embrace, the tardy. As HP mythology goes, there was a meeting that David Packard was hosting. After the appointed time, people began to trickle in. Furious at the late start, Packard cussed a few choice words and vowed to fire the next “bleep-bleep” who walked in. Of course, it was his college friend and company co-founder Bill Hewlett who came in the door. From this bit of corporate cultural history, I’ve learned to begin meetings with those who are in attendance (thus respecting their time) and to assume that others have their reasons for showing up according to their own inner clocks.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]

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