Sunday, July 26, 2015

Indian Standard Time

This happened a year ago. It was a function to felicitate a very senior Tamil writer, an octogenarian who had already received the Sahithya  Academy Award. The 85 year old writer, frail and weak arrived at the Hall 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the function at 10 am, accompanied by an attendant.

The function was delayed because the organizers were waiting for the hall to fill up. Besides two other dignitaries who were scheduled to speak had not arrived. Eventually the function started only at 11 am. The MC called the meeting to order and requested the dignitaries to occupy the stage. The writer climbed on to the stage with some difficulty assisted by his attendant. He looked very disturbed.

After all the formalities and felicitation speeches were over,  the writer was requested to give his acceptance speech. Since  he was very weak he chose to sit and speak.

While thanking the organizers for honouring him and other speakers for their felicitations , he was forthright  in pulling up the organizers for the inordinate delay in starting the function. He said “ I am an old man with all the health problems that old age brings . Since you asked me to be at the venue 15 minutes early  I  managed to reach here before time forgoing my morning meals. By delaying the function you have made me suffer the ordeal of sitting here and doing nothing. Besides the empty stomach is causing me tremendous discomfort. It is not your fault. I should not have accepted your invitation knowing full well my limitations. “

Needless to say that the organizers were squirming in their seats. What was supposed to be a felicitation meeting  turned out to be a punishment meeting for the writer.

I have seen this happening in many other local functions organised by   enthusiastic individuals who get together under some banner to conduct meetings at the drop of a hat. They don`t have a minute to minute programme and very often allow their  meetings to prolong indefinitely,  testing the patience of the audiences.

I remember attending a function at a district headquarters town in  Tamil Nadu got up to honour about 15 people from various fields connected with the town. The ` who’s who`  of the town were  present  in the audience. Not only did the function start late, the Chief organizer took almost one hour to give his welcome address ensuring that every dignitary in the audience was recognized and specially welcomed.  The audience was restless as the function was extending far beyond the two hours   indicated in the invitation.

As a person with some experience in organizing events and functions of all types, including an International Conference /Expo, I have an obsession for time management. Not only do I believe in meticulously planning an event but also ensure that every one participating in the event is made aware of the importance of time management. Except when acts of God and nature have let me down, I have been fairly successful in keeping to planned schedules, ably supported by an equally committed team.

Whether it is a small meeting or big meeting  if the organizers plan a time bound programme, and communicate the details in advance to the invitees, there is no reason why a meeting cannot start and end on time.

It is only because we Indians generally do not value other people`s time that we have earned the dubious distinction of following `Indian Standard Time`- which means that we are not serious about our time commitments!

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