Sorry I am late !
This must be the most used or abused line in India. Being punctual hurts here. I have encountered innumerable occasions when I had to sit twiddling the thumbs while waiting for important people to arrive. We don't have value for time in this country, especially when it is other peoples' time!
Why, even our Rulers and Police want us to be late! The other day I saw an interesting board displayed by the Traffic Police, "It is better to be Mr. Late than Late Mr. - Drive safe!".
I get a phone call at 6:30 one morning, "Doctor, it is urgent. My son has fever. We will be there in five minutes". I said, "Okay, come right now. I have to go to hospital by 7:15". I went ahead and finished my morning chores and finished breakfast. No sign of the 'urgent' guy.
My car was halfway out of my gate at almost 7:25 AM. A bike blocked my way out and the father was screaming at me to halt. He parked his bike right across the gate and was demanding me to see his son. I told him, "See, I told you to come straight away. I waited for you all this while. I have to be in hospital by 7:30. So I can't see the boy now. I am already running late"
And he went, "Sorry I am late. I met my friend on the way and was talking to him. Just forgot the time and so we are a little late. But you have to show some humanitarian consideration!". I told, "It is beyond me now. The hospital pays me to work there and I can't be late. As of now, you give him Paracetamol syrup 5ml every 6 hours. You have to come later in the evening or show some other Doctor".
He retorted, "I don't need your certificate to see other Doctors. There are thousands of Doctors around". I couldn't be wasting any more time and told, "Very well, you better clear off my way and do as you wish". He withdrew his bike and I could hear him utter loudly in Malayalam, "Enthu Doctor aanu eeyaal, Kannil chora illatha oru janmam" that is loosely translated as "What a Doctor is this? A birth without blood in eyes" !
For someone who arrives 45 minutes late for an appointment, he expects the Doctor to show humanitarian consideration. When it comes to considerations, people conveniently forget that Doctors are human too. The same people will create a ruckus if the Duty Doctor is late by even 5 minutes to see a case of Viral Fever in the Casualty of a hospital. We have witnessed this too often.
We always see people complaining of Ministers, VIPs, Actors and Government Officials coming late as a habit. There are so many satires and jokes on this subject. But how punctual are we? The common man in our land is the most unpunctual of all the people. In fact anyone who is a stickler for time often becomes a butt of ridicule.
I had two friends who always reported late to duty; very often late by more than an hour. They regularly reported with "Sorry I am late". I had to suffer these guys in the name of the sanctity of the job and in the name of friendship. Whenever I countered them about the delay; they would say, "Common Shenoy, we are Indians and we are like this only!"
One day, I came to know these guys had planned for a 6:00 PM Cinema show. I was the one on night shift and had to relieve them from day duty at 6:00 PM. They were pretty sure of me reporting at 5:45 PM because Shenoy is never late!
Well, I chose to be late on that day. I went on to take an elaborate shower at 5:45 PM and then took my own sweet time to get ready. I never bothered to answer the frantic ringing of the phone. I even heard the knock on the door of our bachelor quarters, but didn't respond. And finally I reported to duty at 6:15 PM!
Both these guys were hopping mad. "What is this Shenoy? You always talk about time and punctuality and all that nonsense. Where has your sense gone today? We had booked for a movie today and you have robbed us almost half an hour. So bad!".
I just told casually, "Oh I am sorry, I am late". One guy was furious and shouted, "What sorry, you don't know how it hurts. We have waited for this movie since long. And now we will miss first half an hour. What is the use?".
Now it was pay back time. I said, "Well, my dear friends. It always hurts when someone else is late. I have seen my plans go kaput several times just because you people came late. Today, the roles have been reversed. Next time when you are late; remember other people too have their life, their plans, their homes and their aspirations. This is the first time I have reported late to duty and this will be the last time it will happen".
I have remained true to my words. It is true that punctuality often hurts. It is frustrating to wait for people and then hear them say, "Sorry, I am late. Really sorry Okay?". I know a senior Doctor who is chronically late. He always arrives in a hurry flashing his 5 fingers and saying, "5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes".
By repeating the '5 minutes' six times, he tells us to ignore those 5 minutes. In reality he is late by thirty minutes that is the product of 5 X 6! He is never bothered by any conscience! But for me, it is neigh say impossible to arrive late anywhere any day and any time. I am not blowing my own trumpet here. I am just telling my weakness for this trait called punctuality.
After so many bitter experiences and endless waits, am I ready to change? Will I make others wait? Is it necessary for someone to be late to be important? No!!! I will choose to wait rather than be late and feel like 'Dirt' from within!
Thanks to mobile telephony, short messages and internet access on the telephone; you can always express yourself on the 'Orkut' or the 'Facebook' or go 'Tweet Tweet'! You can retain your sanity and your health! You can't change the world, change the way you approach the world! Better Late than Never !