I’m an Indian & I’ll Be There By Sharp Late O’Clock


I’m an Indian & I’ll Be There By Sharp Late O’Clock

Illustration: Akshita Monga

“Buss dus minute,” says Sonu. He is in Mayur Vihar Phase 258, palming off a termite-ridden dressing table to a rich asshole as an antique. Razia Sultana used it, no less. I am in Gurgaon. It takes four hours to run from Mayur Vihar to Gurgaon. And five hours if you drive through Delhi traffic.

My bed has caved in. It is not what you think. I thought I could use it for a workout, because I stay surgically attached to it. But I digress. Sonu couldn’t care a fuck that this piece of furniture needs urgent TLC.

Because the fella knows time is fluid. Like a boss, he decides when it will be six o’clock. He doesn’t like to be dictated by Greenwich or his Micromax mobile when it comes to time.

I could wait. And wait. By the time Sonu reaches my home, I will have sprouted a beard, learnt Mandarin, and ordered a new bed online.

Of course, I speak from jealousy. I wish I could be as awesome as Sonu. He is a true Indian. His 100 per cent shudh genes makes him treat everybody and their convenience like a WhatsApp joke that he forwards every day to me.

There are a few odd ones like me. We have this annoying habit of turning up on time for appointments and dates with friends. We never miss trains and flights. We actually stand in queues and have two additional phrases in our vocabulary – “thank you” and “sorry”. What a shameful blot we are to our glorious culture!

Unlike with Amazon I can’t even return my faulty genes and demand a refund. So I try really hard to fix this defect. I apologise when someone turns up almost two hours late for that “10 am sharp” meeting. I just love listening to the stories they have to tell. Sometimes I even make wagers with myself: Will it be the maasi or the dear chachi who gets to die this time?

I have tried their strategy too, just to see what it feels like to be on the other side. I have switched off alarms, followed Google maps, driven into ponds, stopped at all green lights, gone out of my way looking for traffic snarls to get stuck in. Once I even managed to reach an hour late only to realise that in India, no matter how late you are, others will be later still.

Waiting is fun though. I get to feel awkward sitting in a café, sipping my 15th cup of coffee, reading the menu, and memorising all the dishes. Once I even wandered into the kitchen to ask the chef if he had linked his Aadhaar card to all his accounts.

My favourite wet dream is Air India. I am in awe of them. They are like a Stephen King novel, keeping us in a constant state of suspense. Will our flight take off now or never? Six hours and bitten-off nails later, when we get served stale samosas and cold tea, we start rolling with joy until we have reached our destination. These boringly punctual Westerners have no idea about the adventure they are missing out on.

For all of our laxity with others’ time, we’re rather neurotic about our own. With the late-itude comes that other great Indian ability to break all protocol of civility and humane behaviour, and rush through everything.  

I could wait. And wait. By the time Sonu reaches my home, I will have sprouted a beard, learnt Mandarin, and ordered a new bed online.

I just love the panic attacks when I try to board the Delhi Metro and am pushed toward the rail tracks by a sea of commuters eager to get to office a full 45 minutes late. Getting a cardiac arrest is my favourite pastime as passengers try to mow me down with strolleys when the plane comes to a halt at the runway. Oh my god, did I fall asleep when they announced that the aircraft would self-combust if all of us don’t disembark within ten seconds of its landing?

We have to be the only nation where everyone is in such a tearing hurry and yet always behind schedule.

So obviously, those of us who defy this extraordinary racial/ethnic trait, tend to stand out like peacocks in leotards.

One day I decided, I’d had enough. I fixed up an appointment with Dr Late Prakash. Dr Prakash is famous for spearheading research on ancient Ayurveda to cure women of lust. Since both late and lust start with the same letter, I was pucca sure he’d be able to give me a gene implant and turn me into an authentic Indian. If homosexuality can be cured through yoga and medications, so can punctuality.

After taking a sample of my blood it was deduced I was deficient in Vitamin D (Delay), and was prescribed a change to a diet rich in AlwaysVyaastika, Bullshitika, and Asswaholica. I was asked to enrol in coaching classes where I was subject to gruelling sessions of learning how to say “Be there in five”, laugh hysterically, and promptly go back to sleep.

I was asked to turn up at 5 pm sharp for classes and when I did, I was shamed, made to do 150 reps of burpees and force-fed gobar cake. During my toughest days, when I was at my absolute lowest, I wanted to give up and run away to a First-World nation where punctuality is appreciated. I’d started questioning my existence, the meaning of my life.

And then suddenly, without warning, life blessedly changed.

I clearly remember it was a Friday. I was supposed to give a presentation at our local community on how to potty train pigeons who shit all day in our balconies. Thanks to my brand new training and diet, I now had the confidence of starting from home at 6 pm for my 4 pm presentation.  As I sashayed in, ignoring the anger radiating from the attendees, I noticed with pride I was indeed the last one in.

Oh my gawd yaaah, the treatment had worked! And just like an Oscar acceptance speech I proceeded to blame my husband, the lamppost, dog and my neighbour’s mali for the delay.

Now I know that I won’t have to die to be called the Late Mrs Ray.