“This is India, for Christ’s sake…”

Indeed, this is India, and apparently in India, all things go, including the concept of time. Yesterday I was meeting a psychiatrist at the famous Hinduja hospital, where people from all over the city and country come to get treatment. The psychiatrist (psych) and I were discussing job opportunities at the hospital and he asked if I would like to observe him in action for a couple of hours. It was 11:15 am and I responded, “But you said your timings are only from 9 to 11 am. Isn’t it time for you to wind up?” To which he replied, “This is India, for Christ’s sake…things do not end on time.” The man finished working only at 12:30 pm, one and a half hour later!

It really looks like “time” is this elusive concept in India, and it kinda surprises me that in such a diverse and cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, people have no qualms about being late to an appointment or getting late into work or arriving at an event at some god forsaken hour. It’s amusing though, that at whatever time a person arrives, there is always some part of the event going on.

Last month, I was livid and stunned when I had to wait for almost 2 hours for a professional appointment I made with a psychiatrist in Juhu. I had taken the appointment weeks in advance, and made the trek to Juhu, excited to meet this highly acclaimed psych, only to be kept waiting for 2 hours. Finally, I had to go to another appointment and never got to see her and had to re-schedule the appointment for a couple of weeks later. Luckily, for me and her, she saw me only 20 minutes after my scheduled appointment.

I am guessing it is the social norm for people to arrive late or be unpunctual. Or maybe, they are not unpunctual by Indian standards, and it is my punctuality that is bizarre to the Indian person. I do not know…..there are days where I do find it convenient that I can be late to an event and will not be judged by it. On the other hand, there is a part of me that is concerned that I will become this person who is not particular about time and who does not value other people’s time, and that is the last thing I wish to imbibe and pick up from this culture.

As a psychologist, it is peculiarly interesting to me to observe and analyze my personal reactions to the external and internal stimuli that pervades every part of my being, every pore in my body. Life is strange and so unpredictable. I am still having a hard time believing that I am not in Mumbai on vacation, but here to stay. I miss San Francisco.