27 September 2012

You are late: The curious case of

Am I really? You will know in a while. Our "disability" in composing and expressing has come to a state where incorrect expressions have started to influence how we think! Not just that, it has started to influence our culture and manners. This is more pronounced in we the English speaking Indians whose first language without any exception is a native Indian language. I will use a phrase 'You are late' in trying to convince you how I think we are digressing.

My English skill is nowhere close to being spectacular but it is good enough for bread and butter. If you are kind to ignore my plain inability for a while, other reasons for it being not spectacular may be that I have strong instincts from Indian culture, language and manners. This puts me at discomfort many times; not my English but my manners. Yet, I believe I should 'conserve' most mannerisms I have inherited because they are good. One of them is being "late" as some would put it.

The native Indian question when someone comes to a public program according to when it suits him would be literally: "Why is your arrival delayed?" (in Kannada Yaake tada vaayitu). Note how this does not accuse someone of being late but merely wants to know if there were reasons for the choice of time. Now compare this to, "You are late!" or "Why are you late?", as if they had an appointment with you. There is this huge pressure to arrive before the event starts even if that is terribly inconvenient. If I am a guest and If I am not important I will choose when to come. The point of going to such events that run through a day is that it should be pleasurable. They are not doctor's appointments. It is pathetic, some do not realise this and try to make it miserable for people attending events. Do you see why? Can you guess then why are people accused of being late when they are on time according to their own plan?

Apart from pure wickedness, there are other reasons. It is offensive in Indian languages to accuse a guest of being late, at least, that is so in Kannada. Yet in English it somehow is OK! Asking questions such as "You are late!" , "Why are you late?" or "You are late again!" are loaded with accusations of you being late based on an accuser's schedule! I think this is because we can not articulate our concern properly and we say what we can easily. "Did something in particular cause you delay"? "Did something important come up today?" these are questions we could be asking if we are nice people and want to know the reasons for the choice of time by our guest. Yet we use phrases such as "You are late!". That is one hell of a bad articulation something that school teachers use.
  
The problem is, inability to articulate our concerns forces us to behave badly. We behave differently for "Are you alright?" and "You are late!". We can not be saying "You are late!"  and behaving as if we are saying "Are you alright?"! So this becomes a case of, you behave badly not because you intended to but because you articulated incorrectly. When we keep articulating badly we behave to suit our articulation because bad behaviour and bad articulation are both easy! 

So, am I late when arrive after an event starts? Not really! I am just on my own schedule.

Update:
[I prioritize my punctuality. I am on time for meetings or anything that is dependent on my being on time. I once traveled from Brussels to Munich by train and directly went to the office for a meeting. I was 3 minutes ahead of schedule to the surprise of the German lady that was chairing the meeting. For others, I choose my time that optimizes my time and value even if there is a dependency on my being there. Especially, if this is a personal thing I choose my time liberally. Otherwise, I will be driven. I want to drive certain things certain way at certain times.]

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