The other day we had a little get-together at our house. One of our good friends didn't turn up and I called him.
"Hey," I said. "It's 8:30, you were supposed to be here at 8:00. Are you busy or something?"
"Well...no. I'm not busy."
"Is your better half ready too?"
"So why aren't you here?" I was getting ticked off now.
"Let me step out of the house for a second......" A short pause. "Now I can talk. My better half says that if we get there on time, people are gonna say that we have nothing else to do."
"But at this time, you really don't have anything to do!" I said.
"I know, but we have to be fashionably late. Oh... she's calling me. I've to get back in the house now. And this conversation never took place." And he hung up.
I stared at the phone and couldn't help laughing.
So we are sometimes late, on purpose? To give the impression that we are very busy?!!
I have to admit that being late to social events is ingrained in Punjabi culture. Most of us (not all of us, lest I offend the few punctual people!) have the utmost disdain for being on time to a party or a social gathering. We even an acronym for it- IST. It actually means Indian Standard Time, but we all define it as "Indian Stretchable Time." If you want to have people over at your place, sometimes its a challenge to get everyone there at the same time.
So if we plan to have a get-together at 8 PM, for our punctual friends the time given is 8:00. For our punctuality-challenged friends, the time varies between 6-7 pm, as the lag time is generally 1-2 hours. Now you all can imagine the confusion if we cris-cross the timings on the invitation. And that has actually happened with us.....that our punctual friends were at our door at 6:00 pm (when my wife and I were still in our shorts!) and our timeliness-challenged friends started trickling in around 9:30 pm!!
We had to go to a party recently with a group of friends and I asked one of them about the time we were leaving.
"The party is 8:00 pm. So we should definitely be there by 9:30 pm," he said.
"9:30 pm?" I asked. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah," he replied. "We don't want to be late."
And it made perfect sense to me!