How to kill 'Nepali time'?

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I participated in the annual convention of America’s Nepalese Association (ANA) in Atlanta, Georgia that began on the Fourth of July weekend this month. The meeting went well but none of the programs began on scheduled time. Presenters were disappointed, volunteers helpless, and audiences frustrated. Although there are only two times on this earth – Greenwich Mean Time and Standard Local Time— Nepalis know that we have our own time – the Nepali time. Any event organized by Nepalese, irrespective of where they are held, begin late 99.9 percent of the time. Knowing this most of us refrain from making to the event on time, and if somebody asks, “When are you going?”, proudly we answer, “Take your time, the event will start on Nepali time."

Driving back from Atlanta, I found myself thinking, What’s wrong with us? Perhaps, our genes are incompatible or maybe we are not sensitive to the concept of time? Or, maybe our culture or habits have absorbed such belatedness so profoundly that we do not feel shame or disappointment on not keeping up to the promised time? 

Both my assumptions must be wrong because if the event is organized by non-Nepalese, Nepalese appear to be the first ones to reach there.

As I drove, I recalled an event from my school days, a good example of the consequences of not being on time.

Sometime in 1970, our school, Adarsha Vidyalya of Biratnagar, announced that at around 6:00 PM that night, the school was screening a documentary about Apollo 11, man’s first landing on moon. The announcement soon arrested the enthusiasm of all the students. Most of them reached the venue early enough to reserve their seats towards the front. After an hour long wait, it was announced that the Apollo screening was cancelled; instead, they would show documentary on Brazilian soccer star Pele.

The news was equally welcomed, as most of us had grown up hearing stories about Pele. Again we eagerly waited in front of the big white screen; time was passing, evening giving way to night. After a long wait, the projector started to roll and instead of Pele they showed the first Nepali movie, Aama, a propaganda movie of the Panchayat system. As soon as the movie started, students rushed and reached up to the screen, tearing it down into small pieces.

The next morning some of us were called to the headmaster’s office. Our headmaster was a serious English literature scholar who looked like Nehru in his Nehruvian attire. He immediately jumped on us, asking why the projector had been torn down, and that the Anchaladish was disappointed.

“The students were furious because they were not shown the promised documentaries after that long wait,” we said.

But he didn’t believe us because the students from the school were in the forefront of anti-Panchayat activities. Yet, the sense of having been cheated from being shown the promised documentaries and that too after being made to wait for long was obviously one reason that angered the students.

We do have our sweet, sour, bad, and ugly memories about time: being on time, opening and closing the task on time, and proud memories of completing the projects on time. But in general, we Nepalis cannot manage time and do not care for our own and others’ valuable time although we all know the the importance of time. Discussions can go a long way if we perform a root cause analysis and take the actions in implementing the countermeasures. Anybody who is running late or a team that is starting behind schedule needs to perform a root cause analysis in order to solve this problem.

In order to fix this incessant problem, everyone has to make one's own choices. Time management starts by each of us making time personal; firmly deciding we want to take the responsibility of our own time, we should not fall into the vicious trap of thinking that others are responsible for our managing our time. When we change our habit, we start to fix others around us as well. To manage personal time is easy when we are taking personal responsibility for our own time. The harder part is to make that change in others.

Yet, attempts can be made to help others value and manage time more effectively.

For example, when we invite a big, powerful government official, political personality, or even your program chief guest, the program should go ahead on schedule even if there are very few people in the room. And, its better to not repeat the speech or any other information about what had happened so far to the luxury the latecomers.

It is easy to say, “It's our culture to start late.” Nobody is naturally late; it is the repetition of such phrases that perpetuate a culture of tardiness. Let’s make active changes to initiate a campaign of on-time arrival and kill the NEPALI TIME.

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