Of late, everyone is always late.


By Pauline M

I am writing this while I wait for the hairdresser I visited for a haircut. The appointment I had was for 3 pm. It is 4.45 pm and I am … yes, waiting.

Being late or having to wait is relatively new to me. In the city everyone did their best to keep their appointments. The mornings start with maids rushing to work on time because they worked in multiple households and being late to one meant running late all day long. Everyone left for work on time – being late resulted in missing the train that ran mostly as per a scheduled timetable. Those who drove to work always overestimated the traffic, which was usually bad (but hey, Shillong is getting there) and it was always better to be safe than sorry. Or in this case early than late.

Appointments for work, with doctors, at salons, restaurant reservations…were mostly met. Emergencies were excused but with proper notice.

Shillong is teaching me to wait. And how.

Episode 1 – I took an appointment with a well-known paediatrician. The appointment was scheduled for 11.30 am. Dreading the "why-are-there-so-many-cars-on-Shillong's-narrow-roads", I got there at 11.00 am only to be told I would have to wait till 12.00 noon. At 12.00 noon, I was told I would meet the doctor at about 2.00 pm. Why? Not because there was an emergency but because "there are lots of appointments today". Well, wasn't scheduling appointments the point of getting organised? I waited till 2.00 pm only to be told that the appointment was now re-scheduled for 4.00 pm.

I left.

Episode 2 – My family burst out laughing when I got dressed and was ready to leave home at 10.00 am to get to the ROC's Office which was about 15 minutes away from home, for a meeting. "It's a government office…no one will be there this early", they said. But having gone to government offices for registering Leave & License Agreements while in the city, on numerous occasions, and at 7.30 am finding it fully staffed and functional, I did not relent.

I was at the ROC's Office at 10.20 am. The gentleman I was to meet walked in at 12.40 pm.

He offered a feeble excuse. One that did not carry any truth given that his subordinates had already told me that "Sir comes only after he has had his lunch…"

Episode 3 – I read the terms and conditions with regard to applying for a passport online. Register, fill form, pay, schedule appointment, print receipt…all online. Crisp and efficient. Thank you Sushma Swaraj!

The appointment receipt read "Appointment time 10.00 am. Reporting time 9.45 am" so there I was at the Shillong Centre at 9.43 am with my minor children in tow. The reception area was crowded. What! The staff hadn't come in yet so those with earlier appointments were all waiting. 10.00 am came and went. My children grew restless. I didn't have an option – I needed passports for them for an impending trip.

The staff trickled in at 10.15 am, shook dry their umbrellas, settled in their seats, put on their computers, waited to connect, exchanged pleasantries with one another before calling people in.

I looked at my watch. It was almost 10.30 am. Appointments were running an hour late!

So much for "crisp and efficient".

Sadly, being late is usual in Shillong. And even sadder is that expecting people to be late is not unusual.

Maybe I should just let my hair grow.

 Carrie Bradshaw said "When I first moved to New York. I'd buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more".

Pauline M buys dinner.  

An IIM Alumni who spent years in the corporate world living the jet set life, Pauline returned to her home town Shillong to think, to feel, to catch her breath. And of course, relish her dinner.