Thursday, January 28

Desi Time

It's common joke that in South Asia: there is digital time, and there is desi time. One hour in digital time is one hour. One hour in desi time could be up to about four hours. Time is viewed so differently that it's frustrating for a New Yorker living in Dhaka, Bangladesh to be patient during late appointments and hours spent making one decision. Being here for 6 months, I've considered myself adjusted and daily brush it off as a cultural trait I'd have to 'deal with.' But then I given funny insight that made me view it differently.

Flying back to Dhaka from Kolkata, India, my ticket itinerary reads that I will land at 4:15pm January 6th. I tell my Bangladeshi friend to pick me up at 5pm. After going through immigration and baggage claim, my phone reads 4:40. I call my friend, who answers the phone, surprised, "Are you at the airport? I haven't even left the apartment yet! You said to be there at 5.. it will take over an hour to reach you." Rolling my eyes, "Well, it's a bit early , I guess. No worries, I'll take a taxi." I shrugged off her lateness, relaying it as a desi trait.

After surviving the hour long, traffic and polluted ride to my apartment, I arrive exhausted. "What time is it?" I ask my Bangladeshi auntie. "Five," she responds. Umm, wait--how? I left the airport at 4:50 and certainly spent well over an hour in traffic, how it is five o'clock? Thinking she's nuts, I log online and google "Dhaka time". It reads 6:04pm. As does my phone. Jet lagged and confused, I text a friend: "weird question, what time is it?" He responds, "Haha not so weird cuz we change the time 1 hour back while you were away. it's 5:08."

Bangladesh, already having her own time zone, decided for the first time to have Daylight Savings on June 19th, where they pushed their clocks ahead one hour. They then decided to change back on January 1st, where they technically had two midnights.

But no one knew. My flight itinerary didn't know, the airline didn't know, India didn't know, even the internet was (and still is) wrong! Bangladesh citizens were cued in, the world was not. My friend was going to be on time to pick me up, I was the one who was in the wrong--and was an hour early. Shame on me!

Sitting on my bed, fitting all these pieces together, I realized how I could always view desi time in that way. I joke that in New York: if you're told to be somewhere at 9, you arrive at 8:50. In Dhaka, if you tell someone to arrive at 9, they will stroll is around 10:05. I always viewed them as late, but in all reality, they are on time, just a different kind of time. Maybe New York is too on edge and needs to be late sometimes. Adapting is not to just recognize and simply 'deal with' a cultural nuance as if 'they' are wrong, but to truly adopt a different view.

Now my friends are pissed because I’m late all the time. When in Rome, I say!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, desi time. I'm surprised to hear you comment on people in New York being on time or early. I've always considered New York to be on desi time. But perhaps it is I who was in desi time in New York (and everyone was muttering about it behind my back).

    This post caught me at just the right time, too. We just discussed different concepts of time in my transnational fiction class. In your example, you were living trans-temporally. Perhaps you still are. Perhaps you always will be because of these experiences. I'd like to think I live there and I think it's a good place.