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Indians and Time

“Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute! sagen alle desi Leute” - Indian folk wisdom

When you address an Indian with a request and in response you hear ‘All right, we`ll do it tomorrow’, you should know that you were politely refused, for TOMORROW never comes in this country.
Indeed, what do you expect from people in whose language ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’ refer to the same word?
I came across this million times. Tomorrow you will hear exactly the same excuse: ‘Come back tomorrow’, or tomorrow will be a day off, or it will turn out tomorrow that the person you need has already gone on vacation for half a year (which he knew of yesterday). There is only today and ‘not-today’.

They measure time in yugas (thousands of years) and larger intervals. Perhaps, that is why there can easily be an 8-hour flight delay to a city just 2 hours away by plane. And a train may be delayed for 1 hour even though the starting point of its route is only 1 hour away.  
They know the exact minute of birth of Krishna and Rama but can hardly recall their own birth date. Think I`m exaggerating? I wish! Very often they are not sure even about the year of birth.
One Indian friend of mine (35 years old) recently ‘transferred’ his birthday from January to June. He explained that he had had a discussion with his parents and an astrologer and together they decided that June looked more plausible. As for another Indian I can clearly remember celebrating his birthday with his family in October, however, when I once received a copy of his passport it turned out that he was born in March.

I participated in a conference on the Agamas (traditional Hindu texts) in March. Most of the speakers were Indians with a very few foreigners, and even those turned out to be well-known in Varanasi scholars of Sanskrit.
The difference between the contents of reports is striking. While Indian scholars prefer to focus on the content of texts, Westerners are obsessed with precise dating and temporal sequence. Indians seem to have a least interest in dates to the extent that there is no such question as ‘when was this text created?’. If it says the right things who cares when was it written- 5000 years ago or yesterday? This is THE VERY SAME text. The way they see it is that instructions given by Adi Shankaracharya then and those given by the monks of the Shankaracharya Order today are the same. Words are chosen for the new time and new listeners, but the essence remains unchanged.
Western Indologists, however, make an impression to be interested only in dates, desperately trying to find something important in text modifications.

Where Indians see complete, Westerners perceive vast differences. Where for Indians there is one whole - a complete ‘today’ tradition, to which you either belong or you don`t, Westerners find only a chain of pieces - a sequence of ‘yesterday tradition’, ‘tradition 100 years ago’, etc.  

To summarise, in everyday terms, this is awful, awful. But at philosophical level this is great- an eternal and indestructible ‘now’.     

Varanasi. Wood for cremation. Photo by Alexey Bushov
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