Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Late to school? AGAIN?

How do I explain to my son’s high school office that being marked tardy several times in a row for the same English class is really quite unfair to a family with exceptional values? Being one minute late to class shouldn’t really have to matter in the big scheme of things.

“Mr. So and So,” I would say, “Let’s look at the cultural issues at hand.”


“And look at what your own Evelyn Waugh said about this trait: punctuality is the virtue of the bored.”

“Are you trying to say I’m in a dead-end job?”

“No, just that Indian Americans and their children operate by a different clock.”

“Really? And what kind of clock is that? I bet it’s from Ikea.”

I don’t know how he knows that most Indian Americans shop at Ikea but I bought mine at Costco on clearance. I’m certainly not going to tell him that since it’s not in my culture and, certainly not to my advantage, to tell others about good deals. The early bird gets the worm and the rest simply squirm.

But what I would like to tell Mr. So and So is that like the Americans who seem to exercise their privilege to switch their clocks back and forth twice a year, Indian Americans like to change their clocks everyday. So if it’s school, we may be a few minutes behind. If it’s a daylong picnic, we will–likely–stroll in by lunchtime. If it’s a party, our clocks are running close to an hour late; for a 7PM party, do always invite us at 6PM, won’t you?

I will remind him about how much Indian Americans have accomplished here in the United States and gently urge him to look up the roster of past valedictorian and salutatorian names, many of which start or end in “Ram”. I will suggest that while punctuality may be considered a virtue on the North American continent, everywhere else, including Europe–except in Switzerland where their hands were tied to the hands of their clocks–it’s not even a concept for which, I’m sorry to have to use the dreadful word, the time has come. Now let’s look at just one of the things my ancestors in India have done, despite this one fetal flaw, Mr. So and So. In the 5th Century AD, an Indian invented the number Zero and also came up with an approximation for Pi. You must realize that had it not been for an Indian who lived many thousand years ago, you may not even have a school bell.

“So, given our background, would you forgive that one micro-chink in our armor, Mr. So and So, and reconsider dropping one of the tardies so my son doesn’t get Saturday detention before this semester ends?”

And, if Mr. So and So does, I promise to buy him a cuckoo clock from Switzerland for Teacher’s Day after setting it to five minutes behind the school bell.

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