Tag Archives: #indian

Timepass or Pasttime

When Adam and I got together, he used to hang around me and my Indian friend Ranjani. And we both used to talk in Hinglish which is Indian’s way of using English with Hindi. And one day he asked me what did we mean by timepass. And that’s when I realized that Indians have a different usage or meaning of certain words which only Indians can understand. Like the head nods – Indians know instinctively what the head nod means.

So, timepass is a unique word in the sense that it is an activity and is also a review of activity (I am paraphrasing Kanan Gill – Indian stand up comic). Let’s look at a few usages of timepass.

Ques: What are you doing?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: How is the movie?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: What do you think of my boyfriend?
Answer: I think you should leave him, he is doing timepass.

Ques: Where are the kids?
Answer: Must be doing timepass somewhere.

Not sure if this gives you a gist, but it means you are doing an activity – may be useful, may not be helpful.

Word usage can tell us a lot about the culture. Again, inspired by Kanan Gill. In the US, people do not do timepass they have pastimes.

In literal terms, it means – for Indians time passes whereas, for Americans, they pass the time. That is a very profound statement because it is the fundamental difference between being and doing.

In India, there is an understanding of flow, time flowing by – understanding that it is ok to be a watcher – an observer. If you ever happen to go to India, you will see Indians just sitting around doing nothing. It is prevalent to find people just sitting under a tree or side of the streets – doing nothing.

In America, past time refers to a hobby or activity that you do actively to pass the time. It is something of your choice that you actively decide to do to make the best of your time or your skills. It is very rare to see people just whiling away time – there is a sense of rush or urgency – a need to get somewhere.

The point of the blog is not to say one is better than others. It is to ponder on this unique connection of words and what they say about culture. And also maybe plant a seed of awareness around your preference. Do you like to pass the time or do you sit there while time passes you?

Aristotle to the rescue – golden mean is the solution to everything. As long as it is a choice and not a compulsion, you are good to go. If you were rushing all the time because you do not have any other option, then it is good to pause and think – is it needed? Yin and Yang – there is a reason why Golden mean, and yin/yang keep popping up.

What is your preferred choice?

Necessity – Creation – Jugaad

India has started a new system where every Indian is required to get an Aadhaar card much like the Social Security Number (or SSN) in the US. Now, India has a population of 1 billion and the USA about 328 million. While I was in India, my parents suggested getting my Aadhaar card done as well. So, we go to the bank, and like all government offices in India after a little bit of back and forth across a few officers we got the form, got a token and sat down for our turn. The bank was like a regular bank – a cashier, three counters, two offices, and a receptionist. The only twist was a guy was sitting on a makeshift table with a lamp and a laptop with a webcam. I asked my dad – who is calling out the token numbers and just then the guy on the makeshift table called out our number – he was processing the applications for Aadhaar cards.

I go over to his ‘office,’ and he has to take a passport photo to complete the application. I sit on a stool – there is a white paper behind me stuck to the wall with sellotape (scotch tape for those who live in the US), and he uses the lamp as a flash and takes a photo using the webcam on this laptop. And we are done. This kind of a temporary ‘Make-do’ arrangement is what I love about India and Indians. It is the only way you can get done something on a large scale (rolling of the cards to 90% of the population) where most of the population is illiterate. It’s people like the guy sitting in his makeshift office across India that made it happen.

Such arrangements are so common in India that we have a word for it called ‘Jugaad’ – Jugaad (a word taken from Hindi which captures the meaning of finding a low-cost solution to any problem in an intelligent way) is a new way to think constructively and differently about innovation and strategy.

And that is why necessity is the mother of creation which we Indians are born with – we have limited resources, lots of constraints and stuff still needs to get done and does get done.

A lot of times we are hung up on having all the right tools, right resources to get work done and in some cases right mood or the right attitude when what needs to happen is to take the first step, fail fast and not worry about getting it perfect. For people who have the means to get all the right stuff before usually fall into this trap but for those who do not have the means – their focus is on getting it done, they don’t have distractions like having the right size pencil to start drawing. If you think in this fashion, then there is nothing that can stop you from doing anything. All you need is to want something badly, and you will find a way to make it happen.

What are we waiting for? Let’s make it happen.