A timeless lesson on time
The professor from Harvard was to address the Kerala Management Association meeting at the Le Meridien Hotel in Kochi a few years ago, as part of the annual meet of the organisation. I got an appointment with him for an interview for The Hindu, the newspaper I was working with.
The appointed time was 9 a.m. on the day of the KMA meet, at the hotel. I was staying on the western side of the city, about 20 km from the venue. Though I had set out driving my car an hour or so in advance, the crowded and potholed roads made my journey tough.
Suddenly, I felt I was going through a sea of vehicles. My way forward was being slowed down by a vehicle in front. On the left, there were three vehicles trying to overtake one another. The situation was no different on the right side.
Every vehicle on the road seemed to be in a bid to prevent me from advancing further at any point of time. I was virtually inching forward at most of the junctions en route.
I heaved a sigh of relief on reaching the hotel. It was 9.10 a.m. The professor was present in his suite. “Good morning, Sir,” I started on a pleasant note, taking out my writing pad and pen, ready to begin the interview.
“I am not ready,” the Professor said coolly, without batting an eyelid.
“You are late; I am not giving the interview,” the curt reply came as a shock to me.
“Sir, there was heavy traffic; I got stuck.” I was apologetic, but he was in no mood to listen.
His eyes had a fierce look. There was fire power in his words that could throw me off my feet.
I started muttering something about the traffic snarls, but he disarmed me in no time. “Traffic is not merely for you. It’s for everyone. That is no excuse. I have to be ready for my presentation at 9.30 a.m. I had given you time from 9 a.m. to 9.15 a.m. It’s all over.”
There was no room for appeal or review. It left me with the only choice of leaving the room, disappointed.
In a career that spanned over three decades, there had been a few occasions when I was late to keep appointment, mainly due to external factors. Bur this was one incident that taught the value of time in its real sense.