Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Procrastination: Our birth right!

A Bangladeshi friend of mine once said, "Procrastination runs in the blood of the South-Asians." I couldn't have agreed more! Procrastination is something that is not taught to us. We are born with it. In my two-year stint as a student in the US, this fact became even clearer to me. Me and my fellow South-Asians could never manage to submit our assignments on time and when we did we would be all groggy-eyed the next day. But despite all our unpunctual habits, we managed to get good grades and I guess that served as a reinforcer.

I remember how I would go to my professors a day before the due date and almost beg for an extension. It was really easy initially as being a foreign student is always an asset. But later I really had to use my creativity and a bit of acting skills to get an extension. I had already killed my dead grandmothers thrice (of course with different professors from different departments). My poor grannies must be rolling in their graves each time I used their names for something as trivial as getting an extension. God! I was cheap!

My roommate who was an American tried her best to turn me into a "non-procrastinator" but how could I go against my own genes? So of course she failed in her numerous attempts.
I remember the last time she tried to "convert" me. I came back to my room after a long post-dinner chat session with friends in the dining hall. I saw her digged into her computer. This is how the conversation strated and ended :
Gill : "So I got an assignment today due next week and I have ALREADY started working on it and NOT wait for the last two days before the due date."
Me:  "And what would you do once you are done with your assignment?"
Gill: "I just sit back and relax."
Me: "Well I do the same except that I just prepone the relaxing to now. So see we two are essentially doing the same thing!"
Exasperated with my weird sense of logic, she gave a huge sigh and turned back towards her laptop to work on her paper.

Indeed there are some exceptions who do not belong to the league. After much diligence and discipline, they manage to reach a point where procrastination ceases to be in their dictionary. But they are, as I said, exceptions. And one such exception was another Bangladeshi friend of mine. He would always finish his work way ahead of time. The day before the due date he would be all smiles, looking at us with a sense of accomplishment when we would be skipping our dinners to start with our ten-page long assignments. But poor guy got into the wrong company. We activated the dormant "procrastination gene" in him. The first time the newly activated gene showed its effect was when he was seen furtively entering the dining hall getting his dinner in a box. It is not hard to spot a brown man in a sea of white people so we caught him in the act. When asked the reason he sheepishly said that he had a paper to submit the next day. Poor guy felt so guilty that he couldn't look into our eyes. Finally nature proclaimed victory over nurture! We gave ourselves a pat on our backs for bringing him back to his roots as from then on he became a habitual offender.

I remember how once I overdid the procrastination bit. I started working on a 15-page research paper for a class of one of the strictest professors of our college. She refused to give any extension so I had to pull an all nighter (my first ever) and ended up getting a C+.  That was my first C+ ever (and thankfully the last one)and served as a learning lesson for me. Though I couldn't get rid of the habit of procrastination, I decided to be a less extreme one. I still couldn't work on my assignments the day they were given to me, but I managed to finish them on the due date and never had to beg for extensions anymore.

There are many examples of procrastination that can be found throughout the length and breadth of the country in the form of delayed projects and massive cost and time overruns. But one that steals the crown is the Commonwealth Games as it made India a world leader in procrastination. Much has been read and seen about this. The stories about how water was being drained out of the basements even as the sportspersons arrived and how some of them had to get their rooms cleaned themselves have become favourite bedtime stories among kids. The remark by one of the Organizing committee members, Lalit Bhanot, regarding differing hygiene standards between Indians and foreigners has now entered the classics. But I wish to inform him that I do not know of any person who uses bathrooms with stained pots and basins and sleeps on sheets with marks of dog feet. I have never had the opportunity to visit Mr. Bhanot's house so I can't really comment on his bathrooms and bedrooms. Though the games went off well, it did some bad PR for us.

This procrastination made us infamous. But we refused to learn from our mistake and now again, barely a couple of months after CWG disaster, we have another procrastination classic. The Cricket World Cup is scheduled to be held in the sub-continent. Eden Gardens in Kolkata was to hold a match on February 27th. But since the refurbishing of the stadium could not be finished on time the venue had to be changed.

We failed to learn from our past mistakes. I am not asking our officials to be like Chinese and finish everything off 6 months before the deadline as that is something that requires a lot of training. All I wish them to do is to atleast meet the deadline. I learnt from my mistake and never got any thing less than an A- ever after my C+. But I think our Indian officials love to see a red-colored F on their report cards every time! Makes it look more colourful, eh?

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