Come to the point please

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Long ago when I was in Cleveland, I received a joke that I found to be extremely hilarious. Within an instant I forwarded that email to all my friends at work. I sent the email in the morning and that afternoon I received a call from our HR manager with a request to visit her in her office. It was a meeting that lasted just about 2 or 3 minutes. After a simple hello and how-are-you exchanges, she came straight to the point and asked me if I realized that there was an eff word in the email that I forwarded to many people at work. I heaved a big oops and told her that I realized right then and not when I sent out that email. She mentioned to me that one of my very religious colleagues was offended by that email. I apologized to my HR manager and requested her to convey my unconditional apologies to my colleague whose identity was not revealed to me.

This is the third article in my series of articles on Living in India.

Reminiscing those good old days makes me think how simple it was to have a conversation. More importantly how critical it is come to the point in a fair and frank manner. Things are diametrically different in India. Whenever our office boy comes to see me in hopes of receiving a small favor, he says all things possible before he finally says what he really wants. This behaviour is not limited to those who come to me seeking a favour; it is generally the case with almost any conversation either on the phone or a one on one personal meeting. There are very few exceptions to this behaviour. I am not sure if it is a general human trait or more like a trait reserved exclusively for Indians. I am now meeting a lot more people in India who have a problem coming the point.

Whenever I am invited to a meeting to discuss an important issue, the discussion usually starts off with something that has no bearing whatsoever on the topic to be discussed. It is only half way through the meeting that I realize the purpose of the meeting. In the course of relatively larger group meetings, like a staff meeting, the meeting starts off with a monologue by the head of the group. This monologue has all the capacity to kill the purpose of the meeting. Whenever I conducted a staff meeting I am now using the techniques that I learnt. It is as simple as taking the agenda with me and discussing everything that needs to be discussed within a timeframe that I estimated.

I do not have the luxury of setting up the agenda when I go to the meetings that I get invited to. If it is an older person and someone who is considered powerful, then the protocol match starts. You are not supposed to say that you have other things to do and that you have to leave. That is considered rude. Depending upon the intellectual prowess of the person that wants to talk to me, the person rarely comes to the point and says a thousand things one after the other wherein every next thing is actually the second thing: “The second thing is…” Somewhere along a number of second things is buried the actual point that needs to be conveyed. In the mean time his phone rings umpteen number of times with whom he talks for a long time with my presence not posing any distraction whatsoever. With some he talks for a long time and with others he simply says that he is in an important meeting and that he has no time to talk! When I walk out of the meeting with my head reeling I realize that the tenth second thing that he said is what he wanted me to know. That is because that was the only thing that I did not know already.

I am sure many of my friends in India have experienced this at some point or the other, some more often than the others. I have met several people who put me through this ordeal. To suffer silently is not an option. I still haven’t learnt how to deal with such people, although I am learning to say things like “why don’t you finish that phone call, I will be right back” or “you are a busy man, I should not take too much of your time”. I hope and pray someday all people in the world will find out how to stay grounded and come straight to the point.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Viji Alur April 30, 2012 at 9:38 am

Ah..Now I know why some people follow IST. Having trouble sticking to the point.
You are very correct. However, it also depends on the type of indutsry that you work in. I have worked in IT companies in India and havent faced this issue. May be not to that extent that it stayed in my head.


Sahadev Komaragiri April 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Professional environments are typically very professional although I met people even in IT world who have a problem coming to the point!


Prasad May 6, 2012 at 10:38 am

Another example is the stereotype we all know
The standard head shake for YES/NO…


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