I am over six years late in watching Downton Abbey since its release. But my friends Sidd and Shilpa through their superb recommendation have succeeded in getting me totally addicted to this classic British drama series. Since the last several weeks, it has been a marathon session of several episodes together before bedtime. A few days ago, as I was about to hit the hay after an exhilarating session of the show, I received a text message from my sister-in-law in India. Addressing me as the ‘Lotus-Eater,’ she wished me good night as she stepped out for her day’s work. That’s a term she really enjoys using. She feels that while she would be sweating out during the day, I would sleep in tranquil apathy. What a comparison with the lotophagi race from Greek mythology! They were known for slipping into a deep slumber induced by the narcotic effects of the lotus flowers and fruits they had in their meals. Madam does not realize that I can pull her leg in the same way nine-and-a half hours later!
When it comes to communicating, the time difference between nations and within a country can be very inconvenient at times. I have lived away from my family for two and a half decades, and even after such a long span, it still unconsciously slips out of my mind that it’s a different time on the other side of the globe. It’s not always easy to plan and talk to my relatives 10,000 miles away at a time that suits both sides. There is this acquaintance living in the west coast of America at a time zone three hours behind us. He used to get some sadistic pleasure by calling us after midnight just to exchange pleasantries. The first time he called, we thought it was by mistake. We later discovered that it was on purpose because even after being made aware, he continued calling at odd hours. After being tersely told on the fourth call that he should check the time before ringing up, he stopped calling us permanently. We have however not missed his calls at all!
It will not be an exaggeration to state that the man of my house begins his day at the crack of dawn. His meetings with his overseas team need to be scheduled very early in the morning to accommodate the group for whom the office day is nearing the end. But that doesn’t mean that he gets to wrap up soon because he still has work to do on this side of the planet for at least another 8 hours! All that I can say is that it’s not a very pleasant experience to see your spouse working all the time.
Astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry and economist Steve Hanke from John Hopkins University came up with a unique idea in 2011 for adopting a universal time that would synchronize time and dates all over the world. They argued in favor of going by the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and wrote in an article, “Today’s cacophony of time zones, daylight savings times, and calendar fluctuations, year after year, would be over. The economy—that’s all of us—would receive a permanent ‘harmonization’ dividend.” Quite an interesting proposition, though it’s doubtful how feasible that would be.
Let’s imagine a scenario in three different cities in three separate continents with each of them following GMT. It’s 1 am on a beautiful April spring day, and this is what happens: the London populace is engrossed in deep slumber; the sun is low in the sky, ready to set over the Statue of Liberty in New York; and the light of dawn has just spread around the capital city of New Delhi, waking its people to a fresh new start.
I can at least speak for myself that my brains would go haywire if I were to subscribe to GMT all of a sudden. I would then be having my breakfast at 12 noon and go to the gym at 11 pm (8 am and 7 pm respectively according to Eastern Daylight Time). Truly sounds like a messed-up timetable!
Every situation has its plusses and minuses. And that applies here as well. Sure I still whine about the disadvantages stemming from time differences. But if things are viewed from a practical and professional standpoint, a different picture emerges. Everything is going global these days. Multinationals have their employees working across multiple time zones, and that keeps the show going on. This facilitates the perennial flow of fresh ideas and concepts from varied nooks and corners of the world. It also opens the doors of communication among people from diverse cultural backgrounds, thereby adding a rich diversity to the workforce.
A song by Nancy Sinatra (1966) titled “The City Never Sleeps at Night” comes to my mind. It aptly captures the spirit of New York City that is always active, where life never pauses for a moment. With multiple time zones all over the planet, can we not say the same? It’s the world that never sleeps. In the 24 hour window frame, there are always people awake, working on their toes while you may be warmly nestled in your bed, basking in the land of dreams!