One of the things we Indians canNOT do…is to conduct meetings.
Let’s see how a typical Indian meeting goes.
First of all, it never ever starts on time. The organizer has the unenviable job of being there an hour before the scheduled time of the meeting, until its close, which will probably be several hours later.
The other members of the meeting amble in, each later than the other, blaming the traffic (no, of course they never knew how bad traffic can be, so they could never budget for it, can they?) or murmuring how such-and-such issue of vital importance kept them away, and how, in a busy-busy schedule, they truly have made a heroic effort to be here. The organizer cravenly gives in to this ego-pandering and mumbles complimentary things about each attendee.
Then introducing themselves takes the attendees at least another half an hour, with much modesty-being-contradicted-by-the-convener. Some of those introducing themselves are already jumping on their pet hobby horses at this point. Others are waiting.
Then, if it is a meeting associated in any way with any luminary, lots of time is spent by everyone praising that luminary to high heaven. Everyone must demonstrate, too, how close s/he was to that luminary. Why use 10 words when 100 will do?
The agenda of the meeting, in its entirety, never stands a chance. As soon as the moderator starts off the meeting, someone or the other takes the meeting off in hes favourite direction. The more vocal and strident one is, the better the chance at the victory at this game of “meeting-hijack”.
At some point of time, the moderator, IF s/he is strong enough to stem the flow of pet themes, can bring back the meeting to the first item on the agenda. And perhaps a couple of points after that might get discussed. But meetings never get to address all the issues they were meant to.
The less strong-voiced of the meeting attendees start wilting visibly as they realize that they will not be able to touch on their own particular topics, which might be germane to the meeting.
The moderator will keep trying, mostly ineffectively, to interrupt the descent into irrelevant details and unnecessary examples. Oh, how we Indians LOVE giving examples! “Let me give you a small example” is the signal for the speaker to launch into a long narrative, Homeric in its length and scope. More wilting on the part of the others, except the others who also have strong vocal cords and are waiting to jump into the first available breath the present speaker takes, and “run” with the agenda ball.
The meeting takes even longer because, though everyone COULD put their mobiles on silent mode, they are too important to do that, you see. So assorted people keep getting calls, and oh-so-politely leave the meeting to attend to them. The talk gets tossed like a football in play…going from here to there to somewhere else at a bewildering rate.
Private discussions between neighbours spring up as fugues to the main speech going on. A moderator really needs to be a dictator sometimes, to restore some order.
The meeting finally sort of peters out (no crisp conclusions for us, thank you) when one of the luminaries looks at his watch and gets up to go. All the lambs who have been patiently suffering also jump up at this cue.
Still more meanderings and desultory conversations go on between the members who are not quick enough off the mark to quit the meeting and go. Well-meant statements of “let’s take this forward” are made.
Everyone congratulates everyone else on how there is a lot of clout at this meeting and if they put their minds to it, something will be definitely achieved…in the indefinite future.
The meeting winds up about (at least) an hour and a half after one has mentally budgeted for it. Even when I think that a meeting will carry on till Xpm, it is sometimes X+1 hour pm when it does.
Each person makes sure, if s/he has met someone interesting, that the two of them have a further meeting. Ultimately, this is the only way things get done, I think…one to one!
At this point, when everyone has lost interest, someone proposes that awful essential of an Indian meeting, the “vote of thanks”. Everyone that the moderator can think of is thanked profusely and effusively. Going by the vote-of-thanker’s opinion of the people attending the meeting, one feels that one must be on Mount Olympus, amongst the gods. The vote-of-thanker is often someone who has not had a chance to say anything else during the entire meeting and is just waiting for hes chance to open hes mouth and let the fulsome praise and flowery,orotund phrases come flowing out.
When the meeting is over, there is a sense of the monsoon storms ceasing.
I think by far the best way of describing an Indian meeting is in the words of Northcote C Parkinson, who said this about a committee….why is a committee like a visit to the toilet? There is a sitting, there is a loud report…and the matter is allowed to drop.
OK, here’s a pic of a several-hundred-year old building in Devarayanadurga, built atop the sheer rock.
This was not built by a committee after a series of meetings. Some people just went there and built it. And it stands, as steady as the rock on which it is built, so many centuries later. (Of course the telephone poles are also there, and they are proof that sometimes things actually get done nowadays, too….but let’s see if THEY are still there three hundred years later.)