A few weeks ago I started to write a blog post about “Indian Standard Time.” (True to form, the post never finished and at this point it does not make much sense to revive it) As one who is perpetually late, I am a fan of Indian Standard Time. A few minutes late, or half an hour late (rarely an hour late), I blend right in here. However, once I finally arrive and it is time to go, I like to GO. I get quite frustrated when I think it is time for action and things seem to be stalling. Like my projects a week ago: goat management and dairy reproduction/production going nowhere fast. With 120 interviews to conduct in 25 days, in a language I don’t speak, in an area where it is not safe for me to go anywhere by myself and no one to take me, it was looking like ultimate project failure.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I might not be able to go into the field myself, but other Hindi-speakers could, and if my survey were in Hindi they could at least collect the data for me. Previous translation delegation had resulted in a half-finished, hand-written survey on recycled paper a produced week later than expected, so I set out to do it myself with the aid of Google translator (please refer back to a previous blog post where I described the extent of my Hindi… it has not improved much since). Needless to say, this was a terrible idea, but at least it made me feel like I was making progress of some sort. I set out for the day feeling motivated by frustration.
Thankfully my impulsive google translator plan was intercepted by two incredible women, first Jyotsna and then Nivedita. They picked up my project, gave it a good shake, got the right people involved, and not just revived it but gave it a major shot of adrenaline. They translated my form for me, called people, coordinated, managed, scheduled, and set things in motion I would have never been able to accomplish on my own, all in an afternoon and evening. They were direct, and assertive, yet practical and calm. They asked the difficult questions and were honest with the help they needed. They delegated. They called on people for help, and if someone was not available, they asked to be pointed in the direction of someone who was. They were polite, straight forward, controlled, and effective. As Nivedita said, “This is how you do things fast.”
It was easy for me to feel stalled and frustrated in a situation where many details of interpersonal interactions are foreign, and for fear of committing a cultural faux pas, politeness started to take priority over progress. This recent experience reminded me of many productivity tips I learned previously (like the necessity of asking for help), and most importantly showed me that politeness and progress are not mutually exclusive. In fact they go hand in hand. I owe a HUGE thank you to Nivedita and Jyotsna, along with about 15 other people, and my fingers are crossed that the project turns out to be a success and their hard work is not for naught!