Elastic Time

Business 25 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Oct. 07, 2011

A king wanted the perfect groom for his daughter. So he travelled to the abode of the gods to find out who was the perfect man ever created. When he returned with the information, the world had changed dramatically: a hundred years had passed, his daughter and his entire family had died and no one remembered him. He was told that time flows faster in the realm of the gods, what is a day there is a hundred years on earth.

In another story, the gods asked a hermit to fetch them a pot of water. As the hermit dipped the pot in the water, he saw a beautiful girl and fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. She agreed then and there and so the hermit became a householder and had children by the woman, and the children had children of their own. In his old age, there was suddenly a great flood. The river broke its banks and washed away everything: his home, his children, his grandchildren, even his wife. He was left alone, without anything, when suddenly he heard the gods shout, “Please pull the pot out and give us the water!” The hermit realized he was dreaming while dipping the pot in the water.

In the first story, what seems like a day turn out to be a lifetime while in the second story, what seems like a lifetime turns out to be a second. In the former, time contracts. In the latter, time expands. This is a common theme in Hindu mythology. What makes time change qualitatively is attention. When you are concentrating, time contracts. When you are not concentrating,time expands.

Nikhilesh loves working with Mark. Mark has the ability to turn every project into a game with so much fun that everyone comes early to work, leaves late, no one feels tired. Time passes so quickly and weekends feel boring and terrible. Nikhilesh does not speak of work-life balance. Work is life and life is work. His wife enjoys seeing Nikhilesh this way as he brings the energy and joy of work back home to the delight of everybody.

Nikhilesh had a very different experience when he worked with Dinakar. Dinakar was no fun. Every meeting was a drag. Everybody had to fill in long reports and long forms. Everything was read and discussed but no one really paid attention. Every minute of the meeting was documented and filed and circulated. It was torture to go to work and joy to return home. But the boredom and irritable mood at office travelled home and Nikhilesh would often snap at his wife.

Mark managed to contract time by making everything a joyful activity. Dinakar expanded time by making everything a boring chore. Time passes fast when we are having a good time. Time moves slowly when we are not.

The best way to  figure out organization culture is to see how people behave during lunchtime. If they are eagerly waiting for the break, then it means time is passing slowly at the workstation. If they forget the lunch break, then they clearly are doing something at the workstation they are enjoying a lot. Time is constantly contracting and expanding at the workplace.

  • Good article. I totally agree with your observation about lunchtime. Just wondering: Can we just complain about our boss and wash our hands?

  • vaibhav

    Well told stories.Both of them.Point extracted was also spot on. God Bless you Devduttji!

  • sa


  • Giriraj Bhatia

    Was just thinking about the subject and you have written about it. Great Timing…..

  • Rajiv Ranjan Singh

    Great vision by you again Devduttji! Would b greatful to hear something from you about fear…

  • rajesh

    great great…thanks sir

  • Raj

    great article …..

  • The first story also, possibly, tells the futility of being perfect and fing at the end of ‘the day spent’ that the perfect result has lost its utility. One needs to strile a balance between perfection and ‘fitness for the purpose’ w.r.t. to the time available.
    In the second lesson, the pipe-dreamers would live in thier ‘ages of dreams’,waking up to the reality of having allowed a golden opportunity to pass by during that ‘lofty dreaming’. Dreams without commited actions call for obvious ridicule.

  • Ashok jain

    An article depicting the real symptoms in corporate environment. However profile mismatch may also manifest such findings

  • what a great thought explained in a very simple manner great mankind as you are trending to make every corporate culture in to happy place ever what a mind full of optimistic thought i thank god for showing your site to us

    amba creatives

  • dharmesh dekhtawala

    simply great

  • Theory of Relativity explained using Hindu mythology !! Great post…. Appreciate your thought process…

  • Neelkanth Mehta

    What we learn through stories and mythology about the nature of time,modern world calls it “Time Shifting”. i recomend reading a book by the same name and practice.
    Jaya Ho.

  • Manohari

    Simply superb..!!

  • Indroneel Pal

    After going through your 2nd story,(the gods asked a hermit ) suddenly remembered that i read that story long a go ! If i recall the story correctly ….the hermit asked the god what is “MAYA” ? In order to explain “MAYA” God created the entire situation !

    I know you know this, but i just thought of sharing with all.



  • satish

    Nice One.

  • Denis Khan

    Einstein used the elasticity of time to describe his e=mc² formula. A minute in a dentist’s chair is like an Eternity; a day with one’s lover is just a fleeting moment :)

  • mayur

    you are role model for young generation. today we become educated but there is some missing

  • Sid

    A concise, precise well written article addressing one of the most troubling issues of Leadership and Productivity. Thank you sir.

  • Saiprasad Sharma

    Great! Thanks God, I feel lucky for I am able to read your articles. Thanks Devdattagaru.

  • Vishesh Jain

    “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” – Albert Einstein

  • Jitendra

    Very well said, however I was rather looking for a solution as to how to contract time. Your ideas are appreciated.

  • Bhavin Shah

    Very true… Your writing is just amazing… You bring life into the article.. Its such that we experience and feel it in our real life… Keep them coming…

  • Excellent article. All your articles are learning experiences.

  • Srivastava Rakesh Kumar

    Kindly enlighten us with the names of mythological character in above two stories of contraction and expansion of time.One was Kakudmi but who was the hermit in second story.