a wrinkle in time: life on India’s half-hour offset

India is one of the few countries in the world whose time zone is unevenly offset from the standard one-hour deviation found most everywhere else: it is five-and-a-half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Not five hours. Not six hours. Instead, it’s five-and-a-half hours.

That half-hour offset makes the math surprisingly difficult, especially on morning calls to the parents back home. On numerous occasions, our sleepy cortexes mismanaged the math and woke our parents just after they’d gone to bed for the night; and on just as many occasions, our last few minutes of seven AM slumber were shattered by parents who thought it was already eight.

And just when we’d gotten the hang of things, along came daylight savings time in the US, a further bit of math that threw our family time and conference calls into total chaos.

How did this come to be? We can only assume India chose their half-hour offset to avoid the political fallout that would have resulted had they favored noon in eastern Calcutta over noon in western Ahmedabad; this way, in a show of national unity, everyone is equally inconvenienced. Still, combine this unified time zone with the fact that India straddles Bangladesh to the east and to the west, and you have the unusual temporal opportunity to drive east from Dhaka and arrive in Tripura earlier than when you left.

So then what about Nepal? Perhaps politics also played into Nepal’s decision to offset themselves a further fifteen minutes ahead of India—a temporal nose-thumbing at their neighbors to the south?

(Of course, we didn’t know Nepal had such a bizarre time zone until about halfway through our week-long trip there; it took us that long to figure out why we were somehow exactly fifteen minutes late to every appointment.)

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4 responses to “a wrinkle in time: life on India’s half-hour offset

  1. Oh poor you guys, try using timeanddate.com next time. Or do a google on the time! Simple! :D

  2. Split Infinitive

    For the Brit expats: a simple way to tell GMT is to look at your wristwatch upside down. For e.g., if it’s 2.20 in India, then its 8.50 GMT…

  3. HEre in Adelaide we are 9.5 hours ahead of GMT. Another half hour time zone.

  4. Love this post! And totally understand when you complain about the difficult math due to that 30 minute devil.

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