The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘P’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 48-year-old Punjabi woman, born and raised in North India.
P: So, we say, ‘kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?’ (If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then?), now, this is a Kabir doha. Now, this basically… what it means is, he’s talking about the meaning of time in a person’s life, and how it is about… if there’s anything you need to do, you should do it that very day. In fact, not only that particular day, if you’re doing it that day, you might as well do it right away. Because, you never know — ‘pal mein pralay hoyega’ (Disaster can strike momentarily), what happens if tragedy strikes? Then, all your unfinished work is something that remains unfinished. So the meaning of time is what he talks about, in a person’s life, and the importance of doing things as soon as you can.
I: Do you have a hypothetical situation in which you would use this?
P: It’s pretty self-explanatory, right, like… if someone is procrastinating too much, or not managing their time well in their workplace, a colleague or a junior. You can tell them this then, and they would understand.
Original Script: काल करे सो आज कर, आज करे सो अब। पल में प्रलय होएगी, बहुरि करेगा कब ॥
Romanisation: Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?
Word for word: Tomorrow do then do it today, today do it now. In a moment disaster happens, again when will you do it?
Translation: If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then?
Comparable Proverbs in English: Tomorrow never comes, Time flies, Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
This proverb is one that is used very commonly in India, one that rhymes and is known by pretty much everyone who grows up speaking Hindi in their family: it is sort of a paremiological minimum for Indians, believed to have been said by, as the informant stated, Kabir, an Indian poet and saint in the fifteenth century, establishing a terminus post quem for this proverb. Time, even though it is something humans gave a weight of meaning to, has always put pressure upon us, to manage it correctly and therefore earn some form of prosperity or success. Procrastination is frowned upon in every modern sphere, especially considering the influence of capitalism on productivity as a concept, but this pronoun is veritably old, from fifteenth-century India, showing that this isn’t an idea that originated with capitalism or modern ideas of productivity. A similar sentiment is echoed in an English proverb, prominent in the United States: never put off until tomorrow what you can do today [For this version, see: Predelli, Stefano. “Never Put off until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.” Analysis, vol. 56, no. 2, 1996, pp. 85–91. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3328163.]. Both these sayings talk about time and its fleeting nature, specifically with an emphasis on the idea of the ‘tomorrow’ that never comes (another proverb, tomorrow never comes), and the ‘today’ that is fleeting and must be utilized correctly and productively.