The WhatsApp Update Most Needed By Malayalis

Over the years WhatsApp has released several updates to improve users’ experience. Some were good (speeding up podcast length voice notes), some were great (increasing the size of files that can be sent) and some just straight-up copied (My Status from sister company Instagram which in turn “borrowed” it from Snapchat). But there’s still one update that WhatsApp is lacking. An update that would make many of our lives so much easier.

Displaying the timezone for your contacts.

This idea was born after the 346th time we were asked by our parents and relatives what time it was where we lived. Whether it was Canada, the UK, US, Australia or the Middle East, the question was always the same. The answers too were always the same: a fixed subtraction or addition from the time displayed on their Indian phones.

In the beginning, many of us hoped the conversion conversation would solve the problem. “Amma, just add two and a half hours to your time, and change the m!”

So many mothers nodded as though they got it. So many continued calling late at night or early in the morning, and then proceeded to question (repeatedly) through WhatsApp chat why we weren’t responding!

At this point, isn’t it easier if WhatsApp rolls out an update to solve the problem? Imagine if you opened a chat, and next to your contact’s name, the local time at their location was visible too?

We’re not technical experts, but isn’t that a relatively easy fix? By default, WhatsApp could perhaps calculate timezones according to country codes. So if you move to Switzerland and link your account to a number starting with +41, guess what your mother would see when, after breakfast, she opens her WhatsApp chat with you?

Monn (5:30 a.m. CEST)

Maybe WhatsApp could go one step further and colour the digits red if it’s between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M.?

Of course, the cynics will laugh this off. Is it really that tough for your parents and relatives to calculate the time difference? Especially after a few weeks or months?

That’s when we remind them that the Malayali diaspora is vast. Sure, a parent can keep track of the time difference between the UK and Kerala in order to talk to their son. But what if their daughter is in Australia. And another daughter in the U.S.? How many times will Google be consulted if that mother or father is feeling particularly chatty that day?

Some enterprising software engineers might point out that such an update would be unnecessarily complicated for WhatsApp. To display the local time for every contact on your phone would be a drain on the computation power and battery life of the device, they’d object.

To which we reply, Okay, firstly we Malayalis are all over the world, but we’re not all globe-trotting James Bonds with contacts across every continent.

It’s not important to track every contact’s local time, either. A large portion of your WhatsApp contact list is filled with people you’ve never messaged before. But like how Instagram has an option to select “Close Friends”, can’t our parents choose those family members and relatives living in a different time zone?

We hope WhatsApp makes such an update possible, but until then, we’ll keep having those conversations about why we didn’t pick up the phone when our parents called!

Oh, and to those thinking calculating time zones is a trivial matter, please make note of the Switzerland example above. The country is 4 and a half hours behind Kerala and follows Central European Time. Unless it’s summer, when it’s 3 and a half hours behind Kerala, and follows Central European Summer Time.

Getting rid of Daylight Savings time around the world is next to impossible. Ensuring all our parents and relatives are fully versed in calculating time zones is only slightly less challenging.

But updating WhatsApp to reflect different time zones….that’s doable, isn’t it?

Musthafa Azeez
Indian born and raised in Qatar and currently making plans to be buried in Canada. Voracious reader, avid cinephile, self-published author of a crime novel and a freelance journalist.

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