On Time

“Time you old gypsy man, will you not stay? Put up your caravan just for one day?

hourglass.jpg
Source: Google

These lines from a poem learnt by rote in school, still remembered. Time had a different connotation when one was just fifteen. It was more about the “present”, and something one needed to cram in all the activities of teenage life.  Today with several decades behind one, Time is more about looking back, while Time the old gypsy man seems to be flashing past at the speed of light.

Today we live “by the clock”. Not only are our daily activities monitored by the clock, we depend on Apps to remind us to get up, to drink water, and to call our friends. Interestingly, the regular linear time line, cut up into days and weeks, is barely two and a half centuries old. In ancient times, time-keeping was more of an art than a science. People in most old civilizations relied on natural events–the turn of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon as some ways to measure time.  Different cultures had their own ways of measuring time.

The concept of time has always been relative and contextual. An essay that I read explores these dimensions of time through different cultures and history. Titled Cartographies of Time, the two-part essay by authors Jonny Miller and Dorothy Sanders is fascinating reading. Sharing some excerpts.

In Madagascar if you asked how long something was going to take, you might be told it would be “the time of rice cooking (about half an hour) or “the frying of a locust” (a few minutes).

For monks in Burma there is no need for alarm clocks. They know when it is time to get up when “there is enough light to see the veins on their hand.”

The Andamanese, a tribe that lives on the Andaman Islands have constructed an annual calendar built around the sequence of dominant smells of trees and flowers in their environment. Instead of living by a calendar, this tribe “simply smell the odours outside their door.’

The Amondawa tribe that lives in the Amazon Rainforest have no specific word in their language for ‘time’ nor do they determine any discrete periods of time such as a month or a year. They only have divisions for night and day, and rainy and dry seasons. Even more intriguing is that nobody in the community has an age. Instead they change their names to reflect their stage of life and position within the community. What a wonderful way to go through life, rather than our obsession with the number of candles on a birthday cake!

The fact remains that time, at least the way we understand it today, is always passing. But what we make of it, is entirely up to us.

As the Dalai Lama has said: “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend, or a meaningful day.”

–Mamata

 

Time and Tide…

Time was of utmost value to Mahatma Gandhi. His day was meticulously scheduled, and every minute counted. A typical day when he was in the Ashram would be like this.

4.00 a.m. Get up from bed

4.20 Morning community prayers

5.00-6.10 Exercise and bath followed by study

6.10-6.30 Breakfast

6.30-7.00 Women’s education classes followed by prayer

7.00-10.30 Physical labour, activities and chores in the Ashram (latrine cleaning, helping in the kitchen, spinning)

10.45-11.15 Lunch

11.15-12 noon Rest

12.00-4.30 p.m. Physical labour, classes

4.30-5.30 Reading, meeting people

5.30-6.00 Evening meal

6.00-7.00 Meeting people

7.00-7.30 Prayer

7.30-9.00 Study, correspondence, meeting people

9.00 Go to bed

On Mondays he would maintain silence and complete all his pending work.

Bapu’s trusty personal time-keeper for years was a silver Zenith pocket watch with an alarm function. The watch had been gifted to him by young Indira Gandhi. For a man with few personal possessions this watch became his constant companion. To his great regret, it was stolen from him during a train journey to Kanpur in May 1947. Gandhi wrote in a letter “I may add that the one that was stolen had radium disc as yours has and had also a contrivance for alarm. It was a gift to me. But the cost then was over Rs 40/-. It was a Zenith watch.”

Interestingly, the watch was returned to him six months later by the thief who begged him for forgiveness. Shortly before his death, Gandhi passed on this legendary watch to his granddaughter and assistant, Abha.

The watch subsequently came into the hands of private collectors abroad. In 2009 it came up for auction as part of a lot of the Mahatma’s former belongings including his famous round spectacles, a bowl and dish as well as a pair of leather sandals. It was reported that these were bought by an Indian billionaire and returned to the country of their origin. From the Mahatma to Mallya…how time flies!

–Mamata