The Watch that taught me Time

It’s 2012. Time passes. As I sit through a somewhat boring sermon in the church, I turn my wrist to see the time and find that I have forgotten to wear the watch. Again. My thought rotates around watches. And as always, I am reminded of a watch which I can never forget. This watch has had some influence on my life and I would surely like to have it back, if it’s still in existence. It was my Grandpa’s watch.

The story can be long enough to bore you, or quick and short leaving out the essence. But I care less and write as much as I fell should be written.

The watch was pocket watch, similar to the one Gandhi had. I do not remember the make, and I wouldn’t dare make guesses. Ever since childhood, I had been fascinated by everything mechanical. And this spring action watch was one equipment I loved to watch. Today we have quartz powered watches which require changing battery after a long duration. But this watch required winding up so that it wouldn’t stop. Everyday, after coming back from market, my grandpa would wind up the watch to keep it running. The second hand(smallest one), ticked away on its own, on a separate dial just below the number 12. I would sit minutes together watching it completing those many rotations, and along with that, the movement of the big minute hand. I wasn’t allowed to touch it until I came of age, which I guess was around the age of 7-8. At first, Grandpa would allow me to wind it up, but being scared that I would over wind it, he would allow me to give it only a few turns and then take over. Anyway, the spring was too tight for my tiny fingers to over wind. And after a few turns, my finger tips would become raw due to the serrations on the small winding knob. But I didn’t complain since I wanted to handle it regularly.

By that time, my grandpa had been explaining me all about the numbers on the dial and how to read time. I was, may be in 3rd grade, and one day, my grandpa dared me to tell the exact time. I took my time to read the numbers and their meaning with respect to the hands. Finally, somewhat scared, I muttered, “11:20”. “100 marks to you!!”. I remember my grandpa saying this in excited tone. My Grandma was very happy. Though not educated herself or being able to tell time, she strongly had a view that we all should be well educated, and I had passed one test for which she relied on the church bells. She proudly told around about my achievement, and though it took me quite some time to actually read time any time of the day, in her view I was the most intelligent boy in the village.

I kept learning the art of reading time for few more years on the same watch. And around sixth grade, the watch was gone. No, it didn’t stop working. It ticked as good as it ticked before. But the circumstances under which we had to part away with the watch were a bit disheartening to me personally.

My Grandpa had crossed 80 and time and again he fell ill. He was losing strength and he was sure that the time for his passing to another life was coming near. All he was worried about was not to burden his family with the expenses for the funeral.

One day Grandpa informed us that he had sold the watch. We were all shocked and asked him about why he did that. As it turned out, he had spent the money in taking a portrait photograph of himself and framed it. He had bought new footwear, new dhoti(a traditional cloth worn below the waist), a traditional jacket and the traditional black cap. He had prepared himself for the journey and didn’t want his family to bear the expenses. He had instead parted with his one beloved possession.

As the details of the events were later revealed by him, he had gone for a visit to the doctor where he met a man from a neighboring locality. During a conversation with him, the subject of time and watches had somehow crept up and my Grandpa informed about the pocket watch which he owned. The man was quite interested in the watch and offered my Grandpa 1100 rupees for it. The year was 1991 and 1100 rupees was a big amount. My Grandpa had immediately agreed, caught the next bus home, picked up the watch, went back and traded it for the amount. He had then used the money on the above mentioned articles.

He had bought the watch quite a few decades back for the sum of 35 rupees.

My Grandpa passed away the very next year, in his new clothing. And his portrait hung on the door frame for years till the house was demolished.

My Grandpa, and that watch, taught me to read time. One of the most valuable lesson anyone can learn. I always feel nostalgic whenever I remember that watch and feel that it should have been in the possession of our family. But the financial conditions of the family at that time, were “just making ends meet” and my Grandpa had enough self respect to not ask my mom or his other daughters, or his son for the money for such a cause.

The watch was gone forever. The man who bought it for such a large amount, surely had some knowledge of its value and am sure, the watch is still ticking somewhere. And I am hoping it’s ticking with a collector or someone who really cares.


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