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Updated: September 24, 2010 14:57 IST

With clockwork precision

Lavanya. M
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M. Mariappan atop a clock tower.
Photo: S.Thanthoni
M. Mariappan atop a clock tower.

'At Work' is a weekly column that takes a peak at people with unique professions, their living patterns and the changes the calling has seen in the years.

The meaning of the phrase ‘time immemorial' may extend beyond what common people can recall. But antique clock mechanics in the city say they can influence both time and the memories of people.

Antique clock mechanics service clocks that are spring-driven or weight-driven. With electronic clocks replacing the mechanical clocks, these mechanics continue to enjoy creating spare parts for the clocks and putting them in place.

“Many customers are very attached to the clocks they have inherited and have nostalgic memories associated with it. I get immense pleasure to see smiles on faces when I revive their treasure,” says K. Syed Nazeer, an antique clock mechanic.

The oldest and most complex clock Nazeer has worked on is around 200 years old.

Another such mechanic, M. Mariappan, finds his clocks conversing with him. “The clock tells me ‘Let's see if you can repair me.' I take it up as a challenge and mend it.”

When people find it hard to service or maintain clocks they condemn them. But Mariappan always thinks of the people who have put in their time and effort to create the clock. Many of the mechanics like Nazeer are also involved in the maintenance of clock towers. R. Thyagarajan, mechanic for the chiming clock of Ripon Building says, “Many people who cross the Ripon Building set their watch timings as per the time shown by our clock. I feel very proud and responsible doing this work.”

Most of the tower clocks in the city require winding once a week and the service is done once a year.

Many clock mechanics are hired on a contract basis, while those working in private shops earn somewhere between Rs.5,000 and 15,000.

M. Suleiman, a clock mechanic at a watch showroom, enjoys his work in spite of having a dreadful experience while repairing the dial of the tower clock in Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. “There were no scaffolding for me to climb up, so I was lowered using a chair. The chair was quite old and it broke under my weight. Luckily, I escaped unhurt,” he recalls.

But there aren't too many mechanical clock repairers in the city. “It really troubles me that no one from the present generation is interested in learning mechanical clock repairing. I just hope it does not end with me,” says Mr. Suleiman.

Keywords: antique clock

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