Turning the clock back at Ripon Buildings

Syd Nazeer carefully climbs up the dusty, Victorian spiral staircase that winds through the interior of the clock tower at Ripon Buildings.

For the 40-year-old clock technician, this is has been a daily affair for the past five months, ever since the restoration work of the tower was completed. He makes for a towering presence in the closed space which houses the five bells connected to the century-old clock.

“Twenty years ago, the winder at the Ripon Buildings taught me how to do this,” he says, carefully wiping the dust off the clock’s white dials from the inside. He made several trips into the tower with the winder, learnt the ropes and became a watch and clock technician. But it was only when the winder — a government employee — retired, did Mr. Nazeer step in.

He is now the clock technician and winder for the clock here, and the ones at Chennai Central and Egmore railway stations, while taking care of the maintenance of the old clocks at St. Andrews Church and CSI George’s Cathedral.

When repairs at the clock tower were completed, Mr. Nazeer worked on restoring the four 8-foot dials that face every direction, but his association with Chennai Central has been longer. “I have been winding Central’s clock for seven years now,” he says, adding that manual clocks require meticulous handling. “I never let anyone into the tower while I wind the clocks, afraid that they may damage the bells or weights.”

Inside the tower, there is a distinct tick for every second that the clock records. As he briskly winds the lever, Mr. Nazeer sets the tower reverberating with a musical chime that calls to mind colonial times, even while an Indian flag furls to the winds right outside. The chime is repeated every quarter of an hour, while loud dongs mark the hours.

Each chime lasts a good twenty seconds, savoured by those at the Ripon Buildings at that moment. Those who pass by on the road scarcely notice the music.

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 6:44:39 pm |