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In search of lost time

I am full of nostalgia for the homeland I lost 72 years ago to Partition. An entry in my grandfather’s old diary, in Urdu with black ink, says I was born 88 years ago in an old house on Mohan Lal Road in Lahore when the clock struck 7 on a September evening in 1931.

The old magnificent clock on the second floor was a living presence in the household, its loud, melodious chiming regulating the lives of members of the joint family. My grandfather carefully cleaned the clock and lovingly wound it up at 8 every Sunday morning.

I used to feel particularly thrilled when at noon, the clock chimed 12. It was the signal to abandon play and rush for the midday meal. During summers, when everybody rests indoors in the afternoons, it appeared as if the clock was also taking a siesta, reluctantly striking only once every half hour. Then, towards the evening, it awoke from slumber and its chiming became quicker and louder as the household resumed normal activities.

Slowly and steadily, days passed into months and years, and as I grew up through the joys of boyhood and pangs of adolescence, the clock remained my guardian angel. Its slow and steady tick-tock was a reassuring and comforting presence.

This peaceful rhythm of life did not, however, last very long. By the summer of 1946, the country was going through the pangs of political upheaval, leading to Partition which shattered our whole life. As with thousands of other families in Punjab, we had to abandon Lahore overnight, leaving everything behind, even the clock.

Seven long decades have since gone by, and we seem to be different people living in a different world. But in the race towards material progress, we seem to have lost the mysterious joy of listening to the quiet sound of passing time, tick-tock, tick-tock, ding-dong, ding-dong, day after day.

I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s famous words: “Lost time is never found again.” But helplessly, my sluggish memory often crawls back to that old house in Lahore, and I wonder if the clock is still there on the wall.

madanmathur@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2020 11:17:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/in-search-of-lost-time/article29310099.ece

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