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Tale of a timeless timekeeper

The day I took up my first job on a tea estate near Munnar way back in April 1964, my father presented me my first wristwatch — a gilded Swiss-made device. Costing a princely sum of ₹120, the equivalent of my gross monthly salary then, it soon became my most cherished possession. In those days, a watch was a status symbol of sorts; people flaunted it as they do smartphones today.

Tea estates started work at the unearthly hour of 7.30 a.m. — they still do — and one was required to be strictly on time. My reliable watch never ever let me down. I recall that my British boss — a stickler for punctuality — would stand at the window of his first-floor room, looking out for latecomers who would be promptly ticked off.

Through the vicissitudes

Over the years, the watch seldom gained or lost time. If it did, I used to reset it by patiently waiting for AIR’s 9 p.m. news bulletin when the resonant voice of Melville D’Mello or Surajit Sen, both veteran newsreaders, would come booming over the airwaves.

Twice a year, I used to have the watch serviced. Gingerly inserting a magnifying monocle into his cavernous eye socket, the elderly watch repairer would clean its pulsating and gleaming innards. The watch would last a lifetime, he once assured me with a confidence born of experience, if it was serviced periodically and wasn’t overwound. Indeed, it has faithfully served me right through the vicissitudes of a 40-year tea plantation career and now 16 years into retirement.

My watch is still functional, symbolising the famed durability of Swiss workmanship and horology. It also reflects in no small measure my strong penchant for preserving things well beyond their normal lifespan — air-rifles, fishing rods, typewriters, for instance. The watch has thus joined my much coveted collection of collectibles; just as well since I find watches are slowly being phased out by smartphones.

Having been a trusted companion and a mute witness to the ups and downs in my life, my watch doesn’t merely tell the time. It tells history. And it will probably outlive me — I’m now 76 — if someone continues to give it the meticulous care and attention I have.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:09:37 AM |

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