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Time on the hand

A wrist watch was a prized possession once upon a time. Many teenagers like me in the 1970s always wanted to flaunt one but never had the money to buy one. I started working in 1970 in Bombay (Mumbai now) and in spite of earning for five years, I could not raise enough money to buy a watch. I was happy to find my time in others’ watches! “Time kya huwa,” was a usual question one heard on the streets of Bombay those days.

I don’t remember how I managed my time during university examinations but now I came through all that without a watch.

While attending an interview in 1975, the interviewer handed me a set of question papers and said that I had exactly one hour to answer them. Seating me all alone in a spacious cabin, he was about to leave when he noticed that I did not have a watch. With a friendly smile on his face, he parted the heavy curtains of that office room and put me face to face with the University Rajabai Tower Clock, a landmark in South Mumbai, which stood staring at me at the face level as I was on a top floor. While leaving the room he said, “Don’t worry, you have the biggest clock in India in front of you!”

Those days, Indian watches were rare and everybody wanted to have a foreign watch. HMT was in a nascent stage and buying a Swiss-made watch was a risky affair as there were not many reliable shops.

I had a friend working in Bombay Customs and he promised me that he would get me a good watch. The Bombay Customs used to auction off confiscated smuggled stuff and he said he would try and get me one at the next auction. A few weeks later, he came to me with an automatic watch but I was disappointed as it came without strap. I strapped it and wore it with great aplomb till the day I left for Saudi Arabia in 1980.

In the desert kingdom, I soon realised watches were the cheapest commodity and were available in plenty. Each time I visited India I would gift watches to my friends and relatives.

In the late 1990s, with the arrival of cellphones, the whole scenario changed. Cellphones equipped with clock and camera displaced wrist watches; today I rarely find a person consulting his watch. Even I don’t wear one now!

Time is indeed changing and we keep pace with it!

narayananpvs@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 12:19:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/time-on-the-hand/article34458328.ece

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