lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My time machine

Time: the most popular murder victim.

There are more adages about time than I can quote, so I settled for a left-handed definition. We spend time, buy time; squander time, save time; time flies and drags; we make time and kill time. We while time away and we use it profitably; we have free times and busy times. We are very conscious of time; we measure it and count our minutes and days and years.

As clocks get more accurate and measure time more precisely, we are more pressed for time as the world hurtles forward frenetically. The leisurely pace of earlier centuries when time was measured by watching the sky gave over to sun dials and hourglasses and water clocks and the world moved quicker. Now there are atomic clocks, and we are rushing about in frantic haste.

Wearing a watch for the first time is a rite of passage. My first watch was a dainty, tiny thing; my mother bought it for me when I was in high school. Those were the days you had to remember to wind your watch.

In college, I used to wear my uncle's watch, a Citizen that didn't need winding. I wore that watch for many years. I was given a Seiko as a wedding gift and I wore that for nearly a decade.

I bought a watch for myself for the first time some years ago. It was a Titan, and it lasted too. If the battery needed changing, or the glass got too scratched to read the dial, I'd take it to the service centre in Park Street, where they'd fix it while I waited.

Then I bought a Timex; I blame it on global warming. Don't laugh. I reason thusly:

The world is seeing major changes in climate patterns, and we have been having very hot summers. (I'd taken to wearing a headband in the kitchen, like the kamikaze pilots, to stop sweat rolling off my face and dripping into the vegetables I am chopping or worse. I keep a towel handy to keep mopping sweat, too. Maybe it is not just the global warming, maybe it is hot flushes.) The metal strap of my watch kept getting grimed up by my kitchen duties and by just plain sweating. Yeah, I know ladies are supposed to glow, but I sweat. Perhaps that says something about me.

So I decided to get a watch whose strap won't have to keep getting wiped down, detached and cleaned or need quite as much maintenance.

So, last year I bought a Timex. I wanted a large display of numerals so I didn't have to wear my reading glasses to see what the time was. And while I have nothing against leather straps, I wanted to try the chunky looking synthetic strap.

The watch had bells and whistles. It had four tiny buttons, and it could be read in the dark. It had daily alarm, and hourly chimes. It could tell me time in twentyfour hour mode or twelve hour mode. It had a timer, a stopwatch function and many features I'd never use or need.

The watch was a dud.

It's light died in a month. I took it to the service centre, and they told me it'd be sent to the workshop, which was not in the centre, which appeared to be only a collection point. They took two weeks to fix it, and I had to make two trips to the centre.

This year, just after the warranty ran out (but of course), the strap broke. A synthetic rubber derivative thingie and it broke. Good grief. I took it to the service centre. They said that it would be sent to the workshop, and that they'd inform me when it was ready for me to collect.

That was more than two months ago, on twenty-fifth of August, to be exact. I haven't heard from the centre. It struck me that I might have missed their call, or they may have called and found my phone switched off. I went to the centre and asked, as I was passing that way.

They had no clue. It is still in the workshop, perhaps, the harried looking young woman in the shop said, after rummaging in several drawers and boxes. She said she would call and let me know. She didn't apologise for the delay, didn't offer any explanations, indeed she didn't seem particularly interested in the whole thing.

That was a fortnight ago. I still haven't heard from the service centre.

"Takes a licking and keeps on ticking." That used to be the slogan of the Timex watches. I suppose mine is ticking somewhere. I can't say for sure, though. Because the Timex service center is keeping time for me. It is keeping time from me, too.

Missus Em is a timeless classic, I tell you.



Anonymous Ash said...

Timeless, ageless and peerless too.

But really? You still haven't got it back?

9:37 am  
Blogger Priya said...

I second Ash on that. Time for another dainty, Missus Em :)

2:49 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- Really. I am keeping track of days here. Just to see how long it will take them.

Priya- Sigh. No dainties for me. I need to be able to read the numerals without having to wear my glasses. So chunky large watches it is. Ah, the joys of aging. :-)

3:01 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

It might sound unfair, but why do such stories still seem so typical of Calcutta?

5:56 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

TMM- Um. Titan service centers repair watches and change batteries while you wait. I never had to spend more than twenty minutes with them. It is Timex that is shoddy with the service, I think, nothing to do with 'typical Calcutta' attitude towards getting things done. Which I have to admit is lazy and laid back.

12:18 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm just saying you hear something like this and your first reaction is to shake your head and say 'oh, Cal'. Which is an impression I would do much to change, but alas, it's the only city where shopkeepers have dissuaded me from buying stuff because they would have to bend down and take out something from a low shelf. Or where people have taken fifteen minutes to make out a detailed bill by hand in spite of my telling them I don't need it in the first place. And i'm sorry, I really can't see the charm in this.

Oops, just realised I sound really belligerent :D I do love the place, really.

11:14 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

TMM- I know, Calcutta is a city where if you go to a shop at ten o'clock in the morning, they will hand you the broom and ask your help to open the shop. I love the place, too. But the tradition of laid back to the point of supine-ness is irritating. And, darling, you don't sound belligerent, stating truth is all.

11:34 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

Kindred souls! I have the darnedest luck with watches and watchstraps too. How many straps I have lost to perspiration! In my case, the charm oozes out so powerfully from the wrist that straps simply break into two. And of course, from my ancient Roamer to my recent Titan, every one of my watches has gone to the repairer , only to come back with a new problem. My experience with car mechanics has been even more interesting. Once, a distinguished looking, English speaking member of the trade assured me I was extremely deficient in 'vahana rasi' after I had gone back to him for the umpteenth time with the same complaint. Yet another English speaking pro, this time my driver Lingam, assured me he had set a recalcitrant windscreen wiper right, only for it to conk out at the first sign of rain. When I confronted him, he breezily dismissed my grouch with the remark,"Oh, it can't handle wetness yet." (Oh, athuva? Athu innum thanni patta velai pannathu sir!)

8:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Timex watch, with bells and whistles, reminded me of the stories I used to read of 'the man from U.N.C.L.E', whose watch had 99 uses; 100 if you wanted to know the time.

I do hope that Misses Em will get her watch back.

9:45 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Please warn me before you post such comments. I had to pick myself up and all that. *glowers*

Raj- I am fervently trying to think of a use for a watch with a broken strap; I am looking at the possibility of writing a book in the mode of a hundred uses of a dead cat here, however offensive the concept might be. A dead watch is less offensive, right? Mine is not dead, even, merely unwearble and unavailable.

11:27 pm  

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