Back in the days, when we were kids, if we woke up in the middle of the night, the noises we would hear were fairly predictable. A couple of dogs barking without rhyme or reason, a rare vehicle going by, some security guard’s whistle in the distance and if it were closer to dawn, the birds chirping.
Then in the summer of 1980, a new sound got introduced. Tick-tock, tick-tock – you could hear amidst the general tranquillity. And if you stayed up long enough, you could hear the gentle gong of a wall clock announcing the time. The number of gongs would match the numeral value of the hour at the top of the hour but only once at the bottom of the hour.
Yes, we had a new wall clock! The one and only. Forty one years later, it still adorns the walls of my parents’ house. It stopped working long time back. Years down the line, dad got rid of the pendulum and got it retrofitted with a battery operated small box. It still gave time – but no gongs. Even that eventually ceased to work. I think mom got tired of getting up on the stool to change batteries.
As a final gesture, she put a picture of one of the religious figures (Sitaram Omkarnath) they were disciples of on the clock. That way, I guess, they kept looking up to the clock multiple times a day – just for a very different purpose.
But the three years that I was home when the clock was there – saw some exciting times. The most adventurous part was dad allowing me and my sister to wind up the clock. We used to wait patiently for Sundays to come. At exactly 11 am, we would wind it up. There were two keys – you can see the keyholes in the picture. My sister did the left one – she went clockwise and I did the right one – I went anti clockwise. After that, we put the key back in its place and made sure that the clock lined up on the edges where dad had put some markers. (else the pendulum would stop swinging).
The three siblings – we used to marvel at the precision of the clock. We used to hope that it would miss sounding the gongs once in a while. Nope, like… errr… clockwork, it would give a whirring sound for a few seconds (I assume the hammer mechanism would be set up) and then go – Gong! We were prone to counting out loudly how many gongs it sounded. Hoping against hope that one day we wouldl catch the clock slip up. It never did!!
Soon, in school, our physics teacher taught was that the time period (T) of a pendulum swing … don’t take this to the bank… my memory can play tricks on me … but I think it was two times pi times square root of length divided by gravity. In other words, how far the pendulum went on either side did not matter. It would come back to the middle exactly after the same amount of time. Apparently, Galileo had proven that first. I tried to disprove that at times trying to count my heartbeats for every swing. Not once could I get the better of Galileo.
Anyways, coming to the present, as I was scanning across the walls at my parent’s home before taking my final leave, I saw the clock quietly staring down from the wall. What great witness it has been to timeless experiences in the Roy family.
As I put my head down from the clock, I realized – that calendar, that clock, that watch… how much they strive to remind us that time is a finite thing for us.
Unfortunately, we switch batteries for the watch, wind up the clock, flip the calendar pages with an attitude that time will never end for us.
And then when the finiteness of our time actually slaps us across our faces, it hits us hard.