The lost art of Reading Time

The warmth of the watery, January Sun has seeped into my bones enough to cause me to step out of my shell of Winter lazinessĀ and pick up a pen and paper, and then my laptop. I’d like to thank you all sincerely for sticking by this rather mad collection of words over the past few months and would like to ask for your support for the long days to come. We can make something truly great out of this journey, all we need is some hard work. And so before I delve into a description about another one of my quirks, I would like to sincerely request you to leave some comments in the “Comments” section (points for apt naming) so that I can see what it is about this weblog that interests you and what more should I write on.

The idea of this post struck me on my train journey back from home, when I saw a young boy consumed with the digital age, almost uprooted from the fertile land of analogue discovery which defined my childhood. No, it wasn’t as menacing as this sounds, but it might as well have been. After having had a week to gather my thoughts, I am eager to bring forward this particular post and even more eager for your reviews.

As a child, I had been obsessed with watches. As a slightly older child, I am still obsessed with watches. I distinctly remember the long trips to the markets undertaken in the fiery heat with relatives I barely remember, just for the prospect of obtaining an analogue watch, or a “big person watch” as I then considered it. Soon that obsession converted to digital watches, then back to analogue, but the need to have a watch stayed constant.

I remember putting people in situations where they would have to ask me the time and I would get the opportunity to flip my skinny wrist over and proudly read out the time. Soon, the motion became reflexive, and on the dark, unfortunate, days where I didn’t have a watch my wrist would jerk towards me anyway to remind me of the fact. Then, the mobile was invented.

In all fairness, mobiles had been around forever, or for as long as I had known what a mobile was, but no one seemed to turn to the big ugly things for time; they were just or calling. Then they became more and more integral to life: my elder siblings, and others around me also unable to withstand the onslaught of “digitization”, started using them for sending text messages, then for listening to music, then for taking pictures, then for every act of man conceivable. Somewhere in this mess of making our lives entirely the fruit of battery power and LCD screens, the art of reading time got lost.

I realise that this sounds as though I am vehemently against technology, which further makes me a hypocrite (by the very fact that I am using a weblog), but neither of those notions, the former for sure and hopefully the latter too, are true. I am wholeheartedly in support of technology, being myself reliant on it, I believe it to be a great creation of mankind. However, seeing that boy, less than half my age and watch-less, use his father’s phone to tell the time was a soul-stirrer.

I spent the rest of my hours on the train engaging in activities which were as far from technology as possible. I enjoyed a few chapters of Orhan Pamuk’s brilliant book, Silent House; I put my mind into solving the Rubik’s cube; I procured an abandoned cooking magazine (no doubt in lieu of digital cookbooks available on the range of device currently planning our demise); and I enjoyed the beautiful countryside fly by my window.

However, my celibacy from technology was short-lived. Already aware of the impending ambush by digital substitutes of all things I held dear, I sought to steer myself away from the young boy who had fallen into the iron clasp of technology before he had learnt to defend himself. Alas, I could not. I was once again placed opposite his inability to read time without the aid of a back-light and large digits on a glass screen.

Waves of pity and remorse coursed through me as I saw the child get absorbed in a train-themed running game on that very device. It wasn’t just the absence of analogue watches which bothered me, though that played the major part; it was the realisation of the fact that as we advance, we leave things behind. It seems obvious and I can be called foolishly small-minded, but I find it hard to give up things which define us in some way or the other.

What will be next to go, after time-reading? Will we forget how to write with pens on paper? Will we no longer fall sleep to the smell of books? Will we let go of the sweet pain felt at the top of a long flight of stairs? What further sacrifices must we make in the bargain?

Of course, all this could be an overreaction to something which ought not to be given even a moment’s thought, but that message hasn’t quite reached my mind yet, and I would like to get this post across before it does. It isn’t just about holding on to outdated things in the face of modernization; it isn’t even about reluctance to accept the change that comes with a developing world. No, it’s about weighing what we leave behind with what we accept, and creating some sort of balance.

I tried writing this up on my cell phone earlier this week, yet something about the feel of a keyboard is irreplaceable, and so here I find myself drafting yet another post on my trusty computer, which I have grown a certain fondness for.

Change is inevitable, that is not only an obvious fact but one which has been overstated. However, change is also relative. It is only change when we compare it to what is already there. If we give up everything that is already there, how will we define change any more?

Something to think about I suppose, in the park, with trees, and dogs, and ponds, and grass, and wooden benches, and tea stalls, and not a single LCD screen in sight.

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