Years ago, when I would still be considered a child, my memories remind me of an old face. But this face had no wrinkles, years old and very familiar, it was set flat, white and only had three lines across its face. Every evening a man whose visage was crinkled with wrinkles and probably the same age as my old friend brought with him a key, a curious instrument made of some metal with an amber hue. He would use it to wind my grandfather clock’s face in the two places which were set like eyes on him, and then, checking whether every hand was accurate to the minute, he would shut the glass door, separating me again by an invisible degree, behind which metal hands moved laboriously all day round, and round. I think the old face liked the glass lid, how else could it survive the million glances and stares it was subjected to without being able to express offence. These glances included mine too. Sometimes I would look at it sitting on a low seat wondering which hand creaked the most and what each passing moment signified, while the birds tweeted out in the garden without a care, the sun keeping their time for them.
Now, I think about all that old face had seen, how many lives had passed around it, lived to fruition or taken away too soon, the births, the celebrations, the generations, the cycles upon cycles of summers and winters. Through it all, he had stood, as a sentinel, performing his lifelong duty, moving in one direction, accurately, rhythmically, without rest, decades without rest. One day, just around when I had begun to ignore my old friend, he stopped. The wrinkled man wound and wound and tried to encourage all his arms, but finally he sighed. His resignation showed in the way he closed the glass for the very last time. I believe I saw sadness in those eyes; maybe he had too been fond of my mutely garrulous friend and learnt to enjoy his company which could be as vacant or as rich as your imagination could make it out to be.
And on that day I thought as deep as I could, to understand, what indeed, time was. Who was its definer, why were hours, minutes and seconds its units and why day after day did we mourn the loss of what had passed? Why did this old face that did not outwardly age, incessantly remind us of all that we had not done? Why did it at times startle us and plunge us into action? Why did we find solace in its ticking when loneliness surrounded us? Was it the rhythm that synchronized it to our hearts, one familiar thing, that our ears had come to separate from noise and found meaning in?
They took my white faced, wooden bodied friend away some days after he turned silent. I asked his winder why he could not stay. He told me we were going to get a brand new clock and this, would be no grandfather. It would not even need him to wind it every evening; he was getting too old to bother anyway. But I never forgot that grandfather clock in the aisle between the kitchen and the dining room, where I could sit and look outside from the French windows, hear the breeze and listen to him. Sometimes, he could even rock me to sleep and wake me up in a while. I always felt lost when I woke up like that. The fragrance of cooking sometimes wafting in reminded me that I was probably hungry and needed to move or had homework to finish for school next day.
Now, I believe, I felt lost because I had slept on some of my time and the clock let me sleep because it understood the true meaning of being. For it, obviously, time, was the act of never ceasing, and for us it is the act of never giving up. He knew he had to move, for his purpose was clear, he knew, we had to cease in moments, to find our own; for we were gifted or cursed depending on how you looked at it. We were gifted because we had the power to move our hands in whatever pattern we chose. We could use our legs to take us beyond the ground we stood on and had minds to serve us in ways that satisfied us. We could forge new paths even beyond what was considered conceivable. But we could be cursed because always, always, would follow us, the loss of time, the loss of days and hours spent in inactivity, on useless tasks that gave no fruit, and served no purpose. We don’t need to be wound, but, we are still looking for something to make us tick as incessantly as the old grandfather clock so that one day we can close our eyes even to the vastness of time.
THE THOUGHTS THAT WIND THE CLOCK
Cease never to think.
TIME does not recognize,
You, as you would think.
It links not your life to a butterfly flapping its wings.
At every stroke of decision,
It gains the light to charge.
Its magnitude is final.
A foundation, that many count on.
For when a life is lent to them,
Men seek to question,
What gives life cause to breathe?
Is it time or is it reason?
When those eyes close at last,
Is regret the last resort?
Or is it indeed a passing,
From Time’s temporal lock?
To a world,