Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE MYTH OF TIME

Time plays such a crucial part in our lives. We are very aware of time. Or at least we think we are. A lot of people (not me though) are very organized. We seem to have things figured out. We know what to do and when. We know our limitations and strengths. We prioritize. We plan our present and future (sometimes even our past) meticulously and march ahead with guns blazing (I hope, not literally) and confidence brimming. Well, we all face hurdles but let us say we get the better of them more often than not and life is good (as much as it can be). Well, I see a few of you scratching your heads and the others wondering if I will ever get to the point (if there is one). For those yawning, may I suggest some coffee?

Before you start speculating, let me point out that this is not a reflection about the purpose of our lives (though that would make some good fodder material). I hear a few sighs (of relief?!) Today something random occurred which triggered a queer thought. Let me explain. These days, as I hold my daughter in my arms and rock her to sleep, it feels like heaven. Even after she is long asleep, I stand there in front of a mirror with her tucked and wrapped around me and watch her sleep like a doll. Slowly and sadly I realize that this is a short term pleasure that I have to cherish and relish as much as I can before time runs out on me. I will not be able to hold her in my arms (or for that matter hold on to her) forever.

Now this got me thinking. This is just one little trick of time (and its partner in crime, life). There are several such instances where we are tricked into a status quo and we never think about the day when we will no longer be able to do, feel or see something that we have enjoyed, experienced or fascinated by for pretty much our entire life.  Now this is what I was referring to earlier. Time is such a con artist. It is a master illusionist. It makes us feel that we are in control and then all of a sudden, in one sweeping action, it brings us crashing down to reality. I see a few of you are looking at your watch. Don’t worry… I won’t take too much of your time. By the way… did you see time smiling back at you (or was it a smirk?)

We are all in different stages of our life. So some of you may relate to this better (even a lot more than I do) and some may be still be young enough to think that I am spitting out hot “garbage” (you are allowed to use the more stylish and cool French pronunciation here). The thing is there will come a time (or rather a moment and a very defining one) in your life when you will realize that you are no longer able to do something that was second nature to you till that point that you had not even thought about a life without that.

No one likes to be told that you cannot do something. Or more so, that you will not be able to do something. That is like the ultimate insult to our ego. So for a long time, we fight as hard as we can to convince others (and ourselves) that we can. We stretch our body and mind to be our 20 year old self as long as we can. We feel indestructible and incomparable. But then we age, not time. And slowly we start feeling vulnerable. So I felt odd when for the first time, my shoulder hurt after bowling for just one hour. My brain had still not come to terms with another shock. The fact that I had transitioned from a fast bowler to a medium pacer. That realization was reserved for another day. I felt frustrated when I was not able to run around the tennis court as I had done just a year ago. I couldn’t believe I was puffing and panting after just 2 sets. Well, had I known on that day, that exactly a year later, I would say time out after 1 set, I might have felt a little better.

I accompany my parents for their doctor visits. So every time one of them went to our eye doctor, he would ask my mom or dad to read a chart that had letters of decreasing sizes. He would then put in lenses of different powers and they would go again. At that time, there was always a small happiness inside me as I would be able to read every line in that chart (down to the microscopic sized alphabets in the last row). Had I known that one day I will not be able to read the last row (or may be even the ones above it), I am sure I would not have had that little inexplicable moment of glee. 

During my school and college days, I used to remember all my friends’ birthdays and their phone numbers by heart. Nowadays I have outsourced that part of my brain to smart phones and social media (boy that sounds cool, but it ain’t).  May be my RAM can’t handle it anymore and my ROM has reached its capacity. Or maybe I should just eat more ladies' fingers. (Relax peeps, I meant the vegetable).

I still remember my first winter in college. Winter in India is not a common thing and for a guy from South India, it is probably unheard of. I studied in BITS Pilani which is in Rajasthan, popular for its desert and heat. But it gets awfully cold during winter. So there I was, standing in the middle of the road (Courtesy a flat tire) on the coldest day in I guess 20 years, with a t-shirt, jeans and slippers. And strangely it felt amazing. I was shivering but wouldn’t have taken a sweater even if one was available. I was loving it. And that crazy ride that followed after is still etched in my memory as an uber cool adventure (I should probably write about that).

Anyways… fast forward now… winter has become an integral part of my life as I am in Chicago now. But I am not that daredevil anymore. I still love to go out and play in the snow but who knows when I will realize that I can’t do that anymore. That day is not too far off. The only difference is that on that day in Rajasthan, I was a young, happy and ignorant boy who just soaked in an adventure, whereas today I relish it with careful abandon. I know that these times won’t last forever either. Which among these two moments is more precious: well that is a real toughie.

I think I have reached a logical stopping point. By that I mean either you have left by now or you are thinking of pouring that hot coffee on my face. My intention was not to bum people out by writing about sad and high handed philosophical compost. So if I made you rue the last 5 minutes of your life, allow me to finish with a happy thought.

We know we cannot beat time. The realization may come sooner or later or never (that would be ideal in some ways). But the thing is you cannot change anything. So live life to the fullest and enjoy these precious moments. Cherish them as if they will never happen again. Treasure them in your mind and play them over and over through your eyes and heart. They will make you forget everything else and experience bliss. Freeze every moment of your life. May be that is the only way to get the better of time.   



12 comments:

  1. Life is a game of time....
    This is the reason i hate time...may be we all.
    Very nicely written.

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    Replies
    1. I can feel your angst. Time has no mercy.

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  2. Would you hate me if I quote from John Updike's Endpoint, which I have been reading of late:

    "Yet something is awry, no doubt of it.
    Out on the Bay, a strange steel spider crawls
    among our islands glaring bright at night.
    Time was when this white house, with its broad view,
    wore blackout shades and watched the iron sea
    for submarines. A child then now is old."


    I have already begun my journey downhill on the other side of the mountain. What I see below is not exactly an abyss but I guess I will get closer to that eventually. Yes, my friend, Life and Time, its partner in crime, have a way of humbling you. I, who was lighter than a gazelle in my flight, can barely sprint for longer than five minutes now. I cannot form a sentence in Sanskrit or French that I learnt so easily in my younger days. I am beginning to loose the horizons of English and Hindi too. The incessant volley of words that would overwhelm notepads and audiences has turned into erratic clattering of a slow moving coach. But hey, I am running away with my petty lament on your brooding soliloquy.

    I deeply empathise and relate with your post, as is evident. Most people should unless they are in their twenties and standing in a t-shirt, jeans and slippers the middle of the road in a cold desert... The conclusion packs a handful of gems. Live in the moment, cherish it to the hilt.

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    Replies
    1. It is absolute bliss to read your comment every single time, Uma. Lovely quote! "A child then now is old" - the line tells so much.

      Time might be getting at you, but trust me your mastery of words hasn't slowed down one little bit. :)

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    2. And I have added "Endpoint" to my ever growing reading list. :)

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  3. It's interesting that this post was up in November and here I am, reading it on a cold Jan day and nodding to almost each and every line up there. Maybe it is because I am on the wrong side of 30 or because I'm in the middle of that monthly turmoil that my hormones throw my way :D, this post had so much for me.

    Just what I need to hear today, Raj.
    Stay warm (and try to write that post about that crazy ride you mentioned. I would love to read that. :)).

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    Replies
    1. I am glad I could bring some warmth to your heart on a cold day. :) I couldn't have asked for more. :)

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    2. And yeah.. of course... I will write about that hell of a ride soon. :)

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  4. I don't know why, but a tear rolled down my left eye while reading this. Time has given me so many things and has snatched even more from me. Yes, it is time that has made me think so practically even when the situation is completely emotional. I am not sure if I really like this new me which this time has turned me into.

    Great write up Raj. It touched many strings of my heart.

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    Replies
    1. I can understand how you feel. Time neither has mercy nor remorse. It is as cold as the winter chill and as hot as the summer blaze. Sometimes it fills our life with a cool breeze as well. I hope it does so more often.

      I am sure you will like the new you more than ever. :) Keep smiling.

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  5. Time is a master illusionist, you are so damn right. It slows down and quickens its pace as and when it fancies. And we feel utterly helpless at its disposal. On the other hand, time is just an axes. One of the four axes of space time continuum. You slide back, go back to the past. Slide it forward and leap into the future. This a deep post you've written. Made me reflect quite a bit.

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