January 6, 2014

Clockwork C2

Why is there so much time around?

Time? Who has time?

I mean information about time. Why are there so many devices that tell you the time all the time?

There is an alarm clock by your bed, another clock on the wall behind the alarm clock. In fact there is a clock in every room of your house and also in your phone, tablet, Kindle, camera and computer screen; on every photo, email, status, tweet, pin, scrap, fork, and cart; on your wrist watches, car dashboards, FM radios, mp3 players, TV channels, DVD players; in every shop, restaurant, public place, traffic signal and heck even on refrigerators, microwave ovens, and induction stoves!

It is almost impossible to look anywhere and not see a clock. You are a species of obsessive time-keepers!

That is because we have so little of it.

If there is one thing that everyone… humans, cats, dogs, trees… has equal amounts of, it is time. All have 24 hours in a day.

Yeah but between a coconut tree, a pet cat, and a human being, the human has much more things to do. We can't afford to waste much time.

But you waste so much time! And other people's time too. And you're always ten minutes late for everything.

Hey, I am always exactly ten minutes late, okay? That is punctual but just off the mark. That consistency deserves some credit, don't you think?

That “just off the mark” is what your boss calls “always late”. Why can't you make a small adjustment to your daily routine?

It's not that easy. I tried. I set my watch to run ten minutes faster. Setting the watch was easy but believing in it was difficult because my phone is synced with the network time. So I set my phone 10 minutes fast. And then I realized I had to set my computer too. And then my office computer and my tablet and my Kindle and...

Wow, you did that?

Yeah. I set all my clocks 10 minutes fast and tried to follow my new personal clock but these social networking apps just won’t let me. When someone just replied to a tweet, the twitter app would show it as “10 minutes ago”. Every time I try to really believe in something, the internet ruins it instantly. Soon I was mentally subtracting ten minutes every time I looked at my watch. The whole purpose is defeated.

You never fail to fail.

In my defense, my failure was inevitable. Those days are over. My grandfather had only two clocks – his wrist watch and another “grandfather” clock. If my grandfather wanted to get more punctual, all he had to do was to set both his clocks ten minutes fast and believe in it. That's it. It was that simple for him. But it's much more complicated now.

It's weird... this human obsession for precise time-keeping.

What do you mean weird?

It's not natural. I mean cats don't believe in it. I rely on the sights and sounds of nature to keep track of time. The sparrow's morning invitation that says “bite me”, the warmth of the sunlight in the afternoon when I nap near the kitchen window, the secretive squeaks of mice as they pore through your trash at midnight... these are the things that tell me the time. We rely on our instincts.

Yes, wearing a watch is unnatural for cats. If I saw a cat wearing a watch, I'd shit in my pants and call the Army. But what is unnatural for cats is not necessarily unnatural for humans.

What about your great-grandfather? He didn't have much use for a clock. He probably just followed the rhythms of nature just like cats.

Humans for thousands of years before him kept track of time only through the natural cycles of day and night, the movement of the sun, moon and constellations in the sky. They didn't care about the exact time. It didn't matter whether it was 6:40 AM or 7:20 AM. It was just “morning” but seasons mattered a lot. They anxiously watched out for the signs of changing seasons, growth of plants and migration of birds. What they did on a typical summer day was vastly different from what they did on a spring day which was completely different from how they chilled during Kaartheeka Maasam. That is what I call natural.

That is a very vague definition of natural.

Forget about the definitions. I'll tell you what is not natural: Your life where you are stalked, hounded, judged, chided, rigidly monitored, intimidated and enslaved by your own clocks. That is not natural.

Oh come on, it's not as bad as you make it seem.

I'm telling you... clocks are the real masters of mankind.

That is bullshit.

Oh yeah? Who woke you up in the morning?

I woke up by myself...

Abba cha!

...with some generous help from four different alarms.

See! You begin your day by begging the clock for 20 more minutes of snooze time. When you eventually wake up, the clock reminds you that you have overslept by 14 minutes and makes you feel guilty about it.

For the record, I never feel guilty about too much sleep.

Do you wake up moments before your alarm clock actually goes off?


Do you know why?

I don't know... I never thought about it.

It's fear.


Yes, fear. All your life, you've been conditioned to wake up afraid of being late to work or school or some other appointment. Your day begins exactly at 9:10 AM. Then you have a 5 minute shower, make “2 minute” noodles and catch the 9:40 bus for a “25 minute” commute to reach office exactly 10 minutes late for the meeting that starts precisely at 10:30 AM every morning. Everything you do... what you do, when you do, how to do it is all dictated by The Clock.

At least I don't sleep when it is time to sleep.

I'll give you credit for that but don't you see bigger picture?

You eat lunch not when you are hungry but because it is time for lunch. Students open their books not out of interest or curiosity but because there isn't much time before the exams. Parents want their daughters to get married early because they think she is running out of time.

People go to the gym and run for exactly 30 minutes till a beeper announces that their workout is over. Friends try to wish each other on their birthdays at the stroke of midnight. You make resolutions to exercise, read, and spend more time with loved ones not because you feel from within that you should become a better person but because it is that time of the year when everyone makes resolutions. No wonder they all crash in the first two weeks. The list is endless.

Thank you. Happy new year to you too!

So how did you end up like this?

We invented clocks for obvious reasons

Yeah but in those days, each city had its own time based on local sunrise and sunset cycles.

It changed with the industrial revolution. It made transportation faster and with it, synchronization of clocks became very important especially for the railways. It was so important that the British govt. passed a law in 1880 that required all timetables in Britain to follow the single time of Greenwich. It was the first time in human history that the population of an entire country was obliged to live by an artificial clock.

It is the norm now.

Trust me, it feels completely “natural”. The assembly lines along which modern industries are organized also require thousands of employees and machines to work in tandem following precise timetables. From those modest beginnings, the whole world eventually got tuned to GMT.

Unfortunately the assembly line mentality was not limited to industrial production only. It percolated into almost every sphere of human activity. Strict timetables are imposed on schools, hospitals, restaurants, prisons and everything else. Scientists are even debating if we should really follow the movement of the earth around the sun for our time.

That is the story of humanity. You just keep withdrawing from nature at every step. You biologically evolved to be hunter-gatherers in open grasslands and moderately dense forests. Then you domesticated animals, figured out agriculture, invented the wheel, learned to extract metal, started trading and ended up living in towns and cities so that you don't have to depend on the wilderness for food.

The Industrial Revolution and faster communication channels implied that your reach is not limited by geography. Air conditioning and other things ensured that you don't have to care about the weather or the seasons either.

You reached a stage where you eat genetically modified organisms, drink corn-sugar solutions in plastic bottles and live in houses with smooth monochromatic surfaces and right angles. The end result is a life devoid of organic experiences. A life that involves an endless loop of waiting for weekends and then wondering where the hell it went!

Finally when the body and mind complain about the dreadful monotony of rigid timetables under the tyranny of clocks, you realize you need to take some time off to “unwind”... much like rusty old CLOCKS!

I don't like the way you say clocks anymore.

The idea of a modern vacation is itself quite funny. It is not a coincidence that the most popular holiday spots – mountains, beaches, lakes and the countryside – are places with the least number of clocks.

What is your ideal holiday? Let me guess. You wake up when you feel like waking up. You eat when you are hungry. You stare at the clouds, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel the fleeting wind all at once. Your senses are working at their peak capacity.

You lose track of time. You do things that excite you, maybe even things that exhilarate you. You introspect and try to make meaningful connections with your identity, religion, people, and nature. Just in a short while, you begin to feel really alive, momentarily free from the clock. You wonder why you don't do this more often.

But not for long because time flies, especially when you are on a low budget 3 days-2 nights package holiday. And then your holiday comes to an abrupt end with the hotel charging half a day's extra rent for overshooting the check out time by 35 minutes.

Welcome to The Clock!


  1. "Things you own end up owning you."

    Nice one! There is one more thing I always felt we are enslaved to: Money. Somehow over the course of history we have allowed this abstract concept to take charge of the world. Sometimes I look at a 500 rupee note and it makes no sense to me whatsoever. What doesn't make even more sense are stock markets: they run on sentiment! And what the hell are credit cards? Where is all the money coming from, and who pays for it? What if everyone gets a credit card and borrows all the money? Who will pay for all of that? Do we even have that much of gold/things to show for that money payable?

    Maybe because I'm a science guy and I can't ever understand it when a finance guy explains me these things. This even prevents me from getting a credit card or a cheque book. :P

    "We do jobs we don't like to buy shit we don't need."

    P.S. Is Fight Club the greatest movie ever made? :D

  2. Maybe I'll write about money soon... I'm sure my cat has interesting things to say about money :)

  3. Love it! I keep looking forward to your articles.
    btw. there seems to be some issue with opening it on chrome on mobile. Doesn't look alright. The characters are gone!

  4. Very Nice blog. I must say Microwave Oven makes our food life yummy and tasty .

  5. Thanks :)

    Yes, I know. The CSS is not working on mobile sites. I am looking into it.

  6. Is there a time when humans start to wonder about time?

    "The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people." chapter 11, verse 32 , Bhagavad Gita, Vyasa,V.

  7. Haha :) Like someone said, "I don't have a microwave, just a clock that occasionally cooks shit."

  8. hilarious..and made me think!!!


don't be lazy