Timely thoughts

The idea of Time has always befuddled scientists and spiritualists alike. While for the former it is a linear process running towards an unknown, but a certain, end in some distant future, for the latter, particularly in Bharath from yore, time has been cyclical, a ceaseless alternation of creation and dissolution or rather, projection and withdrawal. This not only gells with the rotational and revolutinary character of celestial objects but also syncs with some sub-conscious usages like ‘time rolls on’ or ‘round the clock’. But both more or less agree that time ceases to exist beyond the earthly aura and atmosphere, at least for those of us on earth. For, consulting a Martian watch looks unlikely for now.

In fact, space and not time, is the real thing. Leap year, a seemingly time-based unit, is actually a measure of distances in space. So, if time has no place in space, its status on earth where it is supposed to wield a stranglehold, is also shaky. While all our lives are time bound and we are all ever chasing ‘dead’lines in more ways than one, time is a hugely relative idea here. The watches of two persons facing north sitting one behind the other, even if separated by a mile must agree but the watches of two persons facing the same direction sitting astride and brushing each other should actually not agree. But Standard Times have perpetuated this perversion and so if it is noon in Mumbai in India’s west, it should be so in Manipur in distant east. Time really is bound by the clock, not vice-versa. Bad times for time indeed for it to be belittled such.

Calendars fare no better, muddling the time mileu further. India has thirty-odd besides the British imposed Gregorian. The G calendar, being a colonial concoction, goes on the principle of convenienece. Just as for the sake of standardisation, Manipur and Mumbai are supposed to ring in the new year at the same time despite the new year dawning at different times there, dates and events of the past across the globe have also been ‘consolidated’ to suit western ideological, imperial and religious constructs. As intended, this has played havoc in the historical chronology of several ancient cultures. A ‘modern’ JNU historian has, for instance, placed the Bhagawad Gita in the ADs with a sinister suggestion that it is a latter day interpolation to the

But in spite of all this meddling, time, as it stands determined by the clock and calendar of the day, remains a compelling phenomenon. ‘Tense’ is not just a matter of grammar but the master of our minds. The past, present and future may follow a seamless flow with every present moment adding to the former’s kitty while acting as a key to the latter. The moment is actually a mirage. But humans divide time and can comprehend it only in compartments. This is at the base of the ‘capsule’ concept, a fictional fantasy, wherein events of past and future are supposedly arranged in separate but continuous ‘packages’ that can be reached through a time machine. There are also philosophers even today who hold that the very idea of time is bunkum and there is only timelessness. According to them, the absence of time, not endless time, is the real meaning of the term ‘eternity’. I am sure they will not be wearing watches. Not that those who wear swear by and stick to schedules, either.

New years are, therefore, time thresholds that offer a vantage point to assess and access the past as well as the future. And since the original starting line and the ultimate finishing line wallow in spiritual uncertainty and scientific self-doubt, these calendrical milestones are all we have as mental markers on our arduous life journeys. So as we take one more step towards infinity, it is our fond hope that the signpost of the year past will also be a sign of a great year ahead.

Happy new year!

By the way, the above is a recap of an earlier article of mine which I assumed was ‘timeless’!

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Jawahar T R