Of Time...

One of the strangest experiences that I had during my time away from The Big City was the weird habit of the locals to speak about distances in kilometres. I mean, what self-respecting person does that? Everyone knows that if you speak about distance, you speak in terms of minutes, and for longer distances in hours. I mean, does anyone even know how far Thane is from VT? Or Ulhasnagar? Of course we bloody do. Its one hour by train for the former and one-and-a-half hours for the latter. Churchgate station to Marine Drive is 5 minutes. Ruia to Dadar station is 15, max-to-max 20. Bandra Station to National college is 5 minutes by rickshaw and 15 minutes by walk.

So when I was in Dhule, and asking people in all my doe-eyed innocence how far a particular village is, they would invariably seek to confound me by answering in kilometres. And, I-shit-you-not, I had NO freakin clue what they were trying to indicate. I would (rather unintelligently) repeat the same question, only to get the same answer thrown back. Oh, the commissioner's office? Its hardly 2 kms. away. Now, honest to God, what does that tell me? I'll tell you what it tells me. Abso-fuckin-lutely Nothing. I'd throw a Huh? only to be stared back as if I was an alien. And not to mention the nightmare when we were planning the next day's itinerary. "Haan, woh gaon 10 km duur hai yahaan se, phir wahaan se 55 km duur woh doosra gaon hai, but wahaan se return aane ke liye ek shortcut hai, toh aap log 40 km ke adar aa jaaoge." I was like, dude, that's all fine, but how much time will you take? Time, what time? What does time have to do anything with it? At one point it was so bad, that I was forced to resort to time-distance-speed calculations to get an idea of what the hell it was that was going on around me. The distance is the constant. Everything else varies. The people know they have to get from A to B. Getting there is more important than in how much time they have to do it in.

Is this a difference between big cities and smaller towns? Time certainly has a far more greater value in cities, where it is broken up into ever-smaller components from hours to minutes to seconds. You get into office at 8:59:59 and you are on time but come in at 9:00:01 and you will be marked late. Even in the previous sentence, the first unit of time that came to my mind is hours. Everyday is broken up into discrete pieces. But in a village it is not so. Time is fluid, gently coasting along, ebbing and flowing over a much larger period. Time is thought of in years and seasons, each one covering upto 3-4 months at a time. A farmer tells me that 2 months down the line his crops might be affected and he knows it now. But his is a job measured over years and years. Mine will be measured over quarters. If he does well for three units of time and not for one, he can still ride out the storm. For a big-city employee it might be the difference between a highly successful career and a merely good one. For the unit of time for the farmer is a year, while for the employee it is but 3 months. The farmer has been assessed but four times, but the employee has been "appraised" a grand total of 16 times. Everyone in the city tries to fit in more and more in the same time that we all have, shrinking his point of view, while the farmer sees things on a grander stage, on a more cosmic level, so to speak. Wouldn't it be fun and might I say, a damn sight more fulfilling, to be a big city employee who can break down a day into microseconds and yet never lose sight of the larger, truly grand picture? What could possibly be more harmonious, unless it was a farmer who while never wavering from the greater canvas, purposefully makes use of those individual discrete moments? Is that desirable? Is it even possible? Or are we destined to lose sight of the one when we attempt to track the other?

I love it when posts like these happen. When I begin with something, and end up on something else altogether. And the whole thing took just 15 minutes too. Life's not so bad then, huh?