History

Time Ticks Away

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

by Gopalkrishna Gandhi

I
A pendulum clock stood on a wall in the dining room of our flat in New Delhi.

It kept the hours in Roman numerals, which was like speaking in Latin rather than in English or Hindi. This made the hours it kept seem that much more serious, more compelling than the dots and dashes in the timepieces of our quartz era.

The servants (‘staff’ had not become current yet) called the clock bari ghari, Hindi for ‘big clock’, in order to distinguish it from other random ghari-s in the house. Bari ghari, it was assumed, kept the time accurately and prescriptively. If bari ghari said twelve it was twelve.

Below the flat were the offices and press of The Hindustan Times. My father edited that newspaper and kept newspaper hours. This meant he was up every day till after midnight, coming home only after the next morning’s edition had been ‘put to bed’. My siblings and I would be fast asleep by then but my mother would be up with a meal ready for my father, under bari ghari’s wakeful eye.

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