Monthly Archives: March 2013

Telling time the hard way – Kumar Standard Time (KST)

I’ve realised something. It’s incredibly liberating when all the clocks in your house tell the same time. And the right time, at that.

I don’t know if anyone in your family does this, but my father has always insisted on setting the main wall clocks in the house 10 or 15 or 20 minutes ahead, so that the Kumar household existed in its own imaginary time zone. Let’s call it Kumar Standard Time (KST). He once had the clocks turned a full half an hour ahead, but i think the family rebelled and he compromised by making them ‘just’ 25 minutes fast instead.

The theory is, apparently, that making clocks faster will ensure that family members (read: the women) are on time for outings/events. It’s never worked. Thirty something years later, my mom and I are still always late. How could it work when you’re perfectly aware that the clock is how-so-ever-many minutes ahead? All that happens is that you’re constantly back-calculating and having to do complicated mental maths when you’re in a tearing hurry. “Oh gosh, I need to be there by 6.25 so I need to leave by 6.05 ‘Real Time’, which means 6.30 ‘Our Time’…” It’s even worse when you realise that the time adjustment wasn’t particularly precise to start with, and ‘Our Time’ or KST isn’t 25 minutes ahead of ‘Real Time’ as originally thought, but more in the region of 22 or 23 minutes (6.05 p.m. minus 23 minutes = ?).

Then there’s the added confusion caused by the Forgotten Ones. Those are the scattered alarm clocks and kitchen clocks, etc. which were not notified of the time change, and still steadfastly continue to broadcast ‘Real Time’. Not to mention the Losing Time Conundrum, when a clock gets tired of telling time, and randomly drops five or ten minutes here or there without so much as a by-your-leave. In both cases, you think you have 25 minutes to get ready because you think the clock is on KST, but actually you’re already late. See? Disaster.

So, finally, after all these years, my mother put her foot down. No more fast clocks. No more ‘Our Time’ vs. ‘Real Time’. No more maths sums while telling time. She climbed on a chair, pulled down the wall clocks, asked me what time my cellphone showed, and changed the time. One after another. No fuss, no drama. It was all over in 10 minutes. Just like that, a new era had been ushered into the Kumar household.

And I have to say it’s been absolutely wonderful. I catch myself looking at the drawing room clock tensely, thinking, “It’s 6.17, so I have to subtract 25 minutes, so it’s… Oh wait. It is just 6.17.” I see the grease-covered old kitchen clock and think, ‘Add 25 minutes for KST so it’s… Oh wait. There is no KST.” And then I relax and let out the breath I’d been unconsciously holding. The time is what it is. ‘Real Time’, IST. Whatever you call it.

Of course, there are some times when I miss the Artificial Time Buffer. That feeling when you’ve overslept and see the clock and panic, and then realise that you still have 10 minutes to get dressed and shoot out the door since the clock is actually ahead. But the weakness passes and  I’m strong again. No more KST. I live in Real Time now.

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Hi God! What’s happenin’?

My 16 month old daughter likes to hang out at the family pooja area. When I say hang out, I mean it quite literally. I’m not talking about her piously putting her hands together and saying ‘namnam’ (as she was taught to by her proud grandma). That was so two months ago. Now, she chills out with the old Raja Ravi Varma prints (many of which belonged to my grandfather, and some to his father before him) and chats with them. She says ‘Hi aunty’ and ‘Hi uncle’, and so as to not be age-ist and leave out the more youthful deities, she also adds ‘Hi anna‘ and ‘Hi akka‘.

At first, we were all a little unsure as to how to react. It seemed wrong, somehow, that she didn’t realise that these aunties and uncles and annas and akkas were different from those she saw otherwise, the people she met everyday or saw in newspapers and magazines (she’s quite the little reader, and goes through the paper and any magazines lying around end to end, greeting all the men and women and children in the photos and ads politely). I tried saying, “No kanna, this is not aunty and uncle, it’s umachi. Say ‘umachi namnam’.” After several prompts, she did, but you could tell her heart wasn’t in it. It was a going-through-the-motions kinda namnam, and then she went right back to saying ‘hi’, stopping just short of high-fiving the pictures (she did wave, though). I let it go then. I realised that, hey, this is why we give God anthropomorphic forms, right? To make Him more accessible to us? So if my baby likes to hang out with Lakshmi Devi, Lord Shiva et al, gazing at them interestedly for several minutes, and blowing them kisses, well, more power to her. Maybe it’s the beginning of a deep, lifelong love of religion. Or of vintage Ravi Varma paintings. Who knows.

Still, this morning, when she applied her new-found knowledge of parts of the human body to the deities, and said ‘Knee!’ after regarding a picture of Lord Ganesha thoughtfully for some time, it was a little disconcerting. By the time she’d worked her way down to the feet and toes, I’d gotten used to it. Trying to pull the paintings down and give them ‘huggies’, though, that’s still a no-no.

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