Iowa Writes

BHASKAR PULIKAL
Fourth Dimension


I threw away my wristwatch. I successfully manage time-sensitive multimillion-dollar projects for a well-regarded multinational company.

In the early sixties, I was a kid blissfully playing in my colorful three-dimensional world when Time surreptitiously entered my life. Back in India, like all middle-class families we lived in government subsidized housing. The only clock we had was a wristwatch that my father%

I threw away my wristwatch. I successfully manage time-sensitive multimillion-dollar projects for a well-regarded multinational company.

In the early sixties, I was a kid blissfully playing in my colorful three-dimensional world when Time surreptitiously entered my life. Back in India, like all middle-class families we lived in government subsidized housing. The only clock we had was a wristwatch that my father had received as a wedding gift. When he was away at the office, we did not have a clock to tell time, and I was happy nonetheless. But all that changed when my father bought a radio. It was given a place of pride in our living room on top of a small makeshift table with an embroidered cotton tablecloth. However, with so much emphasis on socialism, the only radio station we had at that time was government-controlled. It transmitted a few hours in the morning, afternoon, and night.

I used to pester my mom to switch the radio on, but transmission was scheduled to start only at noon. She took the restless kid that I was to the open verandah facing the back yard and pointed to the third row of granite tiles on the floor. When the shadow of the roof cast by the sun touched the edge of these tiles, she told me I could call her to switch on the radio. I stopped all my play and sat down to watch the agonizing progress of the shadow inch towards the line pointed out by my mom. Monsoons were a period of frustration, with the sun hidden behind clouds for days and all four months looked like long days with no beginning or ending. The fine corrections that my mom made to move the line of the shadow for the diurnal pattern of the sun was another lesson I learnt at home.

A couple of years later, my dad bought an alarm clock to make sure I got up early to study. And I got a new wristwatch for my high school graduation. I kept on changing watches from time to time, the models reflecting my changes in taste and lifestyle, and the progress of technology. Winding watches ceased to be a part of my morning routine once I got an automatic watch. But replacing batteries from time to time was a new task.

Time took control of my life in myriad ways. I get up in the morning to an alarm clock that I set on my cell phone. I switch on the Today show while getting ready to go to the office, and I hear the hosts reminding me of the passage of time in between their chatter. I take a peek at the time running at the corner of the TV before switching it off to leave for the office. As I start my car, the announcers on NPR pick up the baton from the anchors of the Today show to keep my time. If I get anxious, the dash on my car has a clock. I pull into a gas station that flashes the time and temperature along with the soaring gas prices. I pick up my breakfast, and the receipt has a printed time stamp. I then enter my office with clocks on the walls of each room. I power up my computer and get into a virtual world. My Pavlovian instincts, highly trained and tuned to the execution of different sound wave files of dings, dongs, and clangs, keep responding to the pings, emails, and reminders. In my peripheral vision, the digital clock runs at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, permanently fixed.

I come home and switch on the DVR to catch programs, and the time pops up again on the large screen. As I watch and begin to doze, the day is done. One day, after comfortably settling into this blissful routine that has overzealously protected my brain from any strenuous thinking, I had an epiphany. I no longer need my wristwatch. In my world, clocks and time machines are omnipresent. That's when I decided to throw away my watch.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


BHASKAR PULIKAL

Bhaskar Pulikal immigrated to the USA in 1998 and has been living in Cedar Rapids ever since. He has written and published a number of short stories in his native language, Telugu, and is currently working on translating them to English. He is an alumnus of The University of Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on December 16, 2008

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