My grandmother is always shocked to know the time. When she inquires about it and I tell her it’s such and such o’clock, she curses time and chides it for its speed. On the other hand, I’m like, “It’s four o’clock; there are still eight hours left for the day to end.”
We’re both on either ends, my grandmother and I. She muses about the speed of time and how it vanishes before she could realize it; I bother myself with what time has contained within it.
It seems a horrid fact, yet blissful at the same time that every one of us, every single day, misses so much. None of us can see it all. A mind so free that it is always observing and does not have anything to do is a diseased mind, one that has been enveloped in the sheets of madness. An empty mind, like a full one, is danger to the person who it belongs to. It is always better to be occupied and yet get distracted by the world. We only have so much left with us.
We all have our own view of time – it will never come again; tomorrow is promised to no one and all that philosophical shit. We’re only quoting each other; seldom do we realize what the words hold.
As an aspiring writer trying to plant her feet in the literary world, writers who have been held strongly by the soil for years and whose words spread out towards the sky through their branches tell me to look at the world rather at myself. As a tree I must not look down in the clear water like Narcissus nor at the sky like the fool who only dreams but never chases them. Rather I should look ahead and around. The leaves rustling over head. Their shade under my feet. The flowers and weeds that sprout up in my path. And the footsteps of those that tread the roads day and night. They leave stories behind them wherever they go like trails of perfume – only traces remain when they are gone, and so you must take it in fully when they are there.
It doesn’t cost much to look up and take notice of the little things. Observing has become an unconscious habit now that I’ve deliberately done it for months now. I started out in an attempt to get inspired by everything in the world that passes and stays – people and places and birds and sunrises and flowers and cars and wings and dust.
There are stories all around me, they said, and so I began looking for them. But now there are more than just stories. Indeed, I ought to write about the bougainvillea that clings to our first-floor balcony or about the man I saw on the bus home one day with his brown eyes and copper hair and beard that shone in the sunlight from the window, the most handsome man I’d seen in person. There is plenty to write about my grandmother who curses time and our cats and dog (though she loves them just as much). But observation is so much more than just looking for stories.
They empty you just as much as they fill you. For some months last year I traveled by Metro every day, and even though I had my books to give me company on those two-hour rides, I spent most of my time looking at the women around me. There was so much beauty in them. Looking at those women made my beyond happy. To know that we haven’t exhausted the world of its beauty is something to be glad about, even though beauty is not limited to people’s appearance.
I’d also started taking note of the sky when I went to the market with my grandfather, and how the sun reflected in the twenty-story building of corporate Gurugram. The little things do make me happy, but I’ve also realized all the things I’ve lost by being attentive.
Me and my mother went out together the other day and while crossing the road, I found myself reaching for her hand to take her across the road. My fingers brushed against her palm and the touch was over in a moment. Her eyes were fixed on the car coming in from the left; mine were focused on her hand and then on the tree on the sidewalk as we jogged across the crossing.
My heart squeezed. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such physical contact with her.Hugging her from behind or sitting at her feet, both of us still and silent was different. A single second told me of all the love I’d missed. It had been long since we’d shared such a deep moment.
We take time for granted and complain that we don’t have any, when it never occurs to us how much of it had waited for us and left when we ignored it, so occupied with ourselves that the world became insignificant. But it is only when you are in the moment when you realize the speed of the world and your smallness in the world.
I now get it why teachers asked us to pay attention in class, and I wish there was still someone to remind us regularly that blue skies and warm sunny days still exist. Maybe won’t miss things as much then.