Travel in India

My Cheap Timex

MYSORE — My Belgian novelist-and-artist friend Claire Veys (on Facebook; or claireveys@gmail.com) wrote to me about traveling in India.

“Yes,” she said.  “I remember how every little things become difficult…and how you have to change your intern time to be in time with there.”

“I have a suggestion, or a request,” she said. “I’d like to offer to a friend some particular gift. He’s collector of things of life, and he will turn 63 soon. I’d like to offer him time passing, everywhere in the world.

Could you take a picture of your watch, or clocks where you are, and write a little comment to explain – the history of your watch, an anecdote, why you take this particularly clock, what happened when you did … something like that, and write too your name, the city where you are… I’ll compile and print all the contributions for him and offer him when I’ll have a good collection, from all over the world.”

And she wanted a title.

“Dear Claire,” I wrote. Here’s my clock story.”

It’s not old. I bought it in 2003 when its predecessor, identical in form and quality and nearly 20 years old, went bonkers and couldn’t decide if a day had 23 hours or 25.

The first one cost a little more than twenty dollars. This one, from a little shop in Burlington but available too in the better truck stops, was 29 or so. It has a second hand, so one can see the past appear moment by moment. It keeps perfect time, losing only one atomic second a decade, or maybe it’s a minute a month, I can’t remember for sure. It is reliable enough.

It also has a black leather band and an “Indiglo” dial which glows like a Carribean moon when a button is pushed, which discerning women for some reason find sexy.

I wear it when I feel corporate. It’s shown here, Nov. 11, 2013, in the Chandra Palace Hotel in Mysore.

In this purposeful photograph it is lying on my well-worn back-pack (which was delighted certainly to come to India again and ride on trains and buses); and it rests most immediately on a dimpled passport case of silkily smooth leather, bought from a conspiratorial dealer in the medieval suq in Fez, Morocco in 1978. In the background is a favorite hat featuring an expertly-ridden jumping horse, which suggests that I am a rider of great timing and balance.

My watch, for Claire,JPG

The watch (and its predecessors), the pack (rescued for $25 from a flea market in Waterbury, Vermont), the cap (a gift) and the venerable passport case encourage me that it isn’t just blather that we can find the tools we need and do what we need to do on the cheap.

Don’t wait, my humorless watch reminds me: Begin today. It’s time to go.

Our own time clocks go bonkers often even at an early age and begin to chime, “I wish I had, I wish I had, I wish I had…

At the moment, heat flavored with urine and diesel fumes rises from the churning, blaring street outside my window, my $11 hotel room isn’t cooled, and the electricity has failed three times in the past 10 minutes; but ancient Mysore waits outside, and after I take a brief nap I’ll strap on the watch,  slap on the cap at a jaunty but honest angle and find that rare someone who did.

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