Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Clock That Displays Qualities

See the picture of the wall clock? It has reached there after a long journey and like many other objects in our house it has a story attached.

It had been ordered online, meaning, that my wife had asked her sister to bring a ‘decent looking’ clock from the US, and the ever obliging sister (what are sisters for, if not?) purchased one, packed it in her suitcase and checked it in. The suitcase passed through the tender and loving hands of the luggage handling systems of four air ports and arrived in Ponda, along with my in laws, to a warm welcome. When my sister in law took out the ominously tinkling package and started removing the pieces of the clock, which had been converted into a zigsaw puzzle, I counted thirty eight pieces. Nineteen pieces of glass, two pieces of metal, thirteen pieces of plastic, three pieces of paper and the only intact part, the quartz timer. (The black square thing at the back where you insert the battery)

My sister in law was crestfallen. She had searched so many shops, selected  the clock - keeping in mind all of her sister’s specifications, got the approval (on ‘skype’), paid good money, packed it carefully and had brought it. Now, all that she had to show for her efforts were some pieces of glass and plastic. But she recovered in no time. She took the timer, held it to her ears and exclaimed excitedly, “It is working. Hear!” She pressed it to my ear for confirmation.

“This timer is working. But your brain is not.” I was curt. “What can you do with that timer alone? Tape it to your ear and count seconds?”

“The timer is what is important. Other parts can be repaired” she replied “The frame is plastic and the pieces can be glued together. We can get glass of that size in any glass shop. The dial can easily be taped.The needles are only separated, not broken. We just have to put the pieces together and fix the needles properly.”  So simple!

She is like that. Optimism personified. Decades back, when she was a student, she had an accident which cut her face, broke her jaw into two pieces, broke her skull into four pieces and four front teeth into eight. It happened just before her final year exams and it tried to break her will. But it failed there. Once she regained consciousness  - which took about three days - she took a look at the situation through her blackened eyes, found that the brain was working and the will was intact, got the other things repaired, grit her teeth (which actually required no effort - they had been wired together), bore the pain, wrote the exam, and came out with flying colours! No signs of the ordeal exist now but for a faint scar on her face. What was this broken clock in front of that!

But I have enough pessimism to balance her optimism and spare some.

“Don’t be a fool the second time. You have been foolish enough to waste your money and efforts trying to bring that clock through four airports in one piece.  Don’t waste more time and efforts. Just throw the pieces out and forget it. You sisters have no sense whatever. She asks for it and you bring it.”  I was angry. It was such a waste.

“It was not at all risky. I have brought things which are even more delicate. This time I made the mistake of packing it at the top of the suitcase instead of putting it in the middle between the clothes, that’s all.”  She was not prepared to accept any fault.

My wife was hearing the conversation. It was a surprise that she had not joined us yet. Now she did.
“You don’t have to be harsh on her. She has taken such a lot of trouble for our sake. I have been telling you that we need to buy a good wall clock and you don’t care. Since our bed room clock stopped I wanted another one in its place. None of the others that we have (we have four others) suit there and moreover, they are required in their places. Your Ponda shops just don’t have a decent clock. You have selected such a place to live. Actually I did not ask her to bring the clock. I just mentioned this to her and she has been considerate enough to bring one for me. Don’t blame her. You don’t care for anything (substitute ‘my feelings’ for ‘anything’). I am lucky that I have a sister who does.”

My father in law was observing the goings on. His hearing is poor. His ear, now, has stayed tuned only to the frequency of my mother in law’s voice and she has to covey things to him. He looked enquiringly at her but  before she had completed her second sentence he had gathered the essence. “If you can get me some Feviquick and adhesive tape I can attempt repairing it. If the timer is Ok and if I can fix those two needles in proper position, it should work.” He likes such activity and here was a chance to keep himself (and others) busy during the visit.

I could not bear it anymore and I could not tell him that he is talking through his hat. I was certain that it  was a hopeless situation and I only said that it is not going to work, told them to be careful with the glass and walked off.

When I came back from the clinic in the afternoon there was a package on the table which contained tubes of Feviquick, Aralditel and a roll of adhesive tape.
“I bought them from the corner shop. It hardly cost thirty rupees. We have nothing to lose. Let me try” - F in Law.
“Let him try. If it can be repaired, why not? As he says there is nothing to lose and he is getting bored” - S in Law.
“Do whatever you want. Tell me after you are done and I will dispose the pieces properly. Don’t throw them in the trash bin.” I could not bear with their stupidity.

Whole of the afternoon and evening my father in law was tinkering with the clock exclaiming now and then “this Feviquick is very fast” - “this Araldite is taking too long to dry” - “if I had something to hold this in position for a while it would have worked” etc etc and was putting all others to work, fetching him a screw driver, another one with a smaller tip, a piece of card board, tweezers, so on and so forth. Sister in law was overseeing the operations with helpful suggestions. I ignored it and waited for them to give up and allow me to throw the thing out.

Next morning when I left for work they were still at it. When I returned from the clinic in the afternoon I found the frame of the clock full and square, resting against the wall. From a distance, nothing looked amiss but for a big hole in one corner. The dial was patched up and was drying in the balcony. The hour and minute hands had been set in the timer and were actually moving. I had to appreciate my F in Law’s patience and perseverance and out of curiosity, I took a closer look. 

The Patched up dial
The frame had been joined quite well except for the hole in the corner and there were four pieces of plastic remaining.  “I am sure those four pieces belong there but I am not able to make out how they fit. Please see if you can find out.”  F in Law drew me into the operations. I like to try my hand in such things too but this had looked absolutely hopeless. Now, after twenty four hours of sustained efforts, the situation had changed and there was some hope. I sat with the frame for the next half an hour and managed to fit three of the remaining four pieces. One was left. The last piece of the puzzle. It was the right piece for the slot but due to minor irregularities in gluing a dozen pieces together, one corner was not fitting. I took it to the clinic, trimmed it with my denture trimmer and it slid into place. The frame was complete.

A corner glued together
After that there was no looking back. The in laws got into the task with renewed enthusiasm and hope. By the third night the other parts had also found their places and the clock was on the table almost complete and ticking.

It continued to keep perfect time and the next evening, when it was time for them to leave, my sister in law pleaded. “See it is working. Please don’t discard it. You just have to fit a glass now. It will be fine.”

I checked it for the next forty eight hours and it was doing well. I took it to the glass dealer, got a piece of glass cut to size and fixed it. Then I hung it on the wall. It looked fine. It has been there for two weeks now. I am happy to accept that I was wrong in my assessment and wish my sister in law could see it. She would have been very happy. She will see the picture anyway.

She was a young girl at the time of my marriage and I have seen her grow, set goals, achieve them and reach for new heights, in all spheres of life. She has an unending supply of optimism, hope and the ability to work tirelessly to get what she aims for. This clock, sort of symbolises, the challenging tasks (sometimes appearing to be foolishly hopeful) that I have seen her attempt and succeed.

I hope this clock keeps ticking for a long time and apart from keeping time, keeps reminding me of all her qualities, which I appreciate and admire, every time I look at it.

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