Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In my mamabari (mother’s father’s house), there was a large burnished wooden clock with a round face and emphatic, clear numbers written on it. It also had a large pendulum which had an ongoing disagreement with the hands of the clock – a disagreement as to what time it really was.

At each half-hour, the large hand would point to six (as it should), and the pendulum would give a subdued chime (as if grudgingly agreeing). But whenever the large hand would point to twelve, the pendulum would vigorously disagree with the small hand regarding the time of the day (or night) and would chime away with a will of its own. If the hands showed seven o’ clock, the pendulum would disobediently sound eleven gongs; if it was, say, four o’ clock on the face of the clock, the pendulum would reprovingly strike only once.

There was no logic to the pendulum’s chimes, it was accurate for the half hours, but for each hour, it would swing any number of times. One may say that it suffered from mood swings.

This moody clock was called pagla ghari (mad clock) by us and it was hung on the wall behind my grandfather’s special easy-chair (wooden reclining chair) in the drawing room. The fact that the clock ticked away behind my grandfather when he was relaxing on the chair, coupled with the inaccurate pendulum, somehow robbed the clock of all the sense of hurry and urgency usually associated with clocks. Maybe, there was also the fact that we stayed at my mamabari during holidays, when there was no need to measure and frantically keep pace with time.

All this gave the eccentric clock a peculiar aura of timelessness and made the pursuit of time a guessing game (if one was lying in the bedrooms, where you could hear the pendulum chime but not see the clock-face), full of fun and surprise, and the accuracy of calculating the time ceased to matter all that much.



Lazyani said...

I remember a Grandfather clock hung high up on the wall of a high ceilinged dining room at my paternal grandfathers house in Jamshedpur.
It needed to be wound up once a week. That day was always a friday. So on Friday nights at 9 pm,when the siren from the Tata Steel Plant was heard, a weekly ritual happened. A wooden staircase would be brought in. One of my uncles would then CAREFULLY (Often comically) climb up the stairs, keys in hand poised for action. A couple of others would hold on the shaking staircase. All others in the family(and families were big those days) would assemble and wait patiently till the winding was over.
Then all would smile on a job well done, realign their own wrist watches and then assemble at the dining table for dinner.
A strange ritual-- but these days I miss such family assemblings over trivia.
Thanks Sucharita, once more for tickling the memories.

Amit said...

nice post..brought the memories of our old clock in our house in barrackpore.I thoroughly remember that my father everyday after coming from office used to oil & key the clock.The chimes used to wake us up for our morning school,also notify us of our playtime.Though the clock has long gone defunct,i can still its tick tick tick.......

Mina Jade said...

We have only traditional clocks, OKI and other ones :-) A pity.

Paul Bernard said...

We had no memorable clocks. I heard a tale of a haunted grandfather clock though. Apparently it would shake violently at a certain hour of the morning and angry figures were sometimes said to appear next to it, fighting. A murder apparently had taken place at its foot.
Can clocks suck up powerful memories of the past?
There is certainly something a little strange and foreboding about these great pendulous timepieces.

sidhubaba said...

Did you call it a "cuckoo" clock?

Anonymous said...

You remind me most clock showing10:10
Thanks for the post !

Peter Rozovsky said...

A most pleasantly contrary clock!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Niladri said...

There was a big Grandfather clock in my mamabari too which my grandfather, who was an avid collector of antiques had acquired from one of the many auctions he attended. Strangely, the clock which had worked fine and chimed merrily for nearly 30 odd years stopped working right after he passed away. No matter what my mamas did to get it up and working again, it never really "recovered". Strange huh?!

sukku said...

I remember when I was younger we had a clock which chimes every hour and I remember when we were informed about our grandfather's death and my parents were not at home, and I couldn't sleep that night as the chime from the clock was so scary........

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks for clocking up all those memories! Clocks often resonate with so much more than just time!