Time a-ticking

Samina Mishra

My battles with my ten-year old are almost always about time. In these busy urban lives that we inhabit, we constantly tug at the rope of time. As someone always wanting to do more, I am particularly afflicted by this pull-and-push of time. Aware of this, coupled with the fact that my son is a dreamer, easily distracted, and that this is a quality I would like to nurture in him, I try to remember that time is a construct that can play out in different ways for different people and that children should be able to explore it on their own and arrive at their own understanding of it. And yet, as a parent, it is hard to stand by and watch your child dream when there is homework to be finished, to not interrupt painting when it’s dinner time, to not snatch away the storybook when it’s past bedtime. It’s equally hard for a child to have the parent refuse to see the latest remarkable feat achieved by a Beyblade and snap at you just because of a deadline. Time is a looming adversary in this parent-child relationship.

So, we muddle along, Imran and I. Time passes and we try to make sense of it. A while ago, our struggles with time found their way into words. Imran wrote his a year ago, while I was trying to finish some writing. To stop him from disturbing me, I told him to write five sentences on time.

Imran’s Time
I think that time is an athlete with long legs
And is very good at doing long jumps.
Once I was waiting for my friend to come to the park
When time jumped and it became dark
So I had to go home.

I think time is like a spinning beyblade
And when it stops
I have to go to sleep.

I also think time is like a wrestler
Skating on thin ice
And when the ice cracks
My limit finishes.

I would like time to be slow like a baby snail
Because then
I would be able to do everything I want.

Struck by what he wrote, I carried it around in my head for months and then found my words.

Samina’s Time
In the time before Imran, my world ran on a single clock.
My family, my friends, my work, my aimlessness.
They all ran on the same clock.

Tick tock, said the clock, and we all synchronised our lives to it.
Tick tock, said the clock, and we never lost step with it.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

And then it was Imran Time.
And the skein that bound me to my other worlds separated into another strand, Imran’s Time.

At first, slow. Like a lush droplet of mother’s milk
Nourishing us, growing a languid love.
We lived on Imran Time
We fed on it, we played, we laughed
We loved each other, mother and child.

Then tick tock, said the clock
My otherworlds called
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Wakeupnowbrushyourteethhaveyourbathgetdressed
You’llmissthebusfinishyourfoodonlyhalfanhourI said
Hurryupdoyourhomeworkpickupyourtoysgotobedit’stime
It’stime.
It’s time.
It’s Time.

Now Imran stands in his bubble watching
Time a-ticking, time a-stopping
The words of a story like a running river
The frozen droplets of the undone sums
The discarded figurine, the forgotten shoe
Pencils that draw and paints that smear
In his time bubble
It all works out
Jigsaws are completed, homework done
Time, you see, stands still
And Imran’s won.

Outside the bubble, I stand
Unseeing and unknowing
The skein draws tighter and I pull at him –
It’s time.
It’s time.
It’s Time.

I watch time roll out a world for my son. And I hope that I stop pulling and that in Time, Imran will find a friend.

The author is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi. She can be reached at [email protected].

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