Time is the biggest joke that our Creator has played on us. Just about every philosopher and scientist has had something or the other to say about it yet it is an aspect of our lives that is the biggest enigma in them.
Let us just take one example of the joke. The nearest star that we can see from our earth is the Alpha Centauri which is about 4.37 light years away from us. In other words, when we see the star now, the light that enables us to see it left it 4.37 light years ago. For all we know it could be dead! But for us it is real this moment!
Let us take another example from my favourite Management Guru, C Northcote Parkinson. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.
Just to impress on my readers how Indians view time, let me refer them to this Wikipedia entry.
There was a time when I did not have enough time to do all the things that I wanted every day. Now, I have so much time on hand that I have to keep finding things to do to fill it. I do that fairly efficiently but there are many who cannot and go through very frustrating times every day.
In the South of India there is an adage which is often used to explain what happens when someone has enough time on hand without anything to fill it. It goes like this – A barber without a customer will catch hold of a cat and shave it.”
I was recently called by the wife of a friend for some help. Let us call her UM. My friend is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and she is the full time caregiver for him. Her car needed to be attended to and she sought my help to get a mechanic to take it away, do what needed to be done and brought back. They live about 15 kms away from where I live and I did not know any mechanic in that part of the town. I called another friend who lives in that part of the town who recommended a very good mechanic and just to cross check I called another friend, let us call the latter ML, who also recommended the same fellow. I duly made all the arrangements and the car was taken away by the mechanic.
In the meanwhile ML called the mechanic to find out whose car had to be repaired and when he found that it was UM’s car, he immediately called her as he also knew her and her husband. A fact that I had no knowledge of. ML scolded UM and berated her for not having sought his help and instead, having gone to me. That poor lady called me up and related the story. As soon as she had disconnected, I got another call from ML who berated me for not having told him that the mechanic was to help UM! Since then, he has also been regularly calling both the mechanic and UM to keep track of the progress being made in repairing the car. UM is not amused as she clearly indicated that she had called me because she did not want to call ML precisely for his over eagerness to get involved.
Imagine the comedy! ML obviously has so much time on hand to make all these totally useless telephone calls just to talk to someone! He has so much time on his hand that he has been doing the equivalent of shaving a cat!
On the other hand, when I tried to get an appointment with a surgeon for consultation, I was told that the earliest I could get an appointment was a week hence. A man who obviously does not have enough time for all his patients to consult on one day!