Nepal | November 13, 2019

Are we slaves to time?

• TOPICS

Rajiv Gautam

When clocks first came into being, they not only told accurate time but also changed the humanity forever. And in due course, we became masters and slaves of time. But quite often, human beings are slaves to time.

First and foremost, alarms and schedules are our masters. We rush here and there to meet deadlines, to “put every minute to good use.” In the end, we are but cogs in a machine: we go in circles while chasing the hands of the clock but never truly move anywhere meaningful. Time forces us to act when we would rather relax. The clock is what decides what we do and when we do it. Our hectic lives are guided, measured and restricted by time.

Before watches, roosters were our alarms. We would wake when the rooster cried at the crack of the dawn and sleep when the sun went down. “Time” itself was all guesswork: the sun and the shadows were our only clocks. The advent of time-telling machines allowed us to measure time accurately. After having that ability, things just changed forever as we started looking at the way we do things differently.

We set alarms and wear watches on our wrists. By welcoming technology into our lives, we have inadvertently perpetuated time’s dominance over our daily lives.

However, time is not our only master. Expectations, too, enslave us. We wear masks of delight and happiness and lock our pain and suffering inside. To meet the expectations of other, we pretend our lives are perfect. This selfish world judges our outer appearance and so, for the sake of others, it becomes a compulsion to act happy.

It is because of this desire to meet other’s expectations that we race against all odds to be punctual and follow what we call “English Time”. This arbitrary notion has become a symbol of civility and what is socially accepted. “Nepali Time”, on the other hand, has become a phrase used to mock tardiness in others and the slow-going attitude that most of us harbour.

Our own actions have made us victims of modern slavery.  Our lives continue to be dictated by other’s judgments, and we continue to measure ourselves against impossible standards.

It is not possible to please time, nor is it possible to please every other human being. To truly liberate ourselves from slavery in all its forms, we must live at our own pace and according to our own rules.


A version of this article appears in print on January 17, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


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