I have a pet obsession. Wrist watches. I don't wear them, I don't collect them. But every time I'm in a store that has a display, I'd invariably trundle over and stare.
This one's o.k., Too square. Too thick. How do you read the time on that one? Too flashy. The numbers on that one are very neat. I'm sure this one can pull every hair off my wrist with those steely-hinged straps. O.k., that's the price tag, not a serial number.
It's not like I haven't tried. I did. From the Tissot my classmate in school let me borrow, to the digital one that remembered ten phone numbers for you when I left India for the first time, to the I-can-take-on-pain rugged one my brother gifted me. I've tried them every now and then - consider a few years' gap between now and then.
I just couldn't work out the fascination. I know I can't wear a watch, try as hard as I can, for more than half an hour. I'm a little claustrophobic. Very, when it comes to strapping time on to my wrist. Suffocates me. But still I want to own one. I had no clue why the fascination. Until one day, recently, June came by and showed off her grandmother's watch she had inherited. It wasn't working when her grandmother handed it over, so we dropped in at one of those road-side stores that sold and fixed watches. Standing there, watching the guy bent over the counter, replacing a battery, it struck me. Nothing hard, but it slipped into my head.
My grandfather, after whom I'm supposed to have taken, and the one person my mother dreads I'd take after, was my childhood hero. He was loud, well-read, very well spoken and loved me to bits - at least I thought so. I would sit at his feet and listen and try to understand everything he'd say. I'd ride with him to the poultry farms near home, pick a bird and get back home to watch him kill, clean and cook it for lunch. Same with fish. He loved to cook and could rustle up food for the entire household. The most awesome Ceylon-style 'sambhals' with dry fish in it, fiery rasam, his own vadagams/sandiges from kilos of vegetables he'd buy. He pointed out poisonous mushrooms from the edible ones when we went mushroom-gathering once near Ooty. He'd stop the toddy nungu seller on sweltering Tirupur summers and have him shell fresh nungus for the cousins. Only my elder brother could stand, and actually liked, his special dishes from offal. Every time the doctor came by (yes, there'd be house calls) for his check-up, my grandfather would listen to his warnings of high blood pressure and the need to cut down on his drinking and smoking. Fifteen minutes later, we'd peep into his room to find him sharing a quarter and a smoke with the doctor. His booming voice caught us when we tried to sneak in after an evening walk to the temple (mostly to get some of the delicious 'sundal' prasadam) and have to listen to a small lecture on atheism. I always picture him sitting on his easy chair or riding his ancient Hero Majestic.
All the while, I noticed his wrist watch. A very simple one, silver-faced with simple etchings. And a velcro strap. That cinched it for me, the velcro strap. I guess that image got stuck in the back of my head. I called up my father the same day to find out if anyone has the wristwatch. My father, amused by my usual eccentricities, humoured me enough to call up his mother. That turned up a dead end. The only wristwatch that remained was the one my father gifted him - an HMT, self-winding watch that he last wore.
I still can't wear a watch. But I spent a few days basking in those memories. Thank you LMS, MSE and June.