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Tuesday 16 July 2019
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Commentary

The colour of time: On pride

It is raining as I write this. I’ve spent two days indoors, imagining myself as I go to bed, the recluse that I feel when I have days like this. Apart from the obligatory phone calls, sometimes three or four days can pass without physical interactions. I do not open my windows or dialogue unnecessarily. I exist in a space in which I am happy to be writing and reading. When tired of sitting or grappling with an idea, I exercise, pushing through the time with my body and mind. I am happy in my own company. The feeling descends quickly and comfortably. In the consciousness seeming randomness, I have the inexplicable urge to acquire a new wristwatch in these moments. Shoes too, but the wristwatch first.

I have had this attachment to watches all my life. I first had the wristwatch acquisition urge whenever Julian looked at his in the Famous Five books. There were illustrations in those Enid Blyton mystery stories – the round faced wristwatch always catching my attention. Watches were authoritative. They had a voice and a presence, subtle though they may have been – Julian the eldest, in command of most situations.

I had never thought much about this fascination with watches or rather the urge that possesses me to buy one when there is a plot twist in my life so to speak. But last week, when the rains trampled in, the wristwatch entered the stage. I had decided that unlike most mornings, this rainy morning was not one for writing but for reading. I started my day backwards.

The showers beat down on the galvanized roof next door, in the tiled courtyard on my compound, the dimmed light of the day swaddling me as I curled up in my armchair, big enough to curl up in, and continued reading Stephen Hawkins and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design. A hot cup of coffee at eight a.m. thereabouts, I am now ready to face the world through frosted windows. The Northern Range is not visible, not even a peep. It’s clothed in grey – Potter’s invisibility cloak. It wears an air of mystery and I am happy to locate myself in it.

I digress as I capture the mood of the morning, my mood really, because the colours of the day are the colours of our own thoughts. But, back on the path, there’s the wristwatch, the colours of my imagination and the grand design. You, the reader, can choose to be caught in my imagination, your own or someone else’s. Either way, the situation is the same – it is a rainy morning.

My parents had perhaps thought it useful to start me with a digital watch as a way of learning about time although I had learnt, like most children at the time, to make cardboard models of analog clocks and move the cardboard hands to different positions. The digital watch was an introduction to hypocrisy – teach one thing, do another.

The digital was the fashion at the time but I wasn’t interested in fashion. I was more interested in what was "real". My siblings didn’t seem to mind but I must have been irritated. I remember disappointment. I had worked hard at my lessons to learn how to tell time and this fake timepiece had nullified those efforts. Furthermore, I liked the moving second hand and the sound of the ticking. Eventually, at the age of ten, I got my first analog watch. The watch moved from wrist, to under pillows in my teens then to my desk next to my pen or on top of a pile of books I would be reading simultaneously during my university studies. In the mobile phone age, I set alarms but the watch is always somewhere close by.

Today I wear a simple watch. It is true to myself. Maybe in some other part of the world, it is a fashion. But here, it is the colour of my time.

As I think of my fight with the "realness" of the timepiece, of knowing that a rainy day can be warm yellow the smell of coffee and the texture of books, I think of the rainbow flag. That thought came right after the wristwatch and I wondered "why had these two found a link in my head?" But the link is this – "a system has not just one history but every possible history." (The physicist Richard Feynman, quoted in Hawkins and Mlodinow).

Pride celebrates the beauty of difference, sexual orientation that does not fit the status quo as defined by one model of reality. It is a celebration of the difficult decision to live true to oneself, despite the currents pushing against. The rainbow after all, is a representation of the greater workings of the universe.

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