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Home / Brunch / Relative humour: Invoking Einstein to prove that time moves five times slower in Goa and 7.5 times slower during a summertime power cut!

Relative humour: Invoking Einstein to prove that time moves five times slower in Goa and 7.5 times slower during a summertime power cut!

As the physicist famously proved, clocks and calendars are not to be trusted

brunch Updated: May 05, 2019, 00:51 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Time
Have you ever thought about the practical manifestations of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?
Have you ever thought about the practical manifestations of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?(Illustration: Sunil Kumar Mallik)

My aunt N and uncle S are generous contributors to the archive of family anecdotes. Their relationship with time, among other things, is a source of endless amusement to us all. Their disdain for externally imposed schedules is so pronounced that they’ve missed flights – and even overstayed foreign visits – on account of miscalculations. Not for them the quotidian comforts of calendars and clocks. Moods and whims govern these truly iconoclastic folks. Consider the time they visited a theatre all of 500 metres away from their home to watch the ‘historical’ Jodhaa Akbar (2008). “How was it?” we asked feebly. “It was okay,” S answered, unimpressed. “Just a little long.” N sniggered at her husband’s verdict. “You don’t agree?” we prodded. “No. It’s just that we reached the theatre after the interval,” she revealed.

Punctually yours

I’m finding it increasingly tough to make it in time for meetings and appointments these days. That’s because I’m always before time. The older I’m growing, the more I’m reflecting my mother’s puritanical approach to the clock. I find myself spending an inordinately long time in lobbies and waiting rooms, cafés and pavements, cursing myself for yet another misjudgment. Where is Mumbai’s legendary traffic when you need it?

Since we’re talking about how time feels, let’s spare a brief moment for that alternate system of time measurement known as airline time

Tired of waiting, and knowing that the object of the wait lurks somewhere behind a glass door, I send the guilty missive: “I’m sorry, I’m embarrassingly early. Are you ready to meet?” If it’s a work meeting, then I walk in on the meeter, quaffing breakfast hastily, awkwardly offering me a bite out of a soaking wet bowl of muesli. If I’m meeting friends, then I’m invariably halfway through my meal before they arrive. My not inconsiderable social skills haven’t yet reached the stage where I can wait at a restaurant table, alone and hungry, and not place an order. I hope they never will.

E = mc2 

Then there are the early arrivals at parties. I’ve made a habit of barging in at the time requested, like some kind of heathen. Usually, the unprepared host jumps into the shower upon seeing me, requesting me to accept the beer and ice from Deepak Wines. Sundry other duties crop up, from thawing cutlets to greeting guests. By the time the party actually begins, I feel like my work there is done. It’s time to hit the bed. Early.

I often ponder the practical manifestations of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Time moves five times slower in Goa; 7.5 times slower during a summertime power cut. Even on a three-day long holiday, you can do everything there is to do (ocean dip, pork sausage chilly fry, gin and tonic) three times over before your afternoon nap. In the hills, a similar principle operates. Only, there the nights are three times as long as the day. When the sun sets behind the pines, thoughts about human fragility and impermanence rise with the dark night of the soul. Einstein proved all of this, I swear.

The airline time heist

But since we’re talking about how time feels, let’s spare a brief moment for that alternate system of time measurement known as airline time. Once the plane has landed thuddily, the spawn of Satan in the row ahead has been pacified by a ravaged parent, the aircraft has finally stopped taxiing giddily, comes the triumphant voice of the captain, gushing about another on-time landing. On time? That’s not counting the 35-minute delay in take-off, 20-minute air traffic delay and another seven minutes waiting for the aerobridge to connect. When you consult the ticket, you realise that you’re somehow not far from the printed ETA. How did that just happen? What a heist, airline maths! Just like the airline food scam.

There are other modern-day conundrums that make you reconsider everything you think you know about time. Why do 50-over cricket games seem slower than five-day ones? Does Monday really just come once a week? How many woman hours are globally lost every year to the medieval torture technique known as hair waxing? Is the Downton Abbey movie anywhere close to release? Sadly, calendars and clocks can only give you the day and time. It takes a Virginia Woolf to reveal what it all truly means.

From HT Brunch, May 5, 2019

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