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  • Writer's pictureShriya Malhotra

1. Mapping the Architectures of Indian Timekeeping


Observing the Indian railways platform as a performance in both music and physics offers lessons about the intersections of sound and time. It reveals a choreographed dance of what seems to be the most observable and visually rhythmic denominators / aggregator of life unfolding in real, physical space: the roads, the streets, the rails. The commons.  


Railway platforms measure time and are organised, at least seemingly, around a clock tower that stands defiantly opposed to an often glitchy digital representation. Time is spatialized through the networks that connect the railways.


The linear trajectory of train tracks doesn't take away from the often seemingly cyclic and spatialized  nature of time, which is observable in many different ways as you sit on trains and platforms, watching varied speeds and tempos of people or goods as they move. Looking out of the scratched and dusty train window is layered life in what appears to be an endless, unlooped GIF; risk taking on train tracks, technology relics from across the ages, varied knowledge and time-keeping devices set to the background noise of old machines remixed with repeated announcements. It makes the sanctuary in headphones almost a requirement.  


Time is clearly spatialized if we think of the ways in which it was measured before incorporating mathematics. This realm of natural sounds to a background of mechanical noise synchronised with the patterns of human behaviour across time, mediated by physics and punctuated resistance to informational confinement (clocks being based on base 60 and yet retaining the circularity of life and broader notions of time as contained in sculptures like the Nataraja) was revealing of the fact that time like the country and people cannot be contained; it just flows.


The analogy of road and rail systems to explain time, speed and distance as poetry, seems embodied in the tempo: also a vehicle of many. The construction of a visual metaphor for the single dimension that everyone experiences, and yet no discipline can explain. 

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