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  • Writer's pictureShriya Malhotra

Time / Terra Incognita

Fabrics are used to wrap parcels that travel the Indian post. Time and the textures of people-made fabrics seems to be important, because these textures are woven and spun almost against a monumental imposition. Time is measured and punctuated with caffeine, and our efficiency-oriented pursuit of it.


For a country that is immensely diverse in all aspects (in spite of what dominant narratives will often seek to project) —  it continues to be united by a standard (imposed) notion of time. The official narratives and the power embedded in national maps, however, is countered by people who continue making their own. And yet, being Indian extends to a range of multiple temporalities that make the many organisational and existing hierarchies, often irrelevant and out of date. 


Indian Standard Time is geographically specific, calculated from a clock tower in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh constructed in 1891. The tower communicates time through roman numerals. Its exact reference longitude is 25.15°N 82.58°E, within 4 angular minutes. Time, as geolocated here, serves as a way of unifying the entire country with a dash of colonial aesthetic that runs through its information and communication  networks aka the railways, and the postal system.


If moments constitute the knots that comprise a tapestry, then time is both the fabric and the fabric softener.


The fabric of the country I live in has been under alteration. Moments across the world have historically been recorded as knots and weaves, or as in the case of Meghalaya, a unit to measure distance as equivalent to the time taken to chew your Kwai. Mapmaking is not just multidimensional, but also a tactile and material form of knowledge that goes beyond the formality of education and knowledge systems.  


Many elements of what might be considered temporal dimensions are visible in the modern landscape architecturally as well as archaeologically— evident as graffiti on walls, and other visual traces left by people as they traverse the urban landscape each day. The counter-narratives of people who attempt to own their time is perhaps more apparent in rural areas where the skies and sundial shadows continue to indicate time and its thresholds.


The Egyptians for example are said to have constructed the pyramids as an outdoor observatory which measured patterns and periods of time against the skies. But for all the spatialized architecture aligned to the cosmos, the best time keeping device for me is the Moka pot. It embodies all of the contradictions of time, and its relational subjectivities. 


So time, is a suggestion.


(Also, if I find and replace the word time and put . No one will even notice!)



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