Friday, November 21, 2014

Time always tells

As it always does...
This is the third in a series of essays on miracles, dedicated to all those who, like me, believe in and have experienced them.

We are never on time for anything. We always keep someone waiting. After all, it's all about giving excuses when late or waiting impatiently when early. Or let's put it this way: we irk others when late and irk ourselves when we're not. This is nothing to get ruffled about, of course. After all, think about what's in our minds at any given point. It would be a little too difficult to focus on something so as to keep on time, wouldn't it, especially when there are other, less trivial things to worry about? That would be something of a miracle, right?

But still, miracles happen. Think a little. Think about when when you were really, really late. When you stepped out thinking you'd be able to catch up. When the traffic on the road meant otherwise. That's when you pray for the minutes to slow down. And when prayers are granted, we all thank someone or the other, don't we? But this isn't all. Suppose you woke up early, knowing just how late you'd be with the rough and tumble of traffic. You get there early, too early in fact. And then, just like that, everyone else who had thought like you, who had come early, convene whatever it was they had planned just after you came in. That's a miracle too, right?

Yes, time works in ways we will never understand. It passes quickly and passes slowly. It's relative. It ignores you, rightly I should think, while expecting you to follow it. You ignore it, rarely I should say, and consequences can be dire. It eludes you. So while you cannot afford to shrug it, it continues to move on whether or not you take note of it. Shouldn't this be why keeping up with it while keeping a whole lot of other matters in your mind is something of a miracle, then?

This is a question, I admit, and like every question it doesn't have any real answer. Just think about it. When did you last have to keep up an appointment? Did you stick to it? Chances are, you didn't. But think back. Did you adjust your schedule, your daily routine, to fit this appointment? If you had, the (figurative) millions of other things in your mind might have made you forget this little schedule, until the last minute. It's probable that while you would have been counting fingers to stick to it, you would have been late anyway, but not as late as you had expected.

So now we have another question here: "being late" versus "expecting to be late". Let's be honest here. Which one do you usually fit into? We expect to be late always, don't we? After all, we are human beings. Frail. We ignore or rather tend to ignore time. Figures. There are other matters in your head, at any given point. It would be madness to focus on any trivial appointment (trivial even if important to parents or friends) while forgetting those more important matters. So let's come out with it: it's a miracle that we still try to keep to schedules, whenever and wherever we are, despite the (obvious) fact that we never can and never will. And despite all this, we almost never are as late as we think we are.

Besides, it's not too hard to try. We can adjust. We can try and shrug off the million matters that occupy our minds and stick to just one schedule. If we can't, at least we tried. That's half the game won, after all. Keeping on schedule isn't about keeping to it 100%. It's about pushing yourself and making the attempt. The "miracle part" to it comes when you try so hard that you're either way ahead of it (very rare, I should say) or not completely behind it (which is what happens in eight cases out of 10).

So yes, time has its own share of miracles. We never stick to it, true. It ignores us, true. And just the teeniest miscalculation is enough to ruin a schedule, true.

There can be room for other miracles and surprises, too. It can divide life and death, for one thing. That's right, life and death. Getting late can mean death for some and life for others. Plain and simple. 

Here's a story to prove this.

Some years back, in an unhappier Sri Lanka, there was a man who commuted to work every day. He boarded the bus at around six in the morning and came back home at around eight in the night. For those of you not familiar with buses here, he took the 120 Route from Kesbewa to Colombo. He worked in Borella. He was my father.

But I'm dithering here.

One night, he had been travelling with a boy and his father. This boy had been having tantrums for some reason, and when they had come to Piliyandala, had all but completely been pacified by the father. They had got down. What happened next was what someone told my father later on. Both father and son had boarded the 157 bus, from Piliyandala to Kahapola, and had even got a ticket. The boy had, however, thrown up. Again. Now the 157 bus is never empty. It's packed to the brim. And this night, there had close to a hundred people aboard. So he was tired. The father, also tired after a hard day's work and not in a mood to pacify his son anymore, had got down scolding him. He had been scolding him even after this bus had left and the two waited in line for the next one.

And then, just like that, that bus that father and son had boarded before exploded, with 26 dying and 64 others getting injured.

For the father and son, whose names I don't know, it had been a minute's brush with death. One minute. That was the line between life and death, the line crossed by 26 other people, the line only the boy's tantrums had kept the two away from. Yes, one minute. 60 seconds. I know this isn't an exact measure, but it really doesn't matter. Not to them at least.

That's the way with fate. And miracles. And time.