Saturday, May 31, 2008


[Rewritten to eschew obfuscation]

Where does time go?

Ancient walls whitewashed to hurt the eyes. Smell of fresh paint moistens the imagination. The mind is visited by visions of time serving detention between layers of fossilized alabaster, by the feeble shapes of stairway conversations snatched during recess.

The weight of a century bears down on the cross-beams. The heaviness of routine, like a stubborn odour, hangs everywhere: of 45-minute periods and weekly time-tables; of monthly tests and quarterly exams; of annual fests and summer vacations ... generations of rebellion disciplined around a time-regimented education.

Cool hard benches, languid yet orderly; ebony and varnish. The familiar comforts of butt on academic wood and desktop graffiti. 'Suneetha'. 'Crazy bitch'. A mean bolt of lightning in fashionable Powerpuff pink -- someone with a sense of humour.


The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

-- Lines from 'But I can't', A villanelle by W. H. Auden


Tension ticks in the air. Twenty minutes left.

Tall Jesuit windows paired with ventilators above; three spare pairs to a wall.

Wind hustles the broad corridors outside. Neem trees sway religiously in the morning sun. The 9.17 rolls into the station in the distance, slows downs, breathes itself to a stop.

A small steel stool stands outside the doorway, shining in the sun; a green plastic pot sits on top, filled neck deep with water; uncouth aluminium tumbler lolls from a blue nylon cord tied around the mouth of the pot.

The train booms, leaves.

Pitted blackboard sprawls across the wall up front; poster of the Virgin Mother overhead. Chalk-white-dust nostalgia. 'Class Strength: 40'. 'Boys: 23'. Boys ... 'Girls: 17'. Girls ... 'Present: 37'. 'Absent: 3'. The luxury of redundant information.

The 9.27 rumbles in punctually. Pencil points are poked against trembling fingertips. Three minutes left. Prayers push past pursed lips.


Time doesn't go anywhere.

Time comes here to file her nails sitting in the library, to dry her long white hair while she waits reading a book in the cafeteria, to lie under the trees in the campus and balance her soulsheets.

Time comes here when she's tired of herself.

Time comes here when she wants to grow old.

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