My HMT Kohinoor

May 15, 2008 at 12:04 pm (Personal Essay, Santosh Ojha)

 

My mother, mai, had this curious habit of saving coins. Coins of any denomination would be collected and stashed away in her old tin box, which was kept on the overhead shelf in her puja room. Once in a while, the trunk would be brought down, dusted, and a fresh lot of coins would be placed inside.

In those days, we had one paisa coins, the tiny, round copper ones graduating over time to squares of aluminum alloy. The copper ones were called tickli, perhaps due to their resemblance to bindi, which in Bhojpuri is called tikuli. Then there were the flower-shaped two paise coins and the hexagonal three paise ones. The five paise coins were square-shaped with rounded corners. The ten paise coins were also flower-shaped, like the two paise ones, but were larger in size. The one rupee coin came much later.

Whenever I would ask mai about her habit of saving the coins, she would say the collection was meant for my future wife; mehraroo is the word in Bhojpuri. “Tohar mehraroo key sab dey deb ham.” Or, she would buy a golden necklace or an expensive Banarasi sari for my future wife. The notion of a mehraroo was bewildering to me at that age. And if mai were angry with me for some reason while I  had asked her about the coins, she would say that she was saving the coins for herself  as she feared once married,  my  future wife  and I would give her neither food to eat nor new clothes to wear!  
 

 

By the month end, whenever our family fund ran dry,  mai would dip into her reserves to buy household essentials. My father’s ( pitaji)  salary as a college lecturer was scarcely enough to meet the routine needs of the family. An illness in the family or a wedding in the extended family was enough to upset the monthly expense budget.

 Expenditure anxiety  gripped our  family was when it was decided that i would be  sent to a college in Nagpur for my 11th and 12th Standard classes. The weeks before the departure were spent in a flurry of shopping. A new steel trunk of my own to carry my clothes, some new clothes, toiletries, footwear, a table-lamp and some stationery items. Long-lasting snacks were prepared so that I could feed myself some home made stuff in a distant land.”God knows what kind of food you will get in your hostel mess!” was her  refrain.

I did have this nagging feeling at the back of my mind about the financial stress my movement to Nagpur would cause the family, but I chose to ignore it in the overall excitement of a new life away from home. As the day of departure approached, I would sometimes notice mai weeping silently. The pain of separation from me was difficult for her to bear. I would try to maintain a brave front.

The day of parting arrived. I was to board the train to Nagpur in the evening. In the morning, mai called me aside and handed me a small packet in an envelope. “This is for you,” she said. And then she went into the kitchen. I impatiently ripped open the packet and saw inside a gleaming  Kohinoor brand of wristwatch from HMT. It was my first watch! I never had a watch of my own. During examinations, in senior classes in the school, I would borrow my father’s watch. 

Like all HMT watches, Kohinoor is a basic mechanical device with a metal strap. It has a white-dial with ‘radium’, the hour marks glowing in the dark.

I felt a bit guilty over my parents having to spend their paltry financial resources in buying me a  watch. Soon enough, I discovered that mai had emptied her coin collection, built over many years,  to get me this watch. 

It was my turn to cry!

Cut to three decades later. Nowadays, I do not wear watches. There are far too many things around you to tell you the time: the mobile phone, the display at the bottom  of the laptop, the office clock and the iPod. The only time I wear a watch is on a flight, when neither the laptop nor the mobile phone is on.  

Last week, when I was leaving home to board a flight, I picked up the watch I usually wear on flights. The watch was dead, the cell was used up. Rummaging through my collection of watches, I realized none of them had been attended to in the last few years. The cells were all dead.

The only watch I could use was my good old HMT Kohinoor, which though apparently dead, sprung to life the moment I wound it!  

This watch may be the chunkiest I own, but for me, it is the crown jewel of my worldly possessions.

 – Santosh Ojha

 

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11 Comments

  1. Ani said,

    Santosh, I’m really touched by your essay!!!

  2. interleukin said,

    interleukin says : I absolutely loved it !

  3. Kal said,

    Dear Santosh,
    Very well written and so true. 4 years ago, fearing the imminent death of the mismanaged, undermarketed and grossly neglected HMT, I bought a HMT Tareeq watch – manual, winding watch. All for less than USD15. I am planning to buy another HMT next time I visit India, this time an automatic.

  4. nitasha said,

    Really a very touching post.

  5. suresh said,

    Very well written indeed!

  6. kumar said,

    Santosh, Very good post!

  7. Pinaki Paul said,

    Nice essay santosh’ji , I also have a HMT kohinoor in black dial and i appreciate
    your fond memories of yours .
    pinaki .

  8. AkshayB said,

    That’s nice touching story, filled my throat with unexplainable heaviness, anyways we are forgetting our most loving brand of watches now, that’s why HMT watches seeing bad days, here a interesting Link of HMT watches forum, please take time to see it, that’s what I can say you.
    Yes there are lots and lots of HMT lovers out there, and of course you can see your old Kohinoor in new avatar.

    With Wishes
    AkshayB

    AkshayB

  9. vijayB said,

    I had been watch lover since my childhood and my first watch was Titoni which I got from my dad. It was not a gift but more like a play item since the watch had issues and he had already bought a new one. I used to spend lot of time at watch maker’s desk every month observing him cleaning and fixing it regularly. I also got attracted to several makes of hmt at that time but could never afford anything at that time. Now after several years, I started looking at ebay and found that almost all the watches of that forgotten era are available and I wasted no time buying and creating my own collection. HMT sona is superb and I wear it regularly now and feel very proud of our own Indian classic watch that works perfect.

    I felt quite touched by the story above and I think can understand the emotional aspect very well.

    It is really bad that HMT has been mismanaged and brought down to drain from it’s glory but I am sure it’s watches would continue to glorify our lives for a long long time.

    Vijay

  10. mkj1972wp said,

    Fantastic post. Thoroughly loved it. The affection and simplicity of your parents is truly signified by the watch itself. A black HMT Kohinoor is one of my prized possessions too 🙂

  11. vipin said,

    A WONDERFULLY TOUCHING STORY!

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