Let me take you back to the day we travelled from Heathrow, London back to Palam (now Indira Gandhi) International Airport, Delhi in July 1980.

I slept off on the flight only to be awakened by my mother, who said that the plane was halting for a few hours in Dubai Airport and that my parents and sister would venture to the duty free shops while my brother and I would sit in the plane. It was very hot inside the plane. A few hours went by and then they returned. My parents had bought us wrist watches and my sister had got the Mickey Mouse one. Mine was something called a Tissot with a golden rim.

A year went by and I realised that it would be easier to manage school exams if I had a watch as then I could know how much time I had left before the exam time was up. I normally finished my paper before time as I never had much to write. My mother gave me my watch by the time I turned eleven. The dial was white with roman numbers. The rim was broad and gold. The strap was black leather. I managed to wear the watch by using the last hole in the strap. I had skinny wrists. I had to wind the watch every night to ensure that the watch did not stop. It glowed green in the night as the Roman numerals had radium, a substance discovered by Madam Curie and whom I thanked every time I had to check the time when it was dark.

When I reached high school I came to know that a Tissot is one of the best watches made by a Swiss Company. My father wore an Omega, a watch gifted to him by his Father-in-Law on his marriage. I was learning about brand names and that the Indian HMT time pieces were one of the most durable watches one could wear. My Tissot was durable enough. I did have to change the strap every few years as the leather was never durable enough. 

My Tissot became a part of my life more than any material could have. From High School I reached Senior School in Delhi. The school kids here wore very beautiful ‘trendy’ wrist watches. The digital kind was ‘In’. No winding was required and the watch digitally displayed the time in Indian numerals. One had to change the battery to keep the watch functioning.

My Tissot was a part of me during graduation days in Miranda House. My hostel mates liked my watch. I graduated and then joined Delhi Law School. I was again living in a hostel opposite my previous Miranda House Hostel. So much was happening in my life along with studies. My marriage had been finally fixed (I had managed to evade some alliances). I can’t say I was excited about decisions being made about my life, but I had agreed to marry the boy my Grandfather and parents had decided upon. The wedding was fixed for Kartik Purnima that coincided with the 29th of November that year. It was said to be a very auspicious day.

The day had come when my sister, cousin brother and I were to leave for the railway station and go to Patna for my wedding. My own brother was to come after two days as he had his all India Service entrance exams to take. I packed my clothes that included a new off-white woollen cardigan that I could wear on a saree, a maroon colour handbag gifted by my dear friends, a shawl that had been gifted by cousin brothers of some friends, some basic makeup stuff and a new pair of shoes that I planned to wear on the wedding day. My wedding saree was with my mother.

The train from New Delhi to Patna was scheduled to depart at 3:00 pm. We had an early hurried lunch. I checked the time on my watch and it was time to search for an auto and leave for the station. My sister and I brought down our luggage from our upper floor hostel rooms, informed the hostel admin of our leave, and then came out of the hostel gate. My cousin was waiting for us. We finalised an auto and kept our luggage inside it. I sat reluctantly and looked at my wrist watch. It was not on my wrist. I panicked and immediately asked the auto-Wala to not start the three-wheeler. I got down and like a person possessed I started tracing my steps back to the mess hall and back to my room. The watch was not to be found. I came down the stairs with equally alert eyes, but no watch. I walked to the auto with my head to the ground. I sat inside the auto.

At that moment I felt as if destiny had decided that my times will change forever. The days ahead will be very different. Anxiety hit me hard. My sister and cousin told me that I will definitely get a new wrist watch on my wedding and that it was just a matter of a few days. I wanted to shout out that any other watch was not my watch. It was just another watch.

I did get a wedding watch. It was a Titan gold bracelet watch. Titan was the ‘In’ watch, especially for newlyweds. It was not something I would ever buy for myself. I received another titan watch, a simple maroon colour watch with a maroon leather strap. The dial had gold dashes for the numerals and it also showed the date. I told myself that till I could find my Tissot I would have to make peace with this timepiece. 

Six days after the wedding, I was back in the Hostel. I could not find my Tissot. I changed the maroon strap of my new watch to a black strap. It did not help. My life had changed in many ways. I didn’t know from whom to ask for my college and hostel fees, I didn’t know how to contact my husband as he was undergoing training in a small place in Tamil Nadu and did not have a fixed phone number (This was a decade before mobile phones became the norm), I didn’t know what it meant to be dressed up as a married student, I didn’t know how my friends would treat me. I hoped to be treated just like pre-marriage days. I wore the same clothes as I wore earlier, I walked to Law faculty just like earlier, I was serious about my studies just like earlier, but my status had changed and I no longer had my wrist friend, my childhood Tissot.

PS: I did get a Tissot. A gift from my husband, on my 25th wedding anniversary. 😊