Samir Chopra June 19, 2008

Time travel

Cricket told me the experienced daily world is sliced up into distinct temporal spheres; nothing else brought this home quite so clearly, not even those ubiquitous rows of clocks at airports, each set to a different city.

Cricket was how I learned about time zones. It's how I learned other creatures on this planet experienced very different times of day while being simultaneously co-existent with me.

I knew all about GMT, the International Date Line, and 360 degrees of longitude as a child; these were abstract academic facts about a globe, gleaned from geography textbooks, and I was a nerd after all. But I only really learned what time zones meant when it became clear to me I could be hunched up in bed on a cold winter night listening to a disembodied voice over the radio describing flannelled men playing in bright sunshine somewhere far away. It's how I really learned to grasp that India was a big country, and that the bureaucratic fiat of Indian Standard Time did abuse to the fact of its spectacular east-west sprawl. How else was I to understand that one part of the country (Calcutta) could fall into darkness (as test match cricketers seemed to be pointing out to umpires) while I was playing in the bright winter sunshine with my friends in New Delhi? Cricket sliced up the day into distinct parts, each marked out with its own distinct label, each providing a particular background and locale for a distinct set of cricketing memories.

Test matches in England were about summer heat, burning hot afternoons that shaded into cooler evenings before the radio commentary finally came to a halt just before midnight. Game changing moments happened as the Delhi night wore on outside. Watching cricket in Australia had as its local backdrop, the North Indian winter, its freezing early mornings, its glorious sunny afternoons, and the chance to conduct post-mortems of the day's play from lunchtime onwards.

Perhaps nothing else quite so clearly marked my move to the US, and my subsequent residence on the East Coast, as my realization that from now on, those two locales (England and Australia) would be almost precisely exchanged (a temporal reversal of roles if you will), that other places in the mind's cricketing map would have to be rearranged.

England became associated with summer mornings; with early morning cups of espresso; with the hope that perhaps I could delay my setting out for work so I could finish watching the post-tea session. Australia became associated with winter evenings; snow would fall on my dark Brooklyn street while I watched players do battle at Brisbane; and I could crawl into bed by 2 AM as the day's play wound down. And perhaps most strange of all, the West Indies, that mystical place where giants once slew all those who visited, and which was all about post-dinner commentary and tape-delayed radio in the early mornings back in India, this place suddenly became part of my local time zone: games began in the late morning and ended in the evening. The machinations to watch games in the West Indies took on a similar hue to those employed in India to watch home games: the 'sick' days, the "I think I'll just work from home" claims. The advantage of being located in the same time zone had also brought along its inconvenient companion: the clash with work hours.

Cricket told me the experienced daily world is sliced up into distinct temporal spheres; nothing else brought this home quite so clearly, not even those ubiquitous rows of clocks at airports, each set to a different city. And yet nothing else quite so clearly reinforced the connectedness of the world either.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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