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What Is Time, Sir

It has really been one of those summers. Rain, rain, sun, rain, and more rain. I now carry an umbrella as part of my essentials, along with my hay-fever medication, pain-killers, insect- repellant and joint lubricants. Imagine my surprise, basi last Thursday when the sun gave up being shy and came out from behind the clouds.

I had just finished my errands in town and was now waiting for my Number 4 bus back home on a bright and sunny afternoon. Ahead of me in the queue was some sort of University Professor. Adorned in tweed jacket with elbow pads, he scribbled away at some important looking notes in a pocket exercise book.

Just then a foreign exchange language student came up to the stop. He carefully examined the bus time-table and then looked up to the professor and said, “ Prease sir, excuse. What is time”?

The kindly professor looked upon the young student over the top of his round spectacles with some pity. He smiled and said to him “ Well, son, how long have you got”?

We then looked up to see the Number 4 bus rolling up to our stop. Once again I was denied the opportunity to understand the General Theory of Relativity and all that mumbo jumbo. I was gutted.

But why should I let it rest. I have always wanted to know more about the meaning of time. It is a concept that occupies my every waking moment. Why, for instance do we use two time settings in Kenya? Time given in English or Kiswahili differs by 12 hours. Why is this? You may say it doesn’t matter but suppose you write a document to someone and perhaps you specify time using numerals. What does 9.20 mean? Is it 9.20 am or is it 3.20? Why do we have this anomaly? Is there any other country that uses different times depending on the language that is spoken? Which time denotation is used in legal documentation and who determines it? Why do we have all this duplication?

You know, it is time I was out of here………


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4 Comments

  1. Interesting piece, good to have you back here writing again. I too have always wanted to know the meaning of time. More importantly, how can I squeeze 25 hours out of 24 in a day??? I’m constantly running out of it…and always have to squeeze stuff into every second. And I am not rich yet, because here we say time is money.

    LOL, joint lubricants? Insect-repellant?! In Nairobi.

  2. There has always been two ways of telling the time; english and local languages.

    Eight am for eaxample is saa mbili ya asubuhi.

    We just like to be different

  3. I think mama shujaa got it right, there are just not enough hours in the day! It is the first of August. Who stole July?

    The idea that you have 2 time zones in a small country like Kenya seems ridiculous. Do people not find it confusing?

  4. A Swahilh proverb directed to the wazungus, “You got the watch but we got the time.” That is just a loose translation.

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