Tuesday, November 12, 2013

About Time

Recently, I came across a Youtube video of Javed Akhtar reciting one of his poems called Waqt which means time. Beautiful. On the video, his face reflects his wonder about this transient thing called time, which he has distilled in his poem.

One poetic thought made an impact on me. He asks, is time standing still and we are moving along and it only appears to move, like the stationary trees that appear to move when I travel on a train.

Wah wah!

And then today I read an article titled "Saving time: Physics killed it. Do we need it back?"  It describes a scientific theory very similar to the poetic thought I just described; that time is an illusion. The past, the present and the future coexist if we view the universe from a vantage point outside the universe.

That is uncannily close to what scientists are theorising. (Let me temporarily discount the possibility that Javed Akhtar read about this somewhere and developed it poetically. Even then, no mean achievement, really) Is this why G.P. Rajaratnam said, "ravvi kANad kavvi kaMDa"? ರವ್ವಿ ಕಾಣದ್‍ಕವ್ವಿ ಕಂಡ - A poet sees what the sun cannot see, based on a poetic idea that the sun sees everything.

A quirky idea popped up. There are some who jump in to the ring to claim that Indians knew "all this, long ago, "western" science is finding this only now". Would they claim something similar now? Or, does the language of the poem, Urdu, come in the way?

We need not say TIME will tell, do we?


  1. Great, Anil. About Rajaratnam's poem, the next line was kavi kaanad kudka kanda!, Undoubtedly, we Indians knew about somarasa long before the Westerners invented Whisky.

  2. Anonymous8:13 am

    Nice article but the last para was unnecessary and in poor taste.

    There are similar theories on illusion/Maya and the following article reads "The prime objective of these science-and-spirituality books has been to show similarities between the theoretical subatomic world of quantum physics and the Vedic world view. By demonstrating that Western science and hoary Eastern spirituality are moving toward the same end.."

  3. Ha! Thanks for the addition Ravi.
    Dear Anonymous, thanks for your comment. What you call Vedic world view has also been referred to as the more wider Eastern Mysticism by many. Fritjof Capra (Tao of Physics) and others. The main thesis of The Dancing Wu Li Masters is the surprising similarity between the language of Eastern mysticism and modern Physics and not exactly that the Eastern religions or mystics knew the same thing as the what modern physicist know. (it is completely another matter as to what know means).
    The difference, for me, is that mystic thought became more or less stagnant somewhere along the line and Physics (there is no western or eastern there) is still WIP. Physics makes predictions based on current theories, tests if they are true, and tweak the theories for better understanding of the world. That is where the difference lies.
    I can assure you that I wrote the last paragraph with a lot of care. The aim was to point out that it is not as simple as "we knew it all". Do we really believe that Akhtar "knew" the latest theories on time or is it just astonishing that a poet can imagine such a thing.

  4. Nice article. Good questions.

    For the ones - "Oh we have this in our scriptures" - I often feel like some one has this hodge-podge dictionaries to which they map the recent discoveries. They themselves dont understand their meaning in entirety and they need latest discoveries in science to unravel meanings in scriptures. I do not want to deny that scriptures has some modern physics (Tao of Physics). But we should openly acknowledge the fact that they have been stagnant for a millennia and more. And importantly given our history - scripture's knowledge has not helped in development of human society in any sphere for last 1000+ years.

    For poet seeing the unseen - reminds me of imagination is important than knowledge quote from Einstein. That props up interesting question - how much of our scriptures are "right imagination" ?