The anticlock watch: Reminder of an Adivasi way of life

Location IconTapi district, Gujarat
This is the third article in a 11-part series supported by Tata Steel Foundation. This series highlights stories and voices of various tribal communities that gathered at the ninth edition of Samvaad, an initiative that brings together tribes of India and beyond for constructive dialogue.

View the entire series here.

Two anticlock watches in a box-Adivasi
Adivasis can now wear their philosophy on their wrists and carry it wherever they go. | Picture courtesy: Pradip Patel

I come from the Dhuria community of Gujarat’s Tapi district. Growing up, I would see clocks that ran anticlockwise on the walls in many Adivasi households. They represented an Adivasi way of life that was close to nature.

Nothing in nature follows a clockwise motion. If you notice, the earth goes around the sun anticlockwise, Adivasis till their land anticlockwise, and, even at weddings in my community, couples walk around the fire anticlockwise.

Keeping this in mind, I have designed an anticlock watch. Adivasis can now wear their philosophy on their wrists and carry it wherever they go. It will act as a reminder of the time before industrial time took over, when mornings started with rooster calls and the movement of cattle ploughing the field would tell the farmer that he could break for lunch.

When I started, I knew nothing about clock-making. I am a photographer by training, not an engineer. I still take help from friends, study clock mechanisms, and research the various components that make watches work. I discovered that the movement machine required for anticlock wristwatches is made in Japan and China, not India. This made things very difficult for me.

A friend helped me get in touch with a Japanese company that sold the movement machine, but it cost INR 25,000. To pay for expenses such as these, I use the earnings from my photography gigs and my friends also put in money. I often travel to Delhi for research on clock-making. In the past, when I worked full-time with news publications, I could afford flights for travelling. Now I take trains.

I still haven’t figured out a funding model for my work. People have suggested I get my idea patented, but that is against the Adivasi philosophy of sharing. I am more than willing to share my idea with people who want to make their own versions of the anticlock watch.

In the future, I intend to design a digital watch too. It will have an alarm that rings when the wearer moves from one place to another, from a less polluted environment to a more polluted one, from a village to a city. I don’t know programming, but I still want to do it. How does it matter? There was a time when I didn’t know clock-making either. Recently, I came to know that what I do for a living is called freelancing; we Adivasis have been freelancing for ages.

Pradip Patel is a freelance photographer and watchmaker based in Gujarat.

Know more: Learn how an indigenous wrestling tradition is helping Bodos fight addiction in Assam.

Do more: Connect with Pradip Patel at [email protected] to learn more about and support his work.


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