On Reading Mitch Albom’s The Timekeeper

This time it was a friend of my parents, Tina Sani, a renowned singer of Urdu ghazals and someone whom I respect very much, who recommended to me a book, titled The Time keeper, written by an author I had never heard of before. I immediately added the book to my burgeoning To-buy list of books. It took me quite a few months before I was able to buy the book from anywhere. As far as I can remember, I had had found other books by Albom at my local bookshop, but not The Time keeper. I finally came across a dusty, but unused, copy while browsing the second-hand bookstalls at the D.H.A. Sunday Bazaar — I bought it without a second thought. For some reason, I had been looking forward to acquiring a copy of the book, even if it languished on my shelves at home, staying unread for many more months. This happened sometime in February, or early March. On the 3rd of July, according to my reading journal, I finally picked up the book, having stolen a few moments of solitude from the guests that were visiting us that day. I managed to read up to page 7 within a few minutes. I quite liked what I read. I also guessed that once I had properly started the book I could easily finish it in short period of time, maximum a week, a minimum of three to four days. The fact that The Time keeper is an easy read is one of the good things about the book. I properly started reading the book on the 17th of July, two weeks after I first picked it up, and finished it last night, on the 22nd of July. If one regularly takes out time during the day to spend it reading this book, one might even finish it in a day, maybe two. It’s that easy to read. Probably the most interesting aspect of the novel is its subject matter: Time. Various aspects of it, which are quite abstract, have been addressed in the novel: such as, how valuable it is, the obsessive monitoring of it done by humans, their attempts to control it with actions like making schedules. And yet, despite everything, the “time flies” and humans, greedily, want, and demand, even more of it. In fact, by making Time his subject, Albom has attempted to make people think, and rethink, about “their own notions of” Time. I found all this rather interesting. Albom does succeed, to some extent, in making us think about our attitudes towards Time. I definitely thought about it. Having read numerous articles on Being and on Existence on Brain Pickings, The Time keeper ended up becoming a sort of a catalyst, a final straw, for me. Last night, after having read the book, I realised that it really is good to live in the moment, in the present—to feel it, to enjoy it—even if I only do it sometimes, and definitely not at the expense of not bearing a practical outlook towards Life. Living in the moment, as far as I understand, means to stop everything one is doing, take a deep breath and focus on one’s surroundings, then fully immersing themselves into that particular moment. It seems to resemble the act and experience of doing either yoga or meditation, maybe even both. Nevertheless, an astute reader will definitely be able to perceive the moralistic undertones in the novel, even though Albom has tried to hide them under the guise of subtleness. But then, The Time keeper is meant to be a parable, of course, or it wouldn’t say “compelling fable” on the back cover of the book. And yes, I say this despite having experienced some of the very same feelings that the author was trying to communicate from his tale. What I felt while reading the book still doesn’t change the fact that his tone is overly didactic. He comes across as a teacher who tells his pupils a story, implying that they must, at any cost, imbibe the very virtues endorsed in the tale they have just been told as doing so will lead them to success. They are reminiscent, to an extent, of the values eschewed by Nim and the rest of the community of Dor’s original era. Albom has created some relatable, even believable, characters in Dor, Victor Delamonte, and Sarah Lemon. I think the book works mainly because of them, supported by his “spare” prose, which makes The Timekeeper a very quick read, and proportionately easy to understand. Nevertheless, reading this book would have been a much more enjoyable experience, had it not been for Albom’s moralistic treatment of his subject matter.

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