Artwork by: Emilia Melville, age 13
Written by: Kavya Shah
Time is the answer to most questions. Just broke up with your boyfriend? Time will heal you.
Feeling anxious? The passing of time will help you focus. Unable to make people hear you? Time and growing up will add merit to your personality, hence giving you a platform for your voice. Most cultures, including mine, accentuate the power of time and give it a godly placement in society. It becomes the center of existence, facilitates the self-worth of individuals, emphasizes the need for the continuation of traditions, and provides reason for ingraining small activities in everyday life. Time impacts the world at a cosmic level, a societal level, and eventually an individual level.
Time governs many aspects of my faith. Faith can be analyzed through multiple lenses, for it is a multifaceted concept. Faith can relate to God, to oneself, or to familial values; in my opinion, the most powerful thing or person to have faith in is oneself. To have faith in oneself is to have faith in just being and understanding that self-worth is derived from existence, not actions. The process of developing faith in oneself is a journey that eases with time as a person goes through various stages in life, such as relationships, rejections, and even achievements; faith becomes the anchor tying a person to self-worth, the knowledge that the hurdles projected by life are irrelevant to their individual identity. It is only through time that faith in oneself strengthens.
The only way that external events can be prevented from hampering faith in oneself is by repeatedly proving to the soul that, together, the body and mind simply can. Building that level of self-confidence takes time. My culture is broadly influenced by my faith’s traditions, and, therefore, great importance is placed on karma. Karma, a Sanskrit word, is the spiritual principle of cause and effect, a cosmic law that states that, with time, both good and bad deeds are returned to each person. It is often used to highlight the ripple effect of performing a good deed such that, by sowing goodness, it circles back to you. It is a balancing act, one that simultaneously deals with the consequences of past actions and the opportunity for healing in the present. Time plays a critical role in this process, for knowing that every action is repaid at an unpredictable moment ensures that people monitor their actions at each point in their day. In this way, time has the capacity to deeply affect everyday lives. Thus, time influences religion, value systems, and even social behavior.
My culture notes that respect is earned with time and aging. Therefore, the elderly are more respectable and, upon meeting them, youngsters touch their feet both to seek blessings and as a sign of respect. The understanding is that with age comes wisdom and experience such that the elderly can guide the newer generation because they have seen more trying times. I am in no place to critique such a tradition, one which I follow. However, I will highlight that the aged hold knowledge of a time before, and one cannot expect grandparents in their late 70s to guide the newer generation on modern problems, such as social media, for they simply don’t understand them. Moreover, respect cannot be earned, it has to be simply given. I take from my culture that, with the practice of touching the feet of the elderly, one implies respect for their struggles and acknowledges the power of time.
A microcosm of the larger community, individual families also experience age-based power dynamics. The most stereotypical Indian household story is the mother-in-law bullying the newly arrived daughter-in-law and forcing her to succumb to the pressures of managing an unwelcoming household. Several surveys conducted in relation to this occurrence pay heed to the same results; the saying goes, “Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi” [Once upon a time, even the mother-in-law was in the place of the daughter-in-law]. The cycle continues, for with time comes power, and people will do anything to keep power once it is attained. But it isn’t just power that comes with time, it is also patience and compassion and love. Hence, time becomes a signal for change.
In addition, my culture treats time as a symbol that determines the “right time” to do everything. The right time for marriage for girls is between 20 and 25, after which the beauty of their innocence is said to become scarce; the right time for the CEO to retire is before they enter their late 60s; the right time to graduate college is 25, and so the list goes. When people like me choose to misalign themselves with the concept of the “right time,” one so stringently followed, it is considered lashing out, and those people are named outlaws. This makes it apparent that society today is still evolving and in desperate need of healing.
The reason I don’t align with the concept of “right time” is simple: each person has their own unique set of goals. By generalizing the proper ages for achieving milestones, individual growth and personal achievements are sidelined. “Change” has no right time, and is simply inevitable; if hurdles, pain, death, and bureaucratic loopholes have no “right time,” then why should every individual’s life be mapped out by a society which fails to understand each person’s personal “right time”?
I have previously discussed the spiritual, philosophical, and symbolic importance of time in my community. However, it is important to extend that understanding of time by looking at how it shapes everyday life. Prayers take place in the morning, after temple bells wake the town or, in rural villages, the cuckoo bird sings at dawn. Society, through time, repeatedly emphasizes the values of waking up early, believing that the day is just more productive that way. Moreover, my culture endorses, and I circle back to this, the healing power of time. Time is critical, it stops for no one, and my culture understands and accepts that, forcing teenagers like myself to use it wisely and engage in activities to boost both their careers and souls. Sick days are taken by everyone, at work places, schools, and colleges; I have recently started taking mental health days, not as an excuse to miss school but to spend time with myself and do things that make me genuinely happy and healthy.
My day starts with a hug from my mother and a cup of coffee lovingly brewed by my father. I move on to greet my grandparents (since I stay in a joint family) and bow down to the Krishna and Radha portraits in my house. I pray each morning, not to invoke the lords, but because research has proven that chanting is beneficial to the body. It takes a few seconds, but to stop, listen to the heartbeats, and be engulfed in the cosmos within oneself allows the soul to heal, with time. Studies have been conducted to examine the positive implications of chanting; it is said to lower stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. By giving time to small, minute actions, which are very easy to skip, the body is able to heal and become mentally stronger. Giving time to oneself is critical: enjoying a meal without internet access, sleep without notifications from one’s mobile phone, or time with friends beyond meeting to make Reels aid in soothing the soul. The simple act of giving time to real events and people has wondrous effects: dark circles vanish and real laughter flourishes, for time has the power to physically heal a person.
To conclude, time is central to everything; it facilitates the formation of every kind of relationship, heals people from hardships and trauma, and helps us be more productive. While it has connotations I don’t fully embrace, I accept them, for we are an evolving society, and I strongly believe that with time, and just a little bit of hope, everything will be alright!
Kavya Shah wrote this piece when she was a 17-year-old aspiring author studying at the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. Her love for the written word is constantly accentuating, and manifesting in her writing. On a Sunday morning, you'll find her enjoying a cup of coffee in the swing, lost in her thoughts. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her loved ones. Kavya's curiosity fuels her desire to explore and unveil new possibilities and avenues.