And so it stayed for years, lovingly preserved by his wife. She couldn’t bear to part with it, associated as it was with pride in his accomplishment and sorrow at his hurtful end. Then her mind changed. Her husband was not one to hoard assets. In fact, he always urged her to make use of things or get rid of them. She put in new batteries and made the watch functional.
It was at that point, while visiting India, I told her that I had lost my watch. She brought out the watch case and presented it to me. It was a lovely watch. It never occurred to me to think of it as a hand-me-down gift. I thought of it as a badge of honor.
I carried it everywhere with me. It went to Mumbai and Manizales, London and Las Vegas. I liked it and I liked using it. Careless as I am, I never misplaced or lost it. It stayed and became a part of my life.
Of course, it came with me when I visited India this year. It went through several security checks with me at various airports. Security rules and standards vary enormously, and sometimes I was allowed to keep wearing it and sometimes I was required to put it in a tray for machine examination.
When I was leaving India, at Delhi airport they asked me to empty my pockets in a tray and then, noticing the watch, suggested that I place it in the tray too. There was a very long line. People were impatiently pushing predecessors to finish their check quickly. I just had time to go through the physical scanning and then quickly pick up my jacket, document pouch, handbag, laptop, cell phone and assorted contents of my jacket and trouser pockets.
Disconsolate, I walked the long way back to the security area. On the way I asked two security guards what I should do. The first one was highly skeptical that I would get any results. He said that there were thousands of people going by and the watch must have disappeared by then without a trace. The second one was even more emphatic. He described my effort as a wild goose chase and said that a striking gold-colored watch would never remain unnoticed. Some passenger would have taken it or even a security official might have pocketed it. A long time had already passed and the idea of retrieval was, as he said, a pie in the sky.
None too hopeful, I walked to the security area anyway. Then I realized the enormity of my endeavor. There were several counters; I had no idea which line I was in or which security officer had examined me. If the person had looked liked Deepika Padukone or even Shah Rukh Khan, I might have remembered. No such luck.
I explained my problem to the first security officer who condescended to look at me. He asked, “Which line were you in?”
“I have no idea,” I honestly replied.
“We have a help desk, over there. Go there.”
“What kind of watch?” He asked with a stony face, and I realized I was about to begin some long, fruitless bureaucratic procedure.
When I had given a description and mentioned the brand, like a magician he placed his big fist on the counter and opened it without a word.
It was there. My watch was back!
I will never again listen to people who claim all public officials are corrupt and all police officers are looking for graft. I have a sparkly golden band around my wrist that says honest public officials still exist, one just has to be lucky to find them.