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Dubai Diaries: Would you wish upon a time machine?

If you could time-travel, where would you go?

A scene from 'About Time'.
A scene from 'About Time'.

Enid Grace Parker

Published: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 12:02 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jan 2022, 12:51 PM

From a young age, I would watch and re-watch films and devour books on time travel which perhaps accounts for the obsession I have with the concept today.

From the romantic Christopher Reeve starrer Somewhere In Time (1980), to the comic Back To The Future (1985) and the all-time classic The Time Machine (1960), based on H.G. Wells’ eponymous novel, there exist many works of literature and cinema which are to blame for this fixation.

One of my favourite novels on the subject is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger (2003), a poignant yet uplifting tale about a librarian whose rare genetic disorder causes him to drift backwards and forwards through time, leaving his artist wife to cope with the unpredictability of his frequent absences and reappearances.

Another gem is About Time (2013), a rather underrated and sweet British film with the tagline ‘what if every moment in life came with a second chance’?

What if, indeed.

I often wonder — when I have the chance to indulge in day-dreams amidst the overwhelming business of adulting — what I would do if an opportunity to time-travel presented itself. Would I, like the protagonist of The Time Machine (which Britannica lists as one of the earliest works of science fiction and a progenitor of the ‘time travel’ subgenre), travel to the future and see what it holds for me?

Or would I go back in time — and revisit some of my favourite memories?

It would be difficult to pick from them.

I would love to see my mother’s smiling face, and feel the reassurance of her presence with a hug, or go for a walk through all her favourite shops at Karama Market and Meena Bazar, watching in amusement as she haggled with the shopkeepers over prices.

I would love to be seated in one of my IHS Dubai classrooms again, indulging in uncontrollable fits of laughter with my friends for no apparent reason. I would love to be recording music from Dubai 92 over blank cassettes, the joy and frustration of which can never accurately be described in words.

These and numerous other moments come to mind, when I think of what I could do with a time machine.

Would I alter any past experiences if I could? Recalling moments of trauma, pain, and grief, I can’t help wondering if changing the past would mean a happier present.

I guess we as humans will never fully be satisfied with the answers, if any, to these questions. I reflect on them for a while, and then return to my happy place of an imaginary time machine, with which I could experience the spontaneity and wonder of being a child again.

It was a period during which this quote attributed to philosopher Chuang Tzu would probably have rung true — “Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes. I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied, and what goes cannot be detained.”

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