Visiting Gul Mohammad Kakar’s antique clock museum means being transported into an altogether different time, where every moment has to be savoured and cherished.
Situated next to his workplace in Quetta with little space to navigate, Kakar's museum is littered with artefacts collected over a period of time.
The two-room museum walls are filled with 18th and 19th century hand-made big wall-hung clocks, with gilt numerals and wooden dials, in mahogany or teak cases, dial clocks in oak, walnut and rosewood, which may have been crafted for offices, shops or to be hung on railway stations.
“These were acquired over the last 17 years,” he says, weaving his hand across the room.
But it is not just the longcase (grandfather tall free standing pendulum-driven) clocks that have filled up the place; half a wall has cuckoo clocks. Then there is a wide range of mantle ones and a fairly wide range of pocket clocks on a round table in the middle of the other portion of the room, some in silver and even gold casing.
Picking up a pocket watch and taking a miniature key on a chain, he deftly splits open the middle to show the mechanics and where the key is to be inserted. “All these clocks and watches work,” says Kakar, who works for the Balochistan Levies Force.
He has learnt to service most of them himself. Unable to find a clock enthusiast in Pakistan, he says he hopes to come across someone with whom he can hold a conversation about the clocks and watches and share his passion and knowledge.
Most of the clocks are from Germany, United Kingdom, Holland and the United States, and the Internet has made his search much easier.
“After I’ve done my initial research, my friends living abroad visit the family that is selling the heirloom; they then make the offer and once the watch or clock is acquired, they ship it to me,” says Kakar.
What inspires him the most is the history behind each of these acquired pieces and about the people who owned each piece originally.
Unfortunately, he has not archived or documented the collection. He also has no idea exactly how many pieces are in the room.
“I’ve lost count” he says, but that fails to dampen his enthusiasm as it does not matter to the 44-year old Kakar, sitting on a sofa next to a 40-year-old vintage gas-fired stove from Holland. This stove not only keeps the room nice and warm but also the aromatic saffron tea in the small kettle on it, from which he pours me a cup.
And there are no favourites. “It’s like asking which of my three sons I love the most,” says Kakar.
Having made the museum next to his workplace not only ensures his treasures are safe, but also that he is able to spend more time with his artefact “friends”.
The muted chimes keep his “mood uplifted”, he says. Saturdays are spent cleaning, servicing and painstakingly winding each clock for the following week.
Moreover, he says his residence does not have the space to house them.
Incredulous as this may sound, but he does not know how much he has spent in acquiring them or what is the worth of each piece today.
“If I start calculating and seeing them as an investment, I will never enjoy what I’m doing.” But he admits that all his savings have gone into acquiring what were once other people’s treasures. In addition, the committee system has helped him get the cash to spend.
He does not like to be called a collector. “Antiques don’t have owners; they just have caretakers. Long after I’m gone, these pieces will go back to the market, and someone else will take on the role of being their caretaker,” he says. Until then, “I want to enjoy what I have and not worry about what will happen after I am gone.”
For now, none of the pieces are for sale. “I’d rather exchange it for another piece to an antiquarian than sell any of this,” he says, looking around the room that also has gramophones, radios, telescopes, binoculars, oil lamps and a huge ship compass.
But more than anything, he would love for these clocks to have a proper museum where each piece can be showcased properly.
“I’d willingly give these up to a museum so that each piece gets a rightful and dignified space that it deserves, it is too cramped in here,” admits Kakar. But he has one condition: “The museum be named after me”.
All photos by writer