Jagdish Singh,a chowkidar at the canal rest house at Rampur village near Doraha town in Ludhiana district of Punjab,doesnt have to look at his watch or mobile phone for time. He uses the 134-year-old sundial,which was built by a British officer RG Kennedy in 1878 and was installed here in 1928.
As sunlight falls on the iron hand,it casts a shadow on the dial which gives the time.
You have to add 26 minutes to the time given by this dial. Though Jagdish is illiterate,he is quick with his calculations. An inscription on the sundial says it is fast in January,February,March,September,August and October while its slow the rest of the months. You add the minutes mentioned against the dates during the fast months and subtract them in the slow months.
Avtar Singh,the work supervisor at this rest house,says its simple to use the sundial but hardly anyone uses it. He says the calculation doesnt take much time. You always add 26 minutes and subtract or add further based on months indicated on the dial.
The sundial lies neglected,with grass growing wildly around it. Jagdish says one chowkidar is not enough for the upkeep.
With the canal department complaining about the high cost of maintenance,the authorities had decided to hand it over to the tourism department but nothing has moved on that front yet.
Superintending Engineer S S Grewal says the rest house lies abandoned. We have suggested that the sundial be shifted to Bassian Kothi,another heritage guest house of the canal department,which is being restored by the archaeology department. The team had also visited to see the sundial. We are hopeful that it will be shifted soon.
The rest house is important not only because of the sundial,but also because it keeps the record of the high flood levels in 1900 and 1945,which can be seen on iron plates on the outside wall of the rest house.
Not many villagers are aware of the sundial. Since its an abandoned rest house,no one visits here,says Jagdish.