By Zile Singh


The literal meaning of “A stitch in time, saves  nine” is that if a small hole occurred in your garment due to negligence, wear and tear or some other reason, it is  easy to repair   with a single or a few stitches.  If left unattended for some time,  it will become larger and larger,  difficult to repair, and finally one day making the garment useless.

The symbolic and intended  meaning is different  from the  proverbial meaning.  It  is that a little effort exerted to fix a small problem in our day-to-day life can  prevent it from growing into a bigger problem requiring a lot more efforts, pain  and money to fix it later. There have been cases when small problems related to any walk of  life became so acute that neither time nor money could solve it.

According to Wonderopolis, historians believe that this proverb first appeared in 1732 in Thomas Fuller’s various writings.  Many believe that procrastination – putting off doing something until later creates more work in the long run – gave birth to this sagely saying.  Many people believe that it was started by mothers weary of mending their children’s clothing.  Some people shorten the phrase to just “ a stitch in time”.  Other similar versions are: Penny wise, pound foolish.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.   Make hay while the Sun shines.  There is no time like the present.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Nip the evil in the bud.  etc.

The oncoming of the New Year reminds everyone to take care of your daily duties and necessary work just in time before you suffer for want of time and curse yourself for neglecting  timely advice rendered by people having mature experience in life. The proverb motivates us to take quick and decisive action when it is needed.  There is a   lot of relevance to it in our day-to-day life.  For example:  People who ignore their small disease will suffer in the long run when the  disease becomes incurable and more expensive to treat.  Students who do not care for their poor performance in class tests and do not work hard to improve in time, will suffer in the finals.  People who do not save for retirement  in their early years, will face financial difficulties in their old age.  Who does not get repaired his car for a small fix might be in trouble on the highway, away from garage, on a cold wintry night.    So, let us resolve to abide by this simple but very powerful time-tested proverb “ A stitch in time saves nine.”

Fortune favours those who do their job on time.  Those who postpone things habitually, will be doomed.  If you take timely action on any task or problem,  you can dictate  your own terms.  If you postpone action, the task or the small problem becomes  unmanageable and  you will have to accept the terms and conditions of others to get rid of the situation.  Recently I had to face  a small routine problem which could have been solved in less time with say ..x.. mount of money.  I ignored the problem.  Over time it grew to such a proportion  that it took me  more than  a week to solve by incurring almost ten times in monetary terms with additional physical and mental pain.

Thus, by putting a Stitch in Time, you can reduce your stress level, you can focus on your target with better performance, gain self-confidence which always leads to success, give you time to relax and do extra recreational activities, extravagance can be addressed by taking action on time, and finally the health benefits derived from this wise proverb are immense.  The proverb can easily be used as time management also.  Timely action is important for making the best use of opportunities, because the missed opportunities are lost forever.  We may not get another chance to avail of that golden opportunity.  ‘ Make hay while the Sun shines’ also is a direct indication to a farmer that he should take advantage of the sunny days.  He has to act as fast as possible in making his hay when the weather is bright and favourable.  People have become millionaires because they knew how to make hay while the sun was shining.  Human life is comparable to weather.  Life, like the weather, is uncertain.  Therefore, we should take advantage of the time before it turns disadvantageous to us.

For a successful and simple life we should cultivate the habit of doing things in time without wasting the appropriate moments.  Otherwise,  you will cry over spilt milk.

Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .


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