This is a very simple, clear and self-explanatory proverb. It means that time and tide do not wait for anybody. Time goes on passing without caring for anybody and anything. Similarly tides occur ; they have no regard or consideration for anybody. Time and tide symbolise valuable opportunity. They occur without any notice. The essence of the proverb is that opportunities do not wait for anyone. No one can command or foretell their occurrenceor recurrence. One should be alert and cautious because they occur without any notice. They are generally shortlived and pass quickly; No one can say whether or when they would come again. So one should be fully prepared to make the best use of an opportunity as and when it presents itself.Time and tide are natural phenomena. Like other agents of nature, they too have no consideration and regard for any individual. Man cannot change their course. They are beyond the control of human hands. Man finds himself helpless before them. In ancient times there were no steamships. There were huge boats equipped with sails. They were called ships. Their launching in the sea was a difficult affair, which depended on the tide. The sailors had to wait for weeks and sometimes for months, because their ships could not sail without the help of a tide. As soon as the tide came, they sailed their ships away with it. If they missed the chance, they had to wait for the next tide about which there could be no certainty. A tide never waits for any sailor. It is for the sailor to wait and take advantage of the tide when it comes. It is for the sailors to take advantage of the tide. If they fail they suffer the consequences. ‘This proverb is a lesson to all of us. It lays emphasis on the desirability of our preparedness to make the best use of an opportunity that presents itself to us. We should, therefore, remain vigilant, because even the slightest carelessness on our part may result in missing a great opportunity in life resulting in colossal loss. It also implies that opportunities are rare. No one can create them. They come of their own. Those who are ready, are able to take advantage of them, but lazy^ people let them slip.Time is running fast. Yesterday will never come again. Even this moment when you are reading these lines will never come again. Time is an opportunity. If time will not come again, it means the opportunity will not come again. It is, therefore, necessary that one should grasp the opportunity as it comes. Missing an opportunity means missing the chance for ever, because one does not know whether the opportunity will recur or not. No amount of repentance would compensate the loss caused by such a failure. Nature is impersonal. It does not matter to it if a certain individual fails to make use of an opportunity offered by it. It is because of this aspect of the matter that wise men are always prepared to act with full vigour when time comes. They never postpone things.Suppose a student is to appear in his final examination in January 1980. He has still many long months for study and preparation. In January 1980, he will get an opportunity to pass the examination in any division he likes. He can put in hard work to make the best use of the opportunity and achieve his objective. But if he does not put his heart and soul into the study or in case he completely misses this opportunity, he cannot get a chance of passing the examination in January 1980 in his whole life. It may be that he . passes the examination later but passing the examination in January 1980 will be an impossibility for him. January 1980 will not wait for him. Missing the January 1980 examination will result in an irreparable loss.
Opportunities are rare. Generally they do not repeat. That is why wise people call them golden chances. It is always advisable to seize an opportunity as soon as it occurs, because it may never occur again. Such a chance, if availed of, may prove a boon in one’s life and may also ruin one’s life if it is missed. Many such instances may be cited from everyday life of many of us. A wise man, therefore, anxiously waits for an opportunity and makes the best use of it as soon as it occurs. Those who miss such opportunities because of their negligence or carelessness have to repent.
There is another aspect of the matter. Time and tide are immune to sentiments of loss or gain to individuals, communities and nations. In total disregard of loss or gain to individuals they follow their schedules. There can be no appeal against them.
It also flows from the proverb that one should be strictly punctual and should do one’s work at the proper or appointed time. The habit of’postponing things is not good. A thing postponed is generally never done. It also means that one should cultivate the habit of taking decisions quickly or at the ripe time. Vacillation in this regard may prove disastrous. Many people have met with failure in life because they would not take decision at the right time. Due to their vacillation the opportunity slipped out of their hands.
In conclusion, this proverb teaches us to be very cautious and not to miss an opportunity that comes to us, because the opportunity will not wait for us, and we do not know whether it will come again. If one fails to take advantage of one opportunity, he may never get another.