Bane Or Boon?
Big B's above blog takes us to the nostalgic pleasures of writing letters and receiving letters from our loved ones, handed over personally by the postman with a huge smile. The memories of those exciting moments are still fresh when we sent our 17-year son to USA for studies and would wait for his long hand written letters narrating his first encounters with the western culture, far away from home. Postman then used to be part of your private world and riding on his cycle he would wave to us from some distance with a broad smile, giving a hint that he has a letter from our son for delivery.
Not all tools given by modern technology, however magnificent they may be, can replace conventional methods which in many cases are more reliable, colorful and effective. This was amply, though inadvertently, proved at the world's high-tech capital, the Silicon Valley in California, USA. A college there, preparing to reopen after long summer vacations, continues to employ a contractor every year who brings his herd of goats to graze on the wild growth of shrubs, for days till the grounds are cleared of the wild growth. In the same high-tech Silicon Valley, a sewage-line plumber relies on the smelling power of his pigs to locate the leaking spot in the underground sewage line. Donna Karen, the world renowned fashion designer, has her home-gym in New York equipped with the latest high-tech fitness accessories, but the exercise she enjoys doing is to send her car and driver to office with her bags, while she walks to work. Indeed, there are innumerable examples where men and women have access to numerous high-tech gadgets, but they are happier doing things the traditional way. Can a pullover produced on the most modern knitting machine match the warmth and beauty of a hand made sweater, knitted with love and care by a loved one? Fax may be the fastest way to send your communication, but it is certainly not meant for men who make reading and writing a romance of life. Hands and human endeavor cannot be obliterated by computers, microwave ovens and the rest. Let us put gadgets properly in their place before we become all too willing slaves to them.
Wires, cables, gleaming metal and blinking lights – these are the tapings of the modern office. As much as I love my brushed steel Imac, however, the cold lights and white cords can feel cold and sterile. Without doubt many gadgets are great, even if they make life stressful. Cell phone is almost a necessity now, but then it makes you available 24x7, no matter what. Handheld devices give you access to email anywhere – why? Email is a communication device and can wait. Same for internet access on handhelds. A young scientist in India has now come up with a device that puts on your palm all that you had on handsets. Don't be surprised if very soon you see people reading their palm on the roads. There was a time when I felt very concerned for the man on the road who was talking aloud to himself. Poor man, I thought, must be under too much stress or worse still, a victim of nervous breakdown. No more concern or compassion for the man now. Not that I have become callous or insensitive, but because I know for certain that the man is not sick, he is only using his cellphone, discreetly designed to be invisible to others. And he has company, most others on the road doing the same thing, talking to themselves while walking or driving. To them it is the best way to shorten the distance to their destination, even if it may shorten the life of others on the road. A survey conducted in California (USA) concluded that cellphone users made a major contribution to road accidents and a bill is under consideration to ban the use of cellphones while on the wheel. Till then men like me, who are conspicuous on the road for not talking to themselves, need to be careful from those who do. Ironically, most of the time we all talk to ourselves when talking on 'phone. It is because of the prevailing trend not to pick up the phone, but to let the caller keep talking to the answering machine. Incidentally, answering machine is actually a 'no answer machine'. It loses its voice after the beep. You may keep talking into the machine but without expecting it to answer your queries. The right to answer rests with the owner of the machine, who may respond to your call at his will, or may not call back at all, depending on your identity as a caller. Unlike simpleton servants of the old times, who would pick up the receiver and respond, “Sahib kehte hein weh ghar par nahin (Master says he is not at home)”, the modern day answering machine is too smart to give a hint that the called one is very much there and listening to the caller's message on the machine. Gadgets like this motivate the modern man to play games with another man, rather than have the joy of reaching out to him with a warm response. But then this is how the world works today. Those others like me are likely to be left behind, who pause to ponder if the modern machines are a bane or boon.