modern times

Old Talk !

This is a ‘mandapam’, as called in Tamil territory ! Found in the middle of what once used to be the Vaigai river. Its still called the Vaigai river. Its but a pale stream of a river. With only the river bed, odd plants, dhobis and sand thieves to show.

Most of the water is held up in dams upstream. A population lives of it. The river seems to grin and bear.

But right there, right in the middle of what was once a river, there is this structure. Pillars. Steps. Floor and roof.

“A flowing river, a gentle breeze and a cleaner air, all provide the ideal batter for simple wonderful conversations. Right there in the middle of the mandapam !” Those were a great grandmothers words. Many years ago.

Today, it seems empty. Not many go there. At least not for conversations ! Perhaps because, the river flows occasionally.

The mind wonders if this place doesn’t miss conversations ? Well, but who doesn’t ?

In times when conversations happen only through chat windows, scraps, comments and text messages, who has time for plain old conversation ?

Tweet me. Scrap me. Text me. DM me. Ping me. Mail me. Those resonate well with the modern day world. But ‘Speak to me’ ?!?! hmm !

Mandapams like this still stand holding evidence of conversations, the plain old way. Taking the mind to a different time. When one human being could connect to another. By sitting down and chatting up !

I am an old fashioned chap you see, and it could sure sound queer, but would you mind if i can talk to you without having to use my fingers ?

Bag-in-Bag !

Malls, these days reflect life in its entirety ! There are many aspects of life that come alive here. Perhaps representative of ‘progress’ !

This is one.

A bag to house your hand bag. As you enter the mall, this big see-through bag is given, if you are carrying a handbag ! This bag, to house that bag. The handbag !

Assuming ofcourse, that you don’t want to hand over your handbag at the security counter. Perhaps because it contains some secret potion or diamonds. Or perhaps you have invested all the money to be seen carrying this handbag around !

Ofcourse, mall security has had enough of fancy people walk in with fancier bags and respectfully walk out with the reams of toilet roll and tissue paper. Perhaps with the odd bits of titanium or Gold or Platinum or whatever…tucked in somewhere !

They aren’t going to be enthused with the prospect of one more handbag undoing their annual bonus !!

Enter this bag.

It is transparent. It a lock, the keys of which are with the cashier ! It holds your handbag , for the world to see! Although, you cant ‘access’ contents of the handbag, but you can take comfort in the fact that you still are carrying it with you !

When through with all the shopping, the cashiers ‘unlock’ the transparent bag and delivers your handbag back to you !

Of course, that’s how you have access to your credit cards and wads of cash !! We are progressing, as mankind. Aren’t we ?

We first walked about with just leaves on us. Considering how much clothes are on in some of the Fashion shows, we are not too far from where we started. In some cases we have bettered that too.

Some years ago, the plain and transparent polythene bag was just about OK. I guess we are getting back there ! Step by step !

Perhaps bag by bag !

Missed calls and milk !

a temple with a telecom tower as its backdrop
and a statue with the legendary conch at the front end. Kodai
There was a far away time when conches were blown to announce battle. Of course, pigeons flew with messages. The temple bell rang to announce day, and night.

Those were different times though. It must have been wonderful, to live in those times. In the midst of simple joys and comforts of nature.

Well, the conches, don’t exist anymore. At least not as a communication tool. And definitely not to announce battle ! Pop corn fed pigeons don’t carry messages. And living life by the bell happens largely in prisons !

But think of the modern day mobile phone. Isn’t that a conch of some kind ? That which announces love, battle, news, net..what not ! A little stretched perhaps. But somewhere there !

There was a time, not very long ago, that a call on the mobile phone, used to cost Rs. 16/- a minute. These days, you can get by for months at that cost. Especially if you know of the “Great Indian Missed Call trick” !

The other day, the missus’s mobile rang. One ring, two rings. And stopped. The missus looked at who is calling, and didn’t pick up the call. But went about attending various chores.

Looking particularly puzzled, (which is a slightly different from the ‘perpetually puzzled’ look that the missus thinks is part of me), some sniffing around was done.

Only to find out, that two rings, at 9.00 AM, from the maid who comes to clean, translates to : “I would be late for work today”.

Not a rupee spent. Message conveyed. To simplistic minds like mine, this sounds like the Chinese Army exchanging war messages !

And when friends tell me ‘Give me a missed call. we’d come down to get you’, the mind leaps in amusement. For, my elementary mind works this way : “a call can be made. To miss it or not, is the receiver to decide. How can a missed call be given?”

But with a ‘missed call’ pact like that, what they mean is ‘when you call, i will be missing it…but i’ll get the message that you are here’ !

Zero cost ! Not that they are in abject penury. Or doing this blaming the economy. This has how it has been when Lehman brothers and the others were still standing.

So,if you are in India, and are wondering why call rates are going south, you know why. Don’t you! There sure must be many reasons. But, my elementary mind thinks only of the great Indian missed call trick!

With the vegetable vendor to the CEO carrying phone, of course, we have one of the cheapest call rates in the world. Take a look.

A glass of tea is Rs. 5
A glass of milk is Rs. 10/-
A glass of badam milk is Rs.15/-

But down there…intercity dialing. All 1 Rupee !

Here is a Choice. Between a glass of milk and ten minutes of talk on the phone ! My elementary mind stays with the mobile phone.

For with calls, you can miss them, and still convey the point. There is no point with spilt milk. Not even crying. Hmm.

I rest my case.

Of Swiping !

I found this at the office cafeteria. A modern day affair. Where you ‘swipe’ a ‘card’ over a machine, which automatically debits your account. Voila. Your hips richer with fat. And your money in the bank, stands lower. Than where it already was.

And as the lunch was settling into the comfortable recesses of the alimentary canal, that message rankled my mind. That message that called me to check my account before swiping. I chuckled. And thought of how life and times have evolved.

Think about it.

A few years back ‘a mouse’ was something that scurried around carrying plague. Not something that you would cradle in your hand helping you navigate a screen. A ‘screen’ was something that you adorned a window with.

And a window was something that had to be opened to let in some fresh air, and something that would never ‘hang’. And lets not talk of Gates.

‘Monitors’ were people in school, who looked over you. Not something that came in 14 or 17 inches ( or more. Or less ) that you peered into ! Back then, none of my class monitors were ever ‘flat’! Of course, ‘Printers’ were people who ran a business and a laptop was something to with your leg.

A ‘virus’ was something that infected people. Not machines. And when you meant ‘anti-virus’, you thought of a doctor! Not downloadable software! Those were the times when you could ‘enter’ without hitting any ‘key’. And keys themselves were made of metal.

Of course, ‘backspace’ was about space in the rear of the bus. Geeks were a spelling error, when you wanted to write ‘Greeks’ ! And ‘spellchecker’ at best brought back memories of the dictation test that you flopped in Ms.De Monte’s class.

Do you remember Yahoo? It was a jungle cry. And the closest people came to uttering ‘google’ was when they were either saying ‘gooey’ or ‘ogle’ !

Back then, plastic was looked down upon. Used only in the making of mugs, toys and such peripherals. And by no stretch of imagination, was it a stand-in for money. Money in itself was standing in. For gold that that governments kept! Gold Standard !

And we live in the best of times and in the worst of times. A time when money has moved from the gold standard to plastic. And ‘swiping’ is very much an acceptable mode of payment. ( or should I be saying ‘way of life’) !!

Life indeed has evolved. Don’t you think ?