Monday, January 25, 2010

Two Sides of the Tech Coin

It was a warm, lazy morning. A perfect moment to listen to some music while sipping coffee, I felt. As I was adjusting the volume on the iPod dock, I heard a knock on the door. Humming the tune loudly enough to ignore the sound of repeated knocks, I opened the door. "You had asked me to come this morning, Sir. I do gardens ek dum perfect, Sir", he said with a bright smile. With displeasure and surprise I look at Gopal, even as I tried to recall the moment that I had met with him and asked him to come. He didn't wait for my words; he straight away walked toward the neglected garden.

After several minutes, I suddenly remembered that I had met him a week ago during a stroll. Gopal is into his seventies. He looks after five cows by the day and sleeps restfully at night. On occasion, he cleans the small garden at our home and accepts whatever is given in return. A content, simple, happy man. So when I met him that evening, I had asked him to come this morning to clean-up and spruce the garden. I was surprised that he had come by without any reminders from me. This man doesn't require netmeeting software or digital diaries or calendars, he doesn't carry any gadget. In an age when technology has permeated every sphere of human activity, this man's life has remained quite untouched.

I have known him for the past several years. There was not a single instance when he missed turning up at our home or at any other's at the appointed time.

He started tending to the garden when I heard a beep on my phone. I returned indoors and noticed an alert message. "Tan's book launch, 11am", it read. I quickly checked the time and realised that I would have to rush right away to make it. And if not for the alert, I wouldn't even have remembered my friend's book launch was scheduled for that day.

"How did I manage before I had a phone?" I wondered. For that matter, how did all of us? Absolutely fine, I suppose. It seems to be a rational choice, after all, to rely on secondary (external) memories when we have them. But how good is it when it happens at the cost of blunting our primary memory? Is it really a simple question of rational utility or complacency and lassitude?

While I quickly changed my clothes, wolfed down an idli and raced to my bike, Gopal was watering the plants.

At the book launch event, I scanned all the corridors in the store and even the surrounding bike-parking areas but couldn't find my friend Vivek. Tan was busy with the launch organisers as I waited anxiously for Vivek. "Hey, ver r u? waitng 4 u at odyssey. remembr Tan's book launch? Mk it fast", I sent him a message. The event was nearly ending but there was no word from Vivek yet. Call to his mobile proved futile as he wasn't picking up any calls. Shortly after, as Tan and I grabbed the last cookies and chatted as we made toward the store doors, Tan remarked, "Curious that Vivek didn't make it. I wondered what detained him." And we left it at that.

The weather that evening was pleasant and I went out for a stroll with my three-year-old nephew for company. As we ambled, he briefed me eagerly about all the new features of the toy car that he had seen at the mall the previous day. I asked him, "and what is the name of this super-duper car?" A sharp kid otherwise, he couldn't remember. However, being a true-blue Gen-Y kid, he solved it. "We will google it once we get back home", he suggested. "Sure, we will", I smiled.

Gopal was taking his cows back home. He halted beside us and briefed us on how he had cleaned the garden and what care must be taken to manage it. "I will come again after three days, Sir and water the plants thoroughly." Right then my phone rang. It was Vivek. "Sorry yaar! I totally forgot about the event! I slept through the day and just saw messages and missed calls from both of you. Man! I forgot to note it in my calendar", he explained. "No problemo. Tan was just curious, and am sure will understand. Anyway, speak to him", I assured him.

As Gopal bid adieu, my nephew looked forward to reaching home and googling, Vivek thought of ways to explain his lapse to Tan, and a colourful dusk beckoned quiet, I wondered, with amusement, how the comforts offered by technology affect our utilisation of the most marvellous faculty - memory.

--The author is an ardent bibliophile and masquerades as a techie during the day, like Peter Parker.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Ye, made me wonder how dependent I have become on various software myself!



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