Monday, September 12, 2016

All the world's a stage!

In my lifetime, which is a couple of sandwiches short of 40 we've lost a lot of things. Yes the obvious ones are the telephones and typewriters. One swoosh and they just disappeared, especially the telephone. No, I don't just mean the lovely, grandiose,  muscle firming antiques you find at flea markets. I'm talking about the plastic pieces of crap we all used to have in the 90's. These light weight phones, that the middle class used instead of cordless phones. You could just unplug them from a wall in one room and take it to another room. Remember? The ones with chiclet digits? The one MTNL (phone company) supplied. They overran our environment like the sadhus at a kumbh. 

And just like the sadhus, they're gone. With them has gone the feeling of being thoroughly middle class. Everyone has a cell phone, everyone has an in-built camera and everyone has a piece of equipment that s.p.e.l.l.s. out their social status in society today. Everyone has become unique. A unique phone, cover, wall paper and ringtone. The home phone had one ringtone. A ring that ruled us all!

We've lost a lot of things to technology, including our freedoms  (arriving later in the verbal onslaught) but first what about our lexicon? Tata was not just the biggest conglomerate in the country, it was the word that was most widely spoken.The British left and we desis in our own way continued to uphold the language of Shakespeare and Austen. We would all say Taataa to our parents when we left for school. And 'taataa beta' was the way they responded. All babies were told to wave taataa before they were asked to join their hands in a Namaste. Everywhere in India.  In every nook and cranny of the nation, we were waving taataa. As you got older you'd do a little thing with your fingers and say taataa. So girly!!

And just like that we stopped. Ta,ta! We said our final goodbye to Ta,ta. It was a Forrest Gumpish moment. We kept on saying Taataa for like 50 years after independence, and visitors from all over the world would squint and gape every time they heard the Indianized version of the Victorian goodbye. Why? They would ask. Why do you guys continue to use the posh colloquialism of your oppressors? I dunno. Habit? And when we say it, it is anything but posh.  And then we stopped like Gump. It didn't serve a purpose and it's loss hurts no one, but it was gone. And one felt exactly the way , the audience felt when Gump stopped. Intrigued. A word ran it's own course, shaped a couple of generations, and then was quickly replaced by the ubiquitous Bye-Bye. 

Languages mutate and evolve inexplicably, appliances have been replaced with fancier equipments from the beginning of time and that's how life works. What technology has really stolen from us in the last century is our freedom. Our freedom to stray. Adults climbed the hills in isolation. Toddlers hid under bushes.  Teens did the unthinkables. Freedom from prying eyes is the quintessential human experience. More fundamental than the freedom of speech is freedom from our parents/grown-ups.
I'll see ads about kid, GPS tracker watches - you give the kid a watch to wear and connect to to an app on your phone and voila! You can tell how many times she went to the bathroom at school and how he was idling on the track field for 5 extra minutes after lunch break. GRRRR! Forget big brother, big Mamma is watching all the time. Wasn't it enough that the telephone was invented and it morphed into a cell phone and Mom could call you right in the middle of a job interview. Now a child's life is an open book. Nobody should have to live like a celebrity - much less a child. I mean yes, those stupid infant monitors were the beginning. First put the infant away, feel guilty about it and then put a walkie talkie in his room so you can hear him  burp across the hall. Then put a GPS thingy when he goes to school and install cameras in the home when you're at work so you basically don't feel guilty about not interacting with your child. Oh and of course you can read the school blog and see pics of your kid doing a math activity and know exactly how many adjectives he learned today.  But what about the kiddo? What happened to getting detention in peace and not ever telling anyone at home. EVER!

And then, we're humane. We treat animals the way we'd treat our children, so we install cameras in our homes even if all we have is a cat/dog. Gone are the days when a dog's life was all about walking his master to the door and then lounging at home licking his own balls. Now we've snatched that privacy, we pry and we monitor the beast. Did he yelp? did he eat his food (an empty bowl should be a hint)? Now we actually have proof that he sat on our sofa. Is that really humane? Isn't that a violation of privacy? Did our tabby cat sign off on being monitored? Do we really need to know exactly where our spouse is  all the time? (use the find my phone app if you are so inclined). But it's too late now. We're being watched and we're watching (ourselves too) all the time. Our life IS the Truman show. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.