Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Times, They are a-Changing

We all know that India has apparently been shining for some years now and great changes are sweeping through the country. A hint of this came my way when I opened my letterbox yesterday to find a small typed note by my milkman. It said that he was going to be out of station for a day and was enclosing an additional packet of milk. It was neatly dated and signed and two milk packets reposed comfortably in the mailbox. It made me think about how technology has changed our lives in the past decade.

Earlier, we would live a life filled with exciting unpredictability. One would waken not knowing if there would be water or electricity or milk available that particular morning. The newspaper would invariably be delivered but I distinctly remember phases when the ironing man would take large loans and vanish for weeks on end. In between hauling water from the nearest available tank, the trusty iron would be pulled out and put to use (though we would often resort to wearing unironed clothes).

I can also never forget the first birthday party I organized for my husband (a surprise one). On that particular day there was no electricity and very little water (drinking water had to be collected, boiled, cooled and filtered - and this process had to be done the previous day if one was expecting guests). In addition, I had organized a barbecue and my friend who was to bring the grill went into hospital with labour pains. No cell phones, no email at home - one just had to sit and wait and do one's best under the circumstances.

And now, every person has a cell phone and many have computers and printers as well. They are able to function in an impressively professional way, if they so choose. So we get our milk and newspaper on time, email is sent when water runs out and the person in charge is called any time of the day. Some things of course, never change. The maids still bunk. The man who collects old newspapers paying everyone less as he has faulty weights (I know because there is a gleaming new shop with an electronic balance) still gives me a breezy 'hello' even though I have stopped giving him newspapers. The cows still come round to eat garbage. And we all still like to agree to disagree with bureaucrats on the state of affairs in the country.

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