Thursday, January 7, 2010

Simplicity, where art thou?

I received a forward this morning, with the subject “Don’t forget these…”. When I opened the e-mail I saw images of familiar objects, rather, once familiar objects. The first impression one gets when viewing these images, is ‘simple’. The simplicity of these things made them famous. During those times, we lived in a less commercialized world and that made these things special.







A Hero pen was a very valuable gift. Learning to refill the ink in the pen was an art. Now, you will find thousands of pens, drilling the word ‘innovation’ into your brains. Pens, with three and four color inks, turn them, cap them, anti-gravity and what not. During school days, the only pen available was either an ink pen or a ball point pen. Ball point pen was always Reynolds; I haven’t found a single pen that writes as smoothly and is as easy to hold as the Reynolds. Wow!
The geometry box takes me back to those questions from Mom ‘How many geometry boxes do we have to buy, either a scale is lost, or compass, or divider or protractor.’ We maintained a ruler with so much care, that we used it, sometimes for years. Now, my Kindergarten son has bent his 12 inch ruler at a 45 degree angle, after three months of school. The longevity of things has also come down drastically. Or is it the attitude, “one goes, we can always get another one!”. We do repeat the old words ‘take good care of your things’, but I wonder, do they fall on deaf ears?
Nataraj pencils – alternating colours of Red and Black. The ad went ‘bonded lead waali Nataraj Pencil’, what does ‘bonded lead’ mean? I don’t know to this day J. The oldest memory I have of a tape-recorder is this big box, which played only mono and not stereo, I think. You pressed the Play and Record button together to record something. My dad recorded conversations and wails of my brother and me. To this recipe, add innovation, technology and fast forward a few years and Boom you have the camcorder. Something I use today to record conversations and wails of my kids. Technology the master of all inventions.
The first time I was bought a walkman was probably just before I started Engineering or during the two years of pre-degree course. At that time, it was the most hi-fi electronic device one could own. Way too far from the word ‘compact’; more than ten times the size of today’s compact mp3 players. Film cameras and film rolls. I needed one to capture all the moments at Manipal during Engineering. A relatively cheap, but good one; A photographer father, wouldn’t settle for a low quality camera.
One chose inland letters to postcards when the content was private. Because any person, and there was a 100% probability to that, would read your words on the postcard. Letters to cousins, friends, best friends, special friends. Using your best handwriting, starting the letter with Dear, My dear, Dearest, ending with With love, Lots of love, Lots and lots of love and so on. Sealing the inland letter and walking up to the post office, to drop it in the big red postbox, checking to make sure that it dropped in fine. And suddenly a flash of smile on your face, thinking of everything you have written and imagining the receiver’s reaction. E-mail, again another child whose umbilical cord is tied to technology and innovation, doesn’t provide one tenth of the pleasure of ‘letter days’.
The world has advanced, by leaps and bounds. My father owned a CRT TV fourteen inch, got it when I was in third grade. My son was born with a raving forty-two inch plasma TV in his house. His son will probably see a four dimensional TV at birth. Technology is good, assures us that somebody’s grey matter is functioning. Adds a lot of luxury and convenience, but I miss the simplicity of the things I used as a kid. There was only one Nataraj pencil, the choices were less, but you would be content that you have got the best product. Today’s world, the consumer is sinking under the array of choices and you never know which one is best. ‘Customer reviews’ are supposed to help. But who knows who the customers are and what their likes and dislikes are. How can you depend on something someone said, whom you don’t recognize beyond his ‘Username’. Technology and Innovation, leave me alone, coz my heart longs to go back to ‘simplicity’, where “everything” was valuable.

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