Sometimes you look out the window and you do not wish to see what you see. For a while now, that has been predominantly the case, you do not wish to see what’s happening out the window because it is such a rabid upturning of right things. Imagine men being killed for imagined evil over what they rear and for generations have traded in for the profit of others and their own. The milk thing, you get what I mean. But sometimes windows help; they go opaque, they do not afford a view of the outside. They keep out what is unnecessary and uncalled for, to put it mildly. Then the gaze turns inwards. It turns to necessary things that may not be out the window. Mahadeb, for instance, isn’t to be seen out the window. But the wonderment over where he is and how he might be can progress behind opaque windows. In that kindly, and widely disregarded, thing called solitude. Why is it that Mahadeb has come to be so sorely missed? Only a chaiwala, after all. But no ordinary chaiwala, The ExtraordinaryChaiwala, notwithstanding. There is something about Mahadeb; perhaps it is how retro he is. An earthen stove, a coal fire, a pan, or three pans, and what nature springs in the gardens and what cows give, daily and dutifully, off their udders. No vends, no dispensers, no plugs no points, it is all just the pure thing of the jugglery of his hands and the elements. Mahadeb’s charm is about fading charms. Like it is about so many other things. Like the writing – or filling, most times – of this column you see. Like how we used to write and how we now write.
Where’s the wastepaper basket? It used to be at the foot of the table. You wrote and ripped and trashed. You wrote and ripped and trashed until the garbage lay piled and the foolscap had become a clean, well-typed space, the rubbish purged by the ripping. That’s how the mind used to work. It was a hard grudge-bout between brain and bin. Then the computer knocked out the typewriter and the mind was suddenly eased of the requirements of rigour. You had spellcheck to tell you you had got colour wrong and aging right. There were other helpful prosthetics.
Delete. Cut. Copy. Paste. Transpose. Prose didn’t need to happen in the mind, the mouse had mastered its metre. Thought didn’t need to be a mental process, it became a screen technique – write the last para first, save, press pagedown, go pageup, do the middle last. The Internet came, and with it, worldwide wisdoms.
It was okay not to have a mind or memory; outsource them to the www. Wondering where the wastepaper basket’s gone? It’s surely not at the foot of the table; it’s probably become the shape of your head; Google may have become our Gospel.
The Net has us plonked on a stunning tech-toboggan; as we zip past the novelties with nightmarish velocity, we know there’s more of this coming that hasn’t even knocked on our imagination. Every day is a blitz of energies. Buy one, get four free – website, wiki, blogspot, vlogspace. And there’s Twitter, the new axis on which our planet revolves. Strapped on this search engine of new frontiers, it is easy to become blissfully numbed about your critical faculties or their great uses. Left click and you are on the information highway, right click and new windows of opportunity are cascading.
But we must dwell on where technology stops to enhance and begins to impoverish. Even at the risk of sounding like a latter-day Luddite, or, worse, a hidebound no-changer, it must be said that technology’s ingress into our lives is not an enrichment story all the way. Sloth of mind and of body strike immediately as alarming consequences of what the Net readily provides us. There is a whole range of other abilities that could stand diminished by idle and arbitrary application – the rich fruits of time, thought, privacy and solitude, the faculty to judge and to discriminate, the talent to order and organise, the skill to feed intelligence rather than be fed by it. There is a lot about the Internet to celebrate; there is a lot that it imperils as well. A good way of dealing with that would be to remember the location and uses of the wastebasket. Fortunately, it’s a standard icon on your screens.
Let’s have the right
If we are to write
Please stop to bite
Writing’s our right.