Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Twittery lives ....

My first day in the US in 1969 when I went for grad school. Before that, I had never flown in a plane, never seen foreign currency, and never been driven on what I was convinced , was the wrong side of the road.

One of my first queries was to ask, where were all the people ? (This was California)

Miles and miles of residences and apartment complexes, empty roads,  closed cars swishing by, that too without honking.

Coming from a place where at any given time on a road outside your house, people may be seen going somewhere, cycling, pushing carts, biking, some even driving cars, just sitting around,  having a cuppa, or calling out to someone, the silence on the American roads was deafening.   Your mornings were never punctuated with three pressure cooker whistles from the next house, and no one stood in doors, debating the state of the world with folks in other house doors.

One of the first things I was told, is that in the US, you didn't ring your neighbour's doorbell and drop in unannounced for a chitchat. Also, if you borrowed even a single penny from someone you gave it back. There was no concept of  paying 25 paise for someone, and then it being waived off  as too small to get involved in repayment. Something that was part of our life back home.

And while it looked like here was a society that functioned strictly according to rules , where privacy and the adult individual  was supreme, it kind of brought home the fact that this was an exclusive society as opposed to India, where we had a very inclusive approach.  Sometimes bordering on the intrusive, but never mind.

Which is why , if you think about it, Twitter and Facebook began in the US. A formalization of informal communication.  Designed to bring folks "closer".  

 Chances are, that majority of the folks who worked on the software design etc, were from India. And one wonders why the need for Twitter and FB was never felt by them in India.

And then there is this thing, that whatever the West introduces,  we swallow. Without chewing.  And where Twitter and FB are concerned , we also , spit out. Sometimes  pointlessly.

Cell phones  have digitized us to such an extent, that today , most folks function in a kind of autonomous-response way; without getting the brain involved  directly. We are  infatuated with immediate responses, and so,  frequently, no , almost always , we bypass the brain. 

I mean who would have thought that photographs of what you are eating might interest anyone worldwide. So puri and batatyachi bhaji photos got forwarded and broadcast, someone drank coriander leaves juice with cucumber and karela, and a thousand people indicated that they "liked" it ; Someone thought they looked like Madhuri Dixit in a sari and posted portraits occupying half  a computer screen, and fellows who would have been otherwise glared at by elders, or who might have even daringly whistled, went to town  giving "likes" and "wow" and "thumbs up".  Very clearly, we lost our original communication style, and slavishly followed the Western model. 

But in all this desperation to match international folks, there was always a collateral damage to reckon with.  There are folks who think and tweet, and then there are those, who do not think and tweet .  Things that would be earlier discussed in fun amidst friends are now stated  in a tweet visible to the public. Folks in authority , lose sight of accuracy in the urge to tweet desperately before someone else  does. The more public the better. (I have always wondered . Was there a world before Twitter ?)

And so you have ministers tweeting at random, messing facts, mixing names.  Causing a plethora of abusive responses by those offended by it all as well as those simply reading for fun and joining in .   You have absolutely uninformed random types, tweeting what they think,  are golden nuggets of useful information, like Usain Bolt ate beef and hence the Gold Medals.  This causing another tsunami of tweets in response.  Folks from news channels, fight  with others of their ilk, at a level one did when one was in school ; calling people names  has become a developed  art.  Absolutely anyone comments on anything, any subject, and an entire twitterized Facebooking population, desperately types and clicks to be heard themselves. 

Sometimes, with expectations of instant responses, and perhaps an occasional lack of that thereof,   I think peoples brains are actually affected.

And so daily, your newsfeed has outrageous news items like , some guy throwing a woman out of a running train because she refused to shift; a discussion was never an option ?  A guy chases someone , hoping for a positive response. A lack of that response leads to him physically harming the girl .  There is a general societal  tendency , not just to go digital, but behave in a binary fashion; this or else.  There are stories you read about a guy demanding a particular cell phone, and commiting suicide  or homicide because he didnt get it. There are stories about fathers abusing daughters,  elders being abused and videos being made about it, and this outlandish demand for instant decisions, probably throws brains into chaos.  Dehumanising is the word that comes to mind.  

Kids are constantly glued to phones at home,and perhaps a day will come when a mother whatsapps from the kitchen , saying food is ready, and some kid responds with  emoticon implying a grin.  Then she whatsapps saying she has made puranpolis , and the fellow immediately responds with thumbs up sign, while of course , checking FB in another window.

A day will come when Google, and such types will work on a software that converts emoticons and gif's to audio.   Perhaps they already do.  And I am sure our fellows will be at the forefont working on that software. Which will come on Playstore as an App , and the whole of India will download it.

Such a collossal waste . Its like you waste an entire generation , simply to come back to the same place you started from. And in the process , addle peoples brains. 

Maybe 50-60 years from now, people will have atrophied thumbs and index fingers from overuse . Eyelids will have a permanent downward orientation, due to a lifetime of watching the phone screen . And someone at John Hopkins will do a study and publish a paper on this. 

I am not sure I like all this.

I still hark back to communication where one uses not just words, but tones, eyes, facial expressions , hands and so on.  It hurts to see crowds of folks at bus stops, busy clicking away on their phones all by themselves, when I remember making friends, chitchatting and discussing, say, the state of the roads, potholes, crowds etc .

The only saving grace in all this massive digitization, is the very Indian concept of introducing the "missed call" and its numerous uses. "Making a missed call"  is itself confusing for anyone else to understand.  You either make a call or you don't. You either answer or you don't.

Perhaps, doing something, and going through the motions, with the end result already known , is a very Indian thing to do.

Ask any politician.

Friday, August 05, 2016

We, the shameless....

Reading the newspaper and listening to television news these days, is very disturbing, and   it makes one wonder if human brains are actually " devolving " and changing for the worse.

There is a severe lack of reason, an avaricious attitude towards quick earnings, and a complete lack of ethics. There is no respect for life, women, parents, fellow beings, children, animals ,  and it appears at times, that animals have more sense of right and wrong compared to humans. An alarming tendency to take the law in one's own hands, and pride in being a liar .

Coming to a fork in the road and taking the wrong road seems to be in fashion.  2016 seems to be the zenith of such things.

And then I came across this information , which astounded me. 

The Bhagwat Purana , one of the eighteen holy Puranas of Hindus, consists of 12 books (skandhas) covering 332 chapters (adhyayas) . The 12th book, has something to predict about how society will have evolved  in Kalyug.

You dont have to be a believer in the theory of all these "Yugs".  It isn't as if a bell rang somewhere in the universe, and Kalyug began.  It really is a gradual sinking of human society into what maybe called the quicksand of blind  thoughtless selfish desires   

Personally, I am not very religious or ritualistic, fairly apolitical, and tend more towards a spiritual thinking mode.  But whether you believe in anything, any religion, Kalyug, or God,  or not, you cannot be anything but astounded at what has been predicted by Veda Vyasa  thousands of years ago and documented in the Bhagwat Purana. 

(Each of these actually elicited, in my mind,  a snide comment related to current events. I've refrained from writing those comments here alongside each prediction.   It would interesting to see what comes to your mind reading thee predictions.

Check out the predictions here.    Reproducing them below for quick perusal.

1. (12.2.1) Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.

2. (12.2.2)  In Kali Yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behaviour and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.

3. (12.2.3)  Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.

4. (12.2.4)  A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he dos not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.

5. (12.2.5)   A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath.

6. (12.2.6)   A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.

7. (12.2.7)   As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.

8. (12.2.9)  Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined.

9. (12.2.10)   The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.

10. (12.2.11)   The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali Yuga will become 50 years.

11. (12.3.42)   Men will no longer protect their elderly parents.

12. (12.3.41)   In Kali-yuga men will develop hatred for each other even over a few coins. Giving up all friendly relations, they will be ready to lose their own lives and kill even their own relatives.

13. (12.3.38)   Uncultured men will accept charity on behalf of the Lord and will earn their livelihood by making a show of austerity and wearing a mendicant’s dress. Those who know nothing about religion will mount a high seat and presume to speak on religious principles.

14. (12.3.36)  Servants will abandon a master who has lost his wealth, even if that master is a saintly person of exemplary character. Masters will abandon an incapacitated servant, even if that servant has been in the family for generations. Cows will be abandoned or killed when they stop giving milk.

15. (12.3.32)   Cities will be dominated by thieves, the Vedas will be contaminated by speculative interpretations of atheists, political leaders will virtually consume the citizens, and the so-called priests and intellectuals will be devotees of their bellies and genitals.

This is not a Nostradamic prediction, or something predicted by an obscure Bulgarian personality who documented her visions, actually "saw" events, and is supposed to have predicted 9/11.

It is a commentary on how society would  develop . So many of the above predictions ring a bell , pointing to recent happenings and observation of behaviours , not just in India but across the world. Every single prediction above will remind you of something you recently heard, saw , or read.

I do not know what the solution is. And how to implement it , if it exists.

In  12.3.51 ,  the Bhagwatam suggests that  the solution lies in chanting the name of God , to raise ourselves spiritually, and achieve transcendence ,  despite being in a terrible Kalyug.

 I fear that.

So many of our problems today are happening because  , across the world, so many chant the name of their own Lord , with evil motives in mind.