Shortcut to living

Shortcut to living

MOVING ON

Shortcut to living

Smitha, a housewife, in her early thirties, is a mother of a two-year-old. She juggles her job, manages home and the baby. The only respite for her and her husband, is that they don’t have to stand in long queues, waiting to pay bills, which they now pay online. Also, she can pick up ready-to-eats and ready-made masalas, just to make life that much more easier. ­­

Aparna, in her mid thirties, and a mother of two, now living in the US explains how convenience living has eased up space for other things in her life. “We pay all our bills online, including electricity, water, mortgage and even waste disposal. We pay our taxes online. In fact, we have switched to automated bill-payment. That way, we don't have to worry about late payments. We use the major online bookseller pretty much on a regular basis for literally anything, including groceries. We log into our library website and reserve books that we can go pick up later. I simply love my GPS for directing me to my destination. As for pre-packaged foods...yes, those make life way easier. I buy pre-cooked tortillas (chapatis), which, by the way, are perfectly healthy. All I have to do is open the packet and “cook” them on a hot pan. A bag each of frozen peas, frozen corn, frozen grated coconut etc. is almost always available in my freezer.”

Aparna has a point. Time was when none of these pre-packaged foods were readily available. Explains Sudha, a home-maker, who worked for nearly 30 years in a government establishment, “Those days, there were no such facilities for one to avail of. Everything was cooked at home; people still went to the bank, and spent nearly half a day there, waiting for their turn; women still bought cereals and had them pounded at the nearby mill. Does this mean that today we are lazy, or are we actually putting that time to good use elsewhere?” she asks.

Adds Aparna, “I’d go for convenience living anytime. I’d rather finish all my chores online and then go hit the gym/bike/hike etc. or spend time with my family or do something more pleasurable.”

Explains Giridhar S, of the Azim Premji Foundation, “The changes that we are seeing and embracing are irreversible and inexorable ones. Fighting these changes with nostalgia or with an irrational view will not help. But identifying some aspects and islands in the “old way” are critical feel-good valves. In my case, I still go to my neighbourhood bank, chat with them and enjoy their personalised service. In the same way, while T20 seems to have bowled us over, I still go and catch up with a leisurely Ranji Trophy match with a few hundred spectators where we sprawl when the afternoon sun gets hot.
Basically, one needs to go along with the times, enjoy the pluses, but keep a few precious things the way they were for yourself.”

Are we turning into a lazy people? Or is it simply that the advent of newer technologies has made certain ways of life, redundant? Nostalgia is an off-shoot of this whole process of coping with change, but it also helps to keep up with the changing times.

Sujatha Bagal, in her early forties, is a freelancer based out of Washington. She explains, “Every generation is faced with this quandary. New technologies do erode existing traditions and ways of life over time - starting with the wheel to tractors, to bikes to planes to the internet and cell phones. The benefits are obvious — we have become more efficient, we are able to accomplish more tasks in less time, we are in touch with people via phone, the internet, etc. no matter where we are in the world, we are privy to goings on around the globe in almost real-time.”

We may no longer take the trouble to visit the bookstore round the corner, and spend a day browsing, and chancing on a rare gem, but that doesn’t make us lazy. She points out that we are living in exciting times. “We may not happen upon a gem of a book while browsing through stacks of books in a book store, but we might hear about it and ten others on Twitter or Facebook or via blogs. The question is how we deal with the downsides (such as losing face-to-face contact with people, the loss of exercise humans used to get as they tilled the land, having no downtime because we are constantly connected).”

So, how does one cope?

Like Giridhar points out, keep certain aspects of the “old ways of life” intact, for your own pleasure. And simply learn to recognise that change is constant. According to Sujatha, “The first step is to recognise the downsides and then affirmatively deal with them. Don't forget that technology also makes it easier for us to exercise in our homes and it gives us access to online social and professional networks. Whether we choose to adopt the new technologies and not just fall prey to it is the question.”

Nostalgia is just not going to help. “New technologies are here to stay and will continue to evolve, to have a huge impact on our lives. We are at a point now where many societies around the world are assessing the ill-effects of certain technologies (such as video games turning us into couch potatoes) and are trying to come up with new formulations to deal with them. Mandates from the health department and the medical community to exercise at least a set number of minutes a day or drink at least a given amount of water or to watch what we eat, or to not watch television right up to the point of going to bed, are all examples of a society trying to come to grips with the impact of technology on our lives.”

Abhijit Parashar, class of 2010, IIM-B, agrees that we as a people are in the throes of change, indeed. “Our generation has become more reliant on material conveniences, and we use a lot of non-renewable resources. On on the one side, social networking sites have allowed me to make new virtual friends, but on the flip side I no longer have coffee chats, but tweets with my friends.”

Sociologist and Professor of Sociology at Institute for Socio-Economic Change, Bangalore, G K Karanth, offers an interesting perspective. “I think we are actually becoming a more creative people, in the process of coming up with newer technologies. But the paradox is that, in this process, we are also ensuring that we are becoming more creative, in order to become less creative in the future. We are constantly in search of comfort.

However, there is a gradual decline in willingness to indulge in physical labour. While we have reduced physical labour after a point, we have also reduced mental labour. Our power of recall seems to be dipping. Today, we are reliant on gadgets. We lose a cellphone, and look for another phone to make a missed call. This has been the impact of technology on the human mind. This mental inertia is worrisome,” he explains.

Are we becoming automated people? he wonders, as he points out that we don’t spend that extra second to recall what day or date it is today, and instead look at our electronic gadgets for answers.

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