02 Screen Slaver
The year was 1996.
My father, Mathai, a central government employee, had been given a computer; fully ‘equipped’ with a screen, a windows-95 CPU, keyboard, and even a Mouse! And suddenly, I, a nobody in my middle-class society, was a celebrity among my friends. Even though the machine wasn’t mine to claim, but a famous and consistent Mathai monologue — ‘Whatever is mine, is yours’ — allowed me to enjoy this stardom; albeit, briefly.
Call it centripetal force, it felt as though the house had been designed around the computer, and the society around my house. Whoever thought, this would be the future. For eons, no one was allowed to be near it — let alone touch it.
My sister, Joslyn, and I had to make do with just looking at it from afar, and sometimes, with great difficulty — if we were lucky — we caught a glimpse of that gosh darn computer. Often, when Mathai worked on it, he would get calls from his office, that would last hours. Nothing surprising here; government departments function at their pace — I don’t think I need to elucidate more on this aspect. But what this mini-break did for Jos and me, is that it allowed us to have a closer look at that technological marvel.
It moved! And then, after a while, it stopped!
Static-Motion-Static; producing delicate ingenious designs in an instant, like an Olympic figure skating winning duo. Transient, yet smooth; sharp, yet graceful; royal, but of humble disposition — we could see it, confabulate on it, in our own paracosm all day! There it was — The Screen Saver!
Cut to today — the times, they are a-changin'!
Mathai asked me to expeditiously check on his vaccine status on Cowin through his 6.44” screen. He may not have met his constants from work in 6 years, but their WhatsApp group is bustling more than my teenage neighbour’s urge for playing DOTA; it is a multiplayer online game.
Esmeralda, after initial hiccups, has managed to navigate through YouTube for new recipes, which may not exactly qualify as dishes. But beggars aren’t choosers. So long as ‘there’s food on the table’, I have been cautioned, with utmost sincerity, to keep mum.
Joslyn is a Vlogger. I rest my case.
The situation, though, begs a question. Was it our screen saver depravity that pushed us into adopting it to such an extent that, now, it feels impossible to go back to good old ways? — if ever there was one. While its integration may have brought in some degree of convenience, is it still worth it?
You, the world-at-large, and I are working on our screens for everything — ration, vanity, health, knowledge, and business—like we are slaves to it.
I wonder if our kids see OUR world of screen slavers, the way Jos and I saw Mathai’s world of screen savers.
#Satire, #90s, #Throwback, #Technology