What Will Future Anthropologists Do?

Anthropologists are forever finding evidence on some tablet or inside some godforsaken cave, telling us all about life in the era. I mean when we see caves full of paintings showing tigers being strung with a sleek bow and arrow, we know that the cavemen weren’t launching supersonic jets, followed by rockets to the moon and just dumbing themselves down in the paintings. They really were slaying tigers with sophisticated weapons of their time such as bows and arrows. Then, as time went on, people discovered the funny thing that starts with an ‘h’, that essentially is between drawing and script writing, and used that to depict what was going on. Mythology grew from a combination of bad paintings and imaginative minds. There was some record-keeping albeit one left more to imagination than to facts, but something.

The clay tablets yielded slowly to the tree bark, and the cryptic grew more descriptive. The three barks became parchment rolls and then the Chinese saved the day by coming up with paper. So far so good – you see paper, you can figure out what is written there. You see a tree bark with a sign engraved
Z *big heart sign* X, and can figure out that Z loves or loved X, and was daft enough to proclaim love on a tree bark, after probably getting his or her hand chiseled a couple of times with the rough stone used to engrave their undying love. But, we still know what happened, so long as the bark survives, we know that Z and X were in love at some point.

The printing press and full blown books were a blessing. Suddenly, everything you needed to know about any nook and corner of the world was available in some book somewhere. Then, you did not even need books to get information, all you needed was access to the net. E-reading became cool. Now as we move on towards paperless functioning, a most disturbing thought just struck me, and I do not wish to be taken frivolously here. I am as serious as a rabbit running from a fox on a wintry night can be.

What if future historians are like me? It could very well happen that one gene triumphs in the coming generations and that gene is my technology retarded gene, couldn’t it? It is not that I can’t operate technology – I just can’t keep pace. By the time, I figure out how to use the remote to change the setting on one contraption, the remote changes, or worse the contraption is gone. Let me think of some gramophone records that my father prided himself on – in fact, I reluctantly got him to get rid of the foghorn after decades, knowing that we could never listen to another gramophone record again, and the space is better used in conserving the tape recorder for the next 2 decades, before it too meets the same fate.

So, some songs that were only there in the gramophone records no longer exists, same for some songs on tape too. You get the picture. Now, with the internet, and the blogosphere, most news and creative writing as moved to the e-medium. What if future generations are unable to retrieve these great gems of the era- voltages may change, servers change, the electronic medium destroys just as soon as it creates.

Well, I suppose the graffiti on the world heritage sites would still tell us who loves who, but what if future archaeologists only get the Harry Potter books, and believe life was that – they have no method of knowing it was a fantasy world.

I haven’t even started on the Modern Art phenomenon yet. If those were the paintings left for interpretation, I can barely imagine what it would come out as.
Pray tell me what you can make out of this?http://www.milesmodernart.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/modern-art-41108-24×48-w.jpg

I can almost hear you sigh that if these are the kind of gems of writing the future is missing, they are better off without it. But I stand by my notion that 50 years from now, when there is no paper, record retrieval will be all the more difficult, and a blip in Earth’s history – 500 years later, that era might well be a dark one

PS: Ahhhh..hieroglyphics that is the “h-word”
PS1: How curious it is that I typed this blog out, and then couldn’t connect to the net to publish it, and had to snuggle up to the husband to help me?

See what I mean and what I fear for?

When America becomes Mine

I noticed a number of times when I have been granted ownership of the vast landmass of America, including its culture, population, interests and quirks.

I find any objective questioning and/or reasoning can grant me ownership.

All I have to do is hang on to my mother’s hand and question why on earth she is preparing Payasam for the n-th time, and she would say her voice dripping with incredulity – “In YOUR America, you may do it differently, but we make payasam when the son-in-law visits. “

“Yes….but this is technically part of the same visit, we just went out yesterday! Besides, do remember that I am very much an Indian citizen. Should I show you my passport?”

“I cannot serve food without sweets when the sons-in-law are here!” she would voice in a tone of finality, and go about gathering the ingredients anyway.

“There’s another thing! Why do you have to serve? People can perfectly serve themselves!” I say to no one in particular. But since I now own all of America, why should I worry about who serves anybody else food?

When I am not visiting India, I can still feel rich anytime! All I have to do is call home. 70% of the time, It would be the occasion of some festival. We don’t begrudge any of the 3500 Gods/Goddesses their birthdays, or anniversaries or the general tendency to want to keep awake through the night. There is of course a special sweet dish to mark every occasion, and all I have to do is ask the reason for that particular savoury on “X Jayanthi” or “Y Krittikai” and immediately America becomes mine!

In MY America, I don’t have to do anything – except get to work early in the morning, slog through the day and jog back home for a back-to-back session with classes and children and the dishwashing and the cleaning and the cooking.

The Chilli Effect

Green chillies always bear the brunt of a sore person’s temper at the food table and rightfully so in my opinion. There are certain cooks and cook’s assistants who cut all the vegetables and the chillies in exactly the same dimensions. While I like to see vegetables cut a certain way, there are certain types, especially chillies that I like to see stick out! It is also for this reason, that I don’t take endearingly to the chilli hidden in the omelet or the oothappam. That to me is guerilla warfare.

When I am having lunch, you can visualize a person who stuffs food in the opening where usually the mouth resides. One day if my nose were to shift downwards, I would be in a sorry state indeed. I gape at the computer screen, and immerse myself in the mundane-surfing routine that my lunch time allows me to do.

So, you can safely assume that I am not on a chilli-weeding routine while tackling my lunch. I might catch a peek of the dangerous thing if I were expecting it, but the hiding in batter/egg variety freaks me out. One minute, I am stuffing the faithful mouth, and the next I am shooting up from my seat with the green from the chilli and the red from the taste coursing through my veins and bursting forth in pink spurts on my face. My nose inexplicably starts watering and so does my mouth. When the nose and mouth do that, the eye feels the compelling need to keep them company and before you know it, you have liquid leaking from all the open pores in the face. I feel my ears turn beetroot, my tongue refusing to quiet down, my hand reaches for the tissue – one for the eyes and another for the nose, because obviously once can’t do for both.

I once read somewhere that drinking hot water quietens your tongue quickly. Nope – now you have the hot water and the burning to deal with! Sugar doesn’t help either. And no, I don’t think honey with warm water would help. What would? Time perhaps.