That’s the way we are now
Ranjita Biswas | @twfindia | 30 Dec 2018
That’s the way we are now
Like every year, this year too, 2018, is at its fag end. As usual, ‘Looking- back’ pieces highlighting the events of the past year would be appearing in the feature pages of newspapers and magazines. Disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes, life stories of young boys getting trapped in a tunnel and the reality- show kind of rescue operation, which star footballer of Europe has changed club and which high-profile coach got sacked and why, social diary of weddings of celebrities, from the British Royal family to Bollywood royals, would figure in them as also ‘loss and gain’ in the political arena as in India recently. And inevitably, by mid- 2019, half of these ‘breaking news’ items will be forgotten.

So, let’s dwell on apparently more mundane things that unobtrusively make space in news clips but throw light on how our society has changed in the last decade, no, not even that, in the past couple of years.


Take for example, a report in the Boston Globe , how the old favourite nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Star’ was used in a US school for five-year olds to teach about safety. Keeping to the rhythm  it ran like this:


Lockdown, Lockdown, Lock the door: /Shut the lights off say no more./ Go behind the desk and hide./Wait until it’s safe inside...etc.

What can be more appalling than this assault on innocence of childhood? But then when kids in schools get mowed down by avenging angels who can grab a gun lying around on a shelf at home, is it any wonder that authorities are prone to teach these safety drills to tiny tots? But who cares? Not those who don’t believe in ‘gun control’, for sure.

Then go to China, one of the most internet obsessed countries. Recently, managers of a giant shopping mall  in Xi’an have introduced specific lanes for pedestrians who are always glued to the cell phones. These paths are colourfully painted and designated for walkers who are constantly texting, watching videos and even conducting financial transactions, no matter that cars whizz past, potholes appear and that they block subway station entrances. Such behaviour has led to a mounting number of accidents and fatalities. The World Health Organisation calls  such behaviour ‘distracted walking’.


Seems familiar? Don’t we read regularly about people getting mowed down by local trains while they cross the track with the phone stuck to their ears, or, music lovers as they are, with ear plugs obviating the outer world?


Ironically, with more options available to stay connected has also given rise to a disconnected generation, sociologists say, making them less able to communicate at human to human level. An installation in a recent outdoor comntemporary exhibition in Europe was  telling enough. Three people sit on a bench: a lone woman, and a couple. But all of them are looking at the smartphone screen; even the couple, apparently lovers, are not talking with each other. 

The other menace is the selfie- or groupie, if you like, brigade. You cannot enjoy a  beautiful Durga idol, a serene landscape or  a heritage building’s façade without these narcissistic crowd irritating you at every step.

You often wonder, is it going  to get worse – or  things would change? You never know. Everything moves in a cycle, after all. Many people are getting tired of the digital sound and rediscovering old  gramophones and records;  some are writing in own handwriting invitation cards and ‘thank you’  notes, even learning calligraphy to do so, tired of the impartiality of  an email message. And wonder of wonders, many Millennials  are abandoning social media  outlets  like Facebook and Instagram  for reasons  well known by now, preferring the privacy of a close friend circle.


Let’s see.