Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Two incidents that happened over the last few days remind me of a science fiction story by Dr Jayant Narlikar

Vaguely as I remember, in that story, the main character sends out a signal in the space in search of the extra terrestrial. As it happens, he gets a reply. He starts communicating with them and he realizes that these cousins of humans are far more advanced in all the fields related to 'being'. He starts asking them questions unsolved to the mankind so far and starts getting the answers. The story concludes on the note that, even though he got his answers right, he did not get his satisfaction of solving those. A shameful feeling of, well, a kind of 'dependency'.

I was standing in a long queue, awaiting my turn to get the boarding pass on the Bombay airport. The systems were down due to unknown reasons. Having flown on my maiden flight just four days ago, I was a bit nervous about the whole process of flying. The departure was scheduled for 17:40 and here I was standing in the almost never-ending queue with my wrist-watch showing alarming 17:20. As I came to know later that those whose flights were scheduled from anytime between 16:00 to 18:00 were all standing in the queue and the aircrafts were awaiting passengers near the runway.

There were a lot of shouts and caustic remarks at efficiency of this particular prestige airline. "why can't you send us SMS to notify us of this issue,' 'why is there no-one tending the inquiry counter? I don't mind helping the passengers myself, shall I do that?' and what not. Half of the crew was perhaps busy solving the system failure and the other half was busy creating more confusion (and inviting wrath) of a large number of passengers.

When I heard the cry of, 'please issue manual boarding passes' I couldn't suppress a smile. First of all, there was no 'man' present to issue the passes. (Probably he was busy solving his issue). Secondly, I wondered if they had something called as manual passes! In the era of GHz and GBytes, it seems that the 'manual' touch has already been lost, and for better or worse I don't know, we have become dependent on the machine!

The second incident happened in a grocery store near my house. It's run by an elderly Mallu uncle who has five-six 'office-boys' to help him. And, of course a computer! After purchasing four household items, it was my turn to pay the bill. "91 Rs., sir" the bill was announced. I was taking out the money when it struck to me that the sum was not correct. I added the four numbers myself and announced,

"no, it's 85 Rs."

"Is, it? Let's see. A+B+C+D... it's 91, no?"

"Umm. Let me check again, A+B+C+D.. it comes to 85 sir!"

"No sir, it's 91."

Then, as if to prove me wrong, he ordered one of his boys to use the computer and print a formal bill. Fellow customers were listening in with much interest now.

And when the printer bill arrived, with much celebration amongst the customers, it brought smiles on the faces. I paid the lesser amount and walked out!

In IIT-B, they have banned internet access for limited periods in the day. Read more about it here. It's a good measure, considering the lack of sports, cultural, paper-book reading interests among the students.


mangesh said...

You must have read another "kissa" of Lord Shani and eight others dragging Dr.Jayant Naralikar in Vishwa Court. The reason is the Dr.Jayantrao has opposed the Govt. proposed move to include astrology in University course. So we come across a number of times and remind Dr.Narlikar's fiction stories.
Yr blog is our everyday anubhav.

Anonymous said...

There's one more article on ban on IIT-B here: