Recently typewriters were in the news, making a sudden appearance at an examination centre for candidates seeking clerical jobs in the railways. Everyone thought learning to use a typewriter is obsolete and will never be required in the computer age. The railway recruiters still seem to believe that fingering is quite essential to do work in good volume and where many words are to be compiled to write reports. News gatherers were once required to learn and practise typing and shorthand to be successful chroniclers. Today we find most of them using just a couple of fingers on the computer keyboards, and for those texting with mobiles, just one finger seems to be always employed. Most of them are thus sight typists.
A queer thought occurred to me about the possibility of music examinees being asked to come to the centre with traditional bulky tambooras instead of the electronic shruti box. Similarly, students denied access to scientific calculator may struggle to use Clark’s Tables.
The news triggered my thought process differently. I just started listing things which we discarded years ago and might come to be in demand in our lives due to change in circumstances. Gramophones and record players/spool type tape recorders have very little chance of a comeback. Cassettes are however still in use.
Imagine a blackout after cyclone or flood. We will look for our old transistor radio. Many might have forgotten how to tune in to radio stations. One might say there is FM on every cellphone now. What if the mobile network is crippled due to inclement weather? Even a wrist watch or alarm piece will be most favoured then.
If your CD or DVD player gets stuck due to non-use or abuse, you will have to look for the hard copy of your family photo albums to explain the details of important events. Even landline owners who might have surrendered their connection will suddenly appreciate its use when they need to communicate with distant relatives about the calamity or the aftermath.
Coming to the kitchen where there is much activity that affects almost everyone in the family, only the housewife and the husband know the importance of a mixer or a grinder during festivals with a lot of guests around. There is no grinding stone in any house for dry or wet grinding like earlier. When there is no power supply, all grinding work has to be put off indefinitely. The present generation does not know how to use a grinding stone (ammi and ural in Tamil) even if it is located somewhere. Most families are unable to cope with extra guests for a lunch because they have sold by weight the ancient brass or bronze vessels, finding it difficult to store/maintain them. Caterers save the day.
Similarly, there’s no copper boiler to heat water in large volume. If a geyser malfunctions and you need hot water what do you do? When we go on tours and check into hotel rooms, the first thing we look for is the geyser and enquire if hot water can be arranged next morning. The list of several things that we have discarded but will one day appear indispensable seems endless.