Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone...

I've always been fascinating with the changing times. So were my parents. My father was an enthusiast - anything futuristic would excite him. My mother tended to be the opposite. Despite her modern outlook, things like "new gadgets" and new ways of doing things annoyed her. My father would share his fantasies with us over dinner. A few of these would be genuinely inspired and on those occasions he would put on a special goofy, wistful expression and proceed to spin webs of pure speculation. My mother never failed to bring him back to reality. She would wait until his (metaphorical) balloon had inflated, and then bring out a (metaphorical) pin and puncture it. This led to explosive quarrels on a regular basis. They look funny only now, in hindsight.

One of my father's most inspired fantasies was what he called (I am not making this up) the "spectro-feelo-graph". This gadget, he said, would allow you to remotely experience sensations transmitted over a telegraph wire. A variant called the "spectro-tasto-graph" allowed you to share the taste of food with someone else in a different location. In today's language, all this is called "virtual reality" and I feel quite proud that he actually thought it up on his own.

But back to my main point. The times, they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan put it so well. There's a profound sense of justice about this song: "For the loser now will be later to win...". And an ominous warning to those in power:  "... don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin, and there's no tellin' who that it's namin'".

Talking of who it's naming, I received the following mail yesterday:

Dear friends,
Observer Research Foundation Mumbai is pleased to invite you to a discussion on the contentious issue of the renewal of lease of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC, popularly called Mahalaxmi Racecourse) at the office of ORF Mumbai on Satuday, 25th May 2013 

If the existence of such a hallowed institution as the RWITC is deemed contentious, one wonders what could be the next item up for discussion. The continuation of the Indian Navy on prime South Bombay land? The existence of TIFR on prime Navy land? I would love to return a hundred years from now and find out what's happened to South Bombay.