Recently, I was in a shopping mall heading towards McDonald’s for a dinner. As I walked past a showroom, I noticed an odd occurrence. Three Men, holding each other by the arms were walking in a straight line. One look and I had dismissed this sight. But then I paused and looked at them again. Here were the three blind men, white sticks in hand, goggles covering their eyes at 9 in the night, walking steadily in the middle of the mall.
I went over to them and inquired as to where they were headed. They said they wanted to go to the loo and the lead amongst them confirmed from me that it was in the direction ahead. I corrected him by saying in a matter of fact way that he would have to turn to the right after walking down a bit further. He thanked me and started heading out in the initial direction. Instantly, it occurred to me that in the most insensitive way, I had told them the directions but not the distances. I latched on to the first one and took them to the corner where they had to turn right and pointed them on to start walking in the said direction. Again, they thanked me and started off. Satisfied that I had done a good job, I walked off but stopped before having gone more than a few steps. I cussed at myself for being that stupid and ran back to them in order to guide them further to the exact door. When I reached, they were fumbling around a fire escape, looking for the correct door. Many onlookers were passing by them, surprised to see them try to find their way in the maze of objects and paths we “sighted” people take for granted. Before I could reach though, another fellow had arrived and helped them get to the restroom. I realized as I looked from a distance that it was the lead who alone had to go to the loo but the other two had no option than to follow him. They stopped at the door and waited for him to return.
As I walked off, a thought came to my mind. As the world around us progresses and technology allows us to become greater than ourselves, the society we live in does not change, the plight of the people does not change and the conditions which affect us do not change. We may be running after cures for cancer and aging but the blind man still cannot see and the deaf can still not hear. There is technology to enable them in doing these too, but that technology is not available to the present at a price which does not hit the pride of the man bearing the cost. Those blind men were not in rags but seemed suitably dressed. A poor blind man would have been stopped at the doors of the mall and forced to look for a loo elsewhere but the guard let them in and guided their path too, in his own insensitive way. That goes to say that the latest gadgets which help the blind(no euphemisms here, say it as it is) are within their reach but not there yet.
As a tech enthusiast and a software programmer, I can say that anything is possible in the world of technology. As a hardware designer and a practical man, I can say that we are not looking at the right ventures. I can blame many for not following up on this, from Steve Jobs to the Indian Government, but till some brilliant yet cheap technology comes into the possession of these disabled people, let’s make sure that the three blind men you see on the road next time reach home safely. Let us make sure that the stark contrast between consumerism of the most blatant kind and the simple reality that life has not yet changed despite Science’s greatest contributions be diminished by Humanism, for that too is as simple as extending your hand and guiding the path of those who cannot see.
So here I am, with my weekly load of clothes to wash at the Infosys Bangalore Laundry. This service, of course, is the pinnacle of comfort for Bachelors like me who can’t wash a cloth to save the world! But, the realisation of the same is that, just like me, there are thousands of other people who feel similarly comforted by knowing that there’s a Laundry available. This, of course, means that time and machines are at a premium here and there’s a virtual fight being fought to get to a washing machine.
So here I am and I am waiting for a machine to empty out so that I can put my clothes in and let the magic begin. The machine for which I am waiting is going to take about 17 minutes to finish the current wash cycle and then only will the owner of those clothes come and save me from dirty laundry. But what is this? There is another machine in the vicinity and that’s going to take 16 minutes to finish the cycle! What’s even more amazing is that no one has noticed this and there is no queue for that machine. Immediately, the calculations in my mind bring me to the conclusion that 1 minute save is 1 minute invested and I quickly rush to claim this gold mine before anyone else does. Now I sit here primly, waiting for this machine to finish in 16 minutes and lead me to salvation.
They say that the Grass is always greener on the other side. They don’t tell you that on the other side they use paint to make the grass look greener. They say a bird in hand in worth two in the bush. They don’t tell you that the one in hand is tastier than the two in the bush. They tell you that the machine will finish the wash in 16 minutes, while it takes 25 minutes to do the task!
As you may have guessed, as the minutes passed by, I realised that the ‘new’ machine I had invested my time in is taking longer to complete the cycle than the one I left. The time now is 9 minutes on my machine and 4 on the other. It seems, almost, that the machine I will soon be using has ‘more seconds per second’, that is, it is spending more than a second to do a second’s task. Impossible isn’t it?? After all, they’re both the same machines and run on the same power! Then how can two machines be in any way different when they simply are not?!
I guess there really is no explanation for this. I guess my machine was indeed taking more ‘seconds per second’ than any other in the Landry. The final truth is that I spent more time doing laundry that day than I usually do. That indeed, was a very strange tragedy of time!
I am aware that it has been many months since I have Blogged and obviously a lot has been going on in that much time(shifting to Infosys, Mysore; completion of Infy training; posting to Bangalore; getting a project). But there are certain moments in life which often take precedence over many a months of work. One such event occurred on a flight from Bangalore to Delhi on 23rd April 2010 when I was coming home to Chandigarh for a quite holiday with my family. I had been pondering upon the question as to whether truly making phone calls from within an aircraft can cause a disturbance in their communications or was it just a hoax created by airlines who wanted people to use the onboard phone lines which they provide at a premium to their users. I had concluded that the second was more plausible as airlines have always had a dearth of money and need all that extra revenue they can get.
Obviously, the person sitting next to me disagreed with my thoughts and as the plane prepared for take off and I pushed ‘Send’ on my mobile to send the last message before I went into roaming, he requested me calmly to switch off the mobile. I, being my haughty self, told him that I, being an electronics engineer knew better than him and could saw with confidence that since mobiles and airline communications worked at different frequencies, there was no way possible that my mobile could affect the flight in any way. I had noted the tone in which he had requested me to switch off my cellphone- it was calm but stern and it felt that he had done this exercise many times earlier too. Thus it seemed fit for me to snub him in such a way. But upon hearing me say my qualifications, he took greater interest in my argument and asked me to expain my side of the debate.
Here I knew I had two choices- spend the flight fighting with this fellow about how much I knew about Communications(or how little, after all, what quality is left in today’s engineering courses!) OR accept that he knows more than me and ask for his knowledge. Lucky for me, i chose the latter, as this Radio Engineer knew more about our current debate than I could have ever imagined.
He explained that it is not the calls or the smss which bothers the airlines much but instead, the small ElectroMagneticPulse(EMP) generated by our mobiles which can disrupt the electronics circuits onboard. This is a very small chance with the new and advanced circuits coming into use nowadays but as always, in terms of space and air travel, it’s much better to be safe than really sorry. He further commented that in his time the biggest fight was against EMP and the biggest contest was to be able to transmit voice across the globe at less than 10 Watt power.
Ah! It was good to finally hear this explanation from someone who was confident and direct about the facts instead of just saying that it’s part of the rules and at the end of the flight I thanked him, Ashwat Dharampuri, Managing Director of W. Diamant India Ltd, a unit of Winterstone, an international diamond tool manufacturing company and walked off the flight content that I had learnt something new simply by opening my mouth and showing my ego to someone who I knew would educate me instead of cursing me.
Indeed, miracles do happen!