The Bridge Across Modernization

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I am a total klutz when it comes to all things modern. I know how to use a microwave or a mobile phone, but any discussion on the hows and whys of those things are bound to make me a wide-eyed country bumpkin.


The most I can do with a microwave is reheat the food and I haven?t graduated beyond making and receiving calls and sending messages with my GSM. I have no idea what VHS on my video means, nor the exact synonym for polyphonic. I am clueless about the computer ‘apple? and ‘Macintosh?, nor what Pentiums do. I am useless with the manuals that accompany electronic goods and can?t help embarrassing myself with silly queries.


But that is not why I wage a lone, silent battle against all things modern. It is, rather, the romance of the rustic past that has caught my fancy, making me believe that unvoiced abhorrence to all things modern might take me to that elusive past.


I carry a picture in my heart. A picture of a flowing stream, a huge banyan tree on one end and a little hut close to it – a picture from a story book that has stuck in my heart. I visit that place often. The meadows are beckoning. The flowing stream is alluring.


Can I then be crucified for wanting a slice of my past that was resplendent with meadows and streams or at least made that picture seem so very real?


And I know I am not the only one. Old days? They are always good. My ‘old? may have been somebody?s new, yet, the feeling of having had ones best days then is somehow universal, I guess.


I know it is easy to blame modernization for all the fun that has seemingly vanished. But ask me if I would relish the prospect of washing clothes by hand and I might have a litany of complaints. Even the semi automatic washing machine proved to be a bane in the early days and I wouldn?t want anything to do with one of them now. Can?t see myself moving clothes between the spinner and the washing tub… With a daily load of clothes that has the machine chugging to the extra large setting, it might seem a forever task.


But then again, I can?t help grinning at the image of me scrubbing clothes on the granite slab in the back yard. Not that I enjoyed doing it then, but can?t help wishing that I could wash a bucket load of clothes on one of those `wishful? days. There was art in scrubbing the collars, the cuffs, underarms of the shirts/blouses and in the rinsing too. Three rinses, at least, was what granny had prescribed and with three buckets one could do all the rinsing at one go. And then came the squeezing to wring out the water from the clothes and hasten the process of drying. Bed sheets required two people to do the wringing, each holding the opposite ends. Interestingly, all the drying was done in the open, on the grass, and they dried crisply, giving the clothes a fresh smell.


Would I want to go back to that washing again?


Well, although that granite stone is still very much a part of the house, that open grassy area has long gone under some building, and with that, the romance of that scene. But then, I do indulge in some washing on that stone at every vacation, just to keep that image alive.


Coming back to modernization, I wouldn?t want to give up on the vacuum cleaner, nor the television or the cooking range. But nor will I stop romanticizing the firewood that cooked food, the cylindrical blowpipe that was used to kindle dying fire, the smoke from the dying embers? There was something about the food cooked with wood, and the fish curry cooked in a wide earthen pot was something else.


Of course, I wouldn?t want to do my cooking over a stone with wood and some kerosene oil; I just can?t afford it ? the time I mean. But if a fairy could wave her magic wand and send me to that babbling brook, to that spot under the banyan tree with its sinuous roots and branches, I do not mind waiting forever for the food to cook on the stone.
Sigh, even a whiff from the past can flavour the present?

Author: Suzy Fontes


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