Home > India, Life, Technology > Spare a thought and a prayer for your laptop

Spare a thought and a prayer for your laptop

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Hindu festival of Dussera is celebrated with much pomp across the swath of South Asia where the religion has taken root.    Spelt in English literature in many ways (just as Hannukah tends to be), the reasons to  celebrate vary almost as much.  The triumph of good over evil in Hindu mythology is a common theme across a number of epic battles recounted this day: Rama over Ravana and  Durga over Mahishasura being just two.

For many, it is a reminder of more contemporary triumphs: of plough over hardened earth,  of  brush over canvas,  and of shears over unkempt hedge.    Artists, craftsmen,  small-business owners and middle-class housewives, all pause to worship the tools of their trade, to acknowledge the contributions these mechano-serfs make to our lives.   As a child, I remember rounding up household paraphernalia to be included in the ritual pooja: scissors, hammers, kitchen tongs, which were all adorned with flowers and vermillion along with immovables like refrigerators and cooking ovens.

Last evening, we drove out to an industrial part of Mumbai’s northern suburbs to celebrate Dussera with the workers at a shoe manufacturing factory.   For those in the West that imagine a third-world sweatshop with little children bent over hand cut leather, this wasn’t it.   Nearly sixty skilled men and women operate an assembly line that takes raw leather through cutting, stitching and sole-fusing processes to produce fine shoes packed in boxes marked with familiar brand names that end up on store shelves in London, New York and Sydney.    As we walked around the facilities, I noticed each worker had prepped his/her machine and tools for the ceremonial breaking of coconuts after burning incense and praying by their stations.    It was heartening to see Muslim craftsmen join the rituals.   In the aftermath, as we feasted on samosas and ceremonial confections, I began to think about the tools I use in my trade.

To put it simplistically, most of us (other than the surgeons, artists, musicians, and cooks in my circle of friends) are knowledge workers; we are paid for using our knowledge to make decisions.   Our deliverables are as intangible as what we consume to be productive.   Come to think of it, I was brought up to be a knowledge worker; all those years ago, my textbooks would show up alongside the family mortar-and-pestle to be worshipped on this day.  Today most of us will drive around in cars, fly in planes, use  elevators to get to our meetings, make coffee to get us through our mornings, and use myriad devices that together make our lives better.    Shelves full of books (some read, some written, some waiting to be read) are testimony to the sustained relevance of  printed text in our lives.  However, my networked computer stands out as the single biggest source of knowledge for me and tool to disseminate my humble contributions to the universe.     On this day, alongside the carpenter who worships his saw, to the many tools of my trade I offer a salute.

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Categories: India, Life, Technology
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