It’s becoming increasingly obvious that we need technological help to modernize our outdated “Indian” selves since—unlike the economy that is forecast by some to grow at a robust 9.5% in 2010—our beliefs remain stagnant year after year. Case in point, a classified ad that appeared last month in a Mumbai tabloid: “Looking for a fair and cute newborn baby for a Johnson’s baby wash TV commercial.”
I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a computer program that allows us to update our Indianness.
Fighting machines: One day we’ll go from EVMs to EUMs. Vipin Kumar / Hindustan Times
It would be like one of those free-for-download AntiVirus wonders that protect your machine from all the evil bugs out there. You know, the type that automatically updates your software every time you switch on your machine and reassures you that it has identified unsafe elements and suspicious strangers so you can surf and shop with confidence.
It is not that far-fetched an idea. After all, researchers are already using computer algorithms to create vaccines for new flu viruses. Procrastinator, an iPhone application by the Duke Center for Behavioral Economics, even “takes the pain out of making big decisions in your life”.
So, all you would have to do every day when you wake up and complete your morning business is to walk to your nearest New Indian booth and place your right thumb on an EUM or an Electronic Updating Machine. The machine (which would only work if you flushed and washed your hands after doing your morning business) would then promptly update your Indian beliefs/habits to ensure you’re more in sync with the global zeitgeist. Of course the program will come equipped with AutoFix technology that diagnoses and fixes common problems for you.
The benefits could be enormous. Nandan Nilekani would definitely find use for this Universal Indianness Device. Travelling on business/holiday and interacting with women/people of different faiths/colours would suddenly seem a whole lot easier. Our airline behaviour and rape statistics would change dramatically (there could even be a separate version of the program for north Indian males and another for politicians). Overnight, the (updated) world would speak to you in a universal language, and not Marathi or Kannada.
The machine would identify all Indian “types” and promptly update all Indianness that is outdated or harmful to our real national character.
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Finally, all of us would know that beauty is not about skin colour; that daughters are not meant to be executed when they disobey your commands; that debate does not equal abuse; that the tedious art of feminine sacrifice is best forgotten; and that our household help has rights too.
In this world of EUMs we would be able to sense what versions of the software our fellow Indians have uploaded. Theatres would only let you buy tickets if you were Version 6.0 updated (i.e. if you knew that you should not talk on your cellphone or litter in a movie hall). Think of it as the Twitter equivalent of “blocking” someone.
Of course, India being India implementation won’t be easy. Someone might create a grey market version of the product after tweaking it to include updates such as women cycling is definitely unIslamic. A politician might indulge in New Indian booth-capturing. Or that big corporation that buys up everything around us might pay millions of rupees to rebrand the program as its own.
Maybe Indianness is best left to become extinct naturally.
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