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Only change isn’t constant

Forced to revert to two long-forgotten activities — putting pen to paper and standing in queue for cash — led to the discovery that the more things change the more they stay the same, writes Kushalrani Gulab.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2008 22:31 IST
Kushalrani Gulab
Kushalrani Gulab
Hindustan Times

Huzza, olde frere. Prithee tarry ye not, but quaff a draught of ale, for a new age wilt arrive eftsoons and… and… and…

Oh %@&%^#$ (otherwise known as ‘extremely bad language’)! Hands up anyone who knows ye olde English word for ‘and’. Could it be ‘ande’?

I need to know this soon or else my columns will be even more incomprehensible than usual since I’ve decided from now on to retreat (or should that be retreate?) into ye past (otherwise known as ‘ye olden daies’).

To do that, however, and (ande?) still keep mine job, I shalt need to address thee in the language of Chaucer and (ande?) Shakespeare and (ande?). Let’s face it, my BA Hons. in Eng. Lit. happened roughly 17 years ago and the only thing I remember of those three years in the canteen is the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech from Macbeth. Not a word more. And while a column in olde English would be tough enough to decipher, a column in broken olde English would be absolutely unfathomable.

The reason I’m taking a great leap backward rather than a great leap forward is that the present has pushed me there. Technology has let me down not once, but twice this week.

First, my ATM card was chewed up by the machine, so now I’m forced to do what I haven’t done since 1991 — swear about bank holidays and then, on the rare day that banks are actually open, spend the morning standing in line, waiting to get my paws on what is, after all, my cash. (And after the banking revelations of the last few weeks, I’d like to make it clear to my bankers that my cash isn’t their cash, so don’t even think about it, busters.)

Next, my computer at home died, so I’m not slaving over a hot keyboard as I write this column. I’m slaving, pen in hand, over a hot notebook (old fashioned variety made of paper), wondering why the parents bothered to send me to school when, 17 years after I received a formal document in gothic script that declared my education done, it’s clear that I not only have forgotten every word of what I allegedly learned, but I haven’t the faintest idea any more of how to push a pen.

Since both these events have shoved me back in time, I’ve decided to immerse myself in it in every way. So I spent all this weekend living the life of the late poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan in the English translation of his autobiography, In the Afternoon of Time.

I’m nowhere close to the end of this lovely, warm, honest book. But as I read it, I’m fascinated to know that the attitudes and conflicts that existed in pre-World War I India are exactly the same attitudes and conflicts that exist now — and will probably exist a hundred years later.

Whatever happens, it seems, we never learn from the past. Technology can get better or worse. People stay exactly the same.

First Published: Oct 13, 2008 21:19 IST