Thursday, July 30, 2015

Interests and Collections

This article is about a coming-of-age-Indian and attempts to take a look at the changes that sweeps through our society in recent times, (changes) in the things we like, about and for ourselves. The article tries not to stick to one thought and weaves a interplay between different times and ideas. 

A man can be best defined by his 'interests' and his 'collections', given off-course his will and ability to make room for them in his life. Collections, not just in terms of money but of the things he like.  

As average Indian kids of past decades, what did we use to collect? Newspaper cuttings(sometimes pasted in scrap-books), calendars(tabled and walled), books and various other stationery items like diaries, stickers, colours(crayons, wax, sketch-pens), pencil boxes(which later got replaced by pouches), book marks(I remember it used to cost Re 1, and was a cheap way to build collection, you see), puzzle books. There were very many of them, as choices, but at the same time one could count these things on his fingers. Sometimes we used to collect wrappers of packaged items we used to eat, like that of Ruffles Lays(and the freebies that came inside it), Amul's chocolate boxes, Alpenlibe(that was the best toffee/candy of our times) and even KismiBar(again a cheaper way to build a collection). We were also keen to collect accessories like wrist bands, laser beams, bracelets and wrist watches. Sometimes we were keen to better equip our bicycles and bikes by adding gears, lights, sirens. 'Music' was the biggest rent we used to pay(remember buying a blank cassette?). Sometimes buying musical records, cassettes and CDs of the movies we liked and could afford. Learning Music(and instruments) was only for the privileged few but nevertheless it was common. Our interests depended a lot on our collections and what we could get within our cities, or some of the bigger nearby cities. They were not toys. They were collections of our life, something which not only gave us pleasure but defined us as individuals. Each one of us had a particular combination of interests and collections.  

Fast forward to now. Where are those things that defined us? Is growing up an explanation to their disappearance ? We can grow up(and old) but we cannot forgo our interests. Nowadays, many of those have got moulded in forms of 'folders' and 'bookmarks' and sometimes reduced to mere likes. We now define our interests in a vast sea of information. We stand at the shore of this vast sea and can enter anytime and reach any of its corner, as we please. It is impossible to start a day without coming across a new thing, either through phones, discussions or on our computers. The density of activities around us just keeps on increasing and the flux just doesn't seems to end. All this makes sticking to few items not a great idea. 

Let us see a case of 'staying fit'The idea of staying fit was inherently attached to having fun. We maintained and attained fitness by playing cricket and not watching it. Going to parks in the morning, taking a longer route on the cycle for exploring things around generated thrill, fun and kept us fit. These days, Gym is our idea of a staying fit. A small room with elephant sized instruments, which eat our calories and give a sense of workout. Lest we forget that burning calories is also only a wastage of our bodily calories. Have we completely forgotten our right to spend our own calories in a sensible way? Isn't it similar to throwing away some cash just because we have piled up way too extra. The question is, couldn't it be spent in a better way? 
We are humans, who can and should feel, as opposed to machines which work based on fixed calculations between their components. It can be channelized with a sense of purpose and fun.

It is in this context that it becomes imperative for us to remember the importance of cultivating interests. It pays to build a collection and above all that we did all this within our own lifetime, once. I am not just finding faults with the internet but the entire ecosystem it has generated. What  is left of our attention span? How long can we dig-in to pursue an issue? How long can we actually pursue an issue? Take the case of news these days, something big is waiting to happen every other day, which also eats the previous dust and cleans the slate of our memory. Importantly(and sadly), the biggest of the biggest news is only left to us as an information

The world is in an increasing state of flux but as individuals the most important thing we can do is to cultivate interests and guard them, because only our interests have the power to define us, lest we be reduced to mere numbers or information. 

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