Archive for February, 2011

Buy now and pay forever

The man at the cash counter extending his hand asked “Can I have your plastic please?” I had just made a few essential household purchases from the neighbourhood grocery shop and was waiting to make the payment. The plastic carry bag, which had the stuff picked up from the store, is already in front of him and I was, for a moment, lost to figure out the other plastic he was alluding to.  “I mean your credit card, sir” his voice was demanding. “No. I am making the payment by cash” I indicated the mode of payment and counted out a few currency notes from my wallet and gave it to him. He gave me a glance that are most appropriately reserved for curious and near extinct animals in the zoo and bang opened the cash box to search for the various denominations of currency notes and few coins that he has to return to me as balance.  As I hastily collected the strewn notes from the table and the small metal coins that dropped on to the floor raising tinkles, I wished I had used the credit card instead! I could have done the job without a whisper, even if I had dropped the plastic on to the floor!

 The credit card is truly plastic not only by the material that it is made of, but by the way you can mould, mend and modify your payment options as you continuously indulge in unabashed purchases. You don’t have to have money to buy anything nor is it essential that you will have it later… as long as you have the plastic; you can live your life by the moment and on your own terms. Fitting effortlessly in our pockets, it frees those who have the money, from carrying cumbersome bundles of currencies and from the associate risk of losing them and bestows an aura of élan on the card holder. And for those who have got not even a nickel in their pocket, the card would never let them be wanting or inadequate. While it could be charismatic to flash the stylish card in swanky places, at times of emergency, the little thin plastic could be your saviour, bailing you out of awkward situations and conferring you peace, albeit temporarily, from financial worries.  The card, for the various avatars it enacts, has come to occupy a place of predominance, both in our wallets and in our lives.

 The digital world understands only the language of the plastic and with online business burgeoning, the usefulness of the card has only grown and grown exponentially. With it, you can instantaneously buy your travel tickets online, pay your utility bills, transfer monies to anybody across the globe, order that delicious pizza and download your favourite book in the e-format. The plastic is thus your gateway to the world of online mercantile and if you don’t possess one, you are effectively and comprehensively out of the expanding world of e-commerce that promises to be the single largest medium of business transactions in the immediate future. And it is in this virtual space that the card has made its transition from a luxury that one can conveniently do away with to an absolute necessity that one cannot do without.

 But the very convenience of the card could easily turn out to be a dreadful nightmare when its use is not judiciously tempered and instead seen as a tool to satiate one’s impulsive instincts. And this is the trap that the credit card entices one to walk into without actually realising it  and as many would have found out, one never really comes out of this debt trap without pulling up all the resources and the mental resolute to be out of it.  Devoid of caution, one is bound to be in perpetual debt, paying off the partial bill, month after month, without ever really clearing it off in full.  This is the price one pays when desires are let loose to maul without restraint and when happiness is sought to be achieved through materialistic possessions.

 I am going to pay my mobile bill using my plastic. This time around it is my debit card.

 Yours

Narayanan

February 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm 4 comments

Ignorance is no bliss

A recent survey conducted to test the level of general awareness among adult Americans revealed an alarmingly high degree of ignorance, ignorance of a few basic facts that even a primary school kid is expected to know. When asked to name a country that starts with the letter “U”,  very many could not name the obvious – United States. While a few said “Yugoslavia” assuming that it might be starting with “U”, blissfully unaware that the country has long ceased to exist, many confidently gave the answer as “Utopia”!  Rhyming with Ethiopia, they cannot be possibly faulted for presuming it as a country ducked somewhere in remote Africa and thus exhibiting the zenith of ignorance which is almost “Utopian” in perfection. Indians are the natives of Indiana, the number of sides a triangle could have is one or possibly none and the main religion of Israel is Israeli – these are some of the gems of profound knowledge that the well-educated, urbane Americans displayed. But if there was a prize for the bizarre answer, it would go to the youngster who, when asked as to tell the exact date of 9/11 incident, smartly and confidently replied “2nd October”!

 And if a similar exercise is conducted among the educated and the upwardly mobile Indians, there would be startling revelations of the heights of ignorance we are capable of scaling that could make even the most absurd American answer, very insightful! While for large section of the population living in the Gangetic plain the language of South India is just one Madrasi, for many, there isn’t any geographical distinction between Andhra and Kerala. This ignorance easily extents from geography to national history and when a young man was asked to name the great grandfather of Rahul Gandhi, he quickly gave the most logical answer,  Mahatma Gandhi !.  The commonality of the surname could have prompted such a confident reply and again it is the commonality of sounds that makes communism and communalism inter-changeable and nationalism something as sweet as payasam. An Aryan is, at the best, the name of a feature film and Mohenjodaro, a rhyming word the super-star throws to woo “Ash” in the film “Robot”. All this at an age where sources like the Wikipedia provide instant and encyclopaedic information of any subject on earth!  

Such a high level of ignorance borne out of total indifference towards acquiring a common standard of general awareness, which may not be of immediate relevance to every day existence, smacks at a larger malady which the societies the world-over are succumbing to.  One may be highly proficient in one’s chosen field of activity and possess the skills to eke out a decent living, yet not to be informed enough about the country and the world one lives in, endangers the freedom and liberty that citizens the world over have gained through centuries of struggle. A lack of general awareness among the population can easily be manipulated by the powers that be to misrepresent facts and unleash a campaign of misinformation directed towards perpetuating an authoritarian regime or to fashion the public opinion that favours draconian laws. Large number of Americans, for instance, believed that it was Iraq who made the 11/9 attack thus legitimising the American invasion of that country in the public mind.

An informed and enlightened public is the surest guarantee to safeguard the time honoured values of freedom, liberty and justice and societies the world over have paid heavy prices for not conducting informed discourses that affect their lives and their futures. Any disinterestedness in the nation’s affairs could mortgage our fundamental rights leading to years of suppression and subjugation in the hands of unscrupulous rulers and would call for violent struggles to regain them. The recent events in many countries only point to this truth.

 Yours

Narayanan

February 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm 4 comments


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