The first decade of the new millennium has come to an end. As a reader, you are typically presented with a whole cornucopia of ‘Best/ Worst of the Decade’ features on every Tom’s newspaper, Dick’s magazine and Harry’s Pottery website. ‘Top 10’, ‘Five most important’, ‘20 greatest hits’. And so on. If the feature is not a list of some sort, it is probably a retrospective where people who believe that bullet points and pictures are for noobs (The Hindu, for e.g), write lengthy paragraphs that meander about the decade like a Dr Who, flitting between subjects, space and time.
While there are columns galore on the subject of the top technology trends of the decade, and the greatest inventions of the past year and so on, nobody has explored the top technology trends that have radically, yet subtly changed life in Tamil Nadu. Things that we now take for granted but never accorded the pomp and fanfare that they deserved when they were introduced.
The Multifunction Mantra box
A truly game changing device that bought religious erudition to the masses, this low-cost device provided, at the press of a button, the voice of Bombay Sisters chanting the Mrityunjaya mantra (and many more) in glorious low fidelity. This path breaking invention rendered obsolete the need to be initiated and introduced to the mantras that (if one is of that religious persuasion) govern one’s entire life. This is the Douglas Adams’ Electric Monk for the Religious. In financial trouble? No worries. Just hit the Lakshmi Sthothram button and outsource your prayer to a low cost device. FC Kohli, the man who pioneered the Indian IT industry would have been proud. A closely related invention is the Gayatri Mantra door bell. If one has trouble meeting the stringent requirements of having to chant this a minimum 108 times a day, this doorbell is a lifesaver.
While the Mantrapod is not available yet, you can always buy the “Hindu ipod” here
The Kosubat – The citizens of Madras have always had an uneasy co-existence with mosquitos. The previous decade was spent being cheated by those unscrupulous companies that peddled “mosquito mats” that we later realized were literally what they were called, mats for the mosquitos to sit on and have a spot of evening tea.
Our anti-mosquito weaponry was severely limited at the start of this decade, with Tortoise coils being the only effective option. The problem with the smoke that these infernal coils generated was of that they didn’t do a good job of distinguishing between their need to suffocate mosquitos and simultaneously allow human sleepers to breathe. Redemption arrived eventually in the form of a tennis-bat shaped plastic framed weapon of mass-quito destruction, a metaphorical Hammer of Thor that vanquished these pesky critters with a wave of the hand. The Kosubat also made us all the Pol Pots of the mosquito universe. We actually have fun indulging in their genocide on a daily basis, watching them fry like popcorn between the high voltage metal strings of this lifesaving device.
ps: The term “Kosubat” was coined by Lavanya Mohan
The Share Auto – For many decades, the good citizens of this city were held ransom by autorickshaws that were hell bent on making largish dents in one’s life savings in exchange for a ride from Panagal Park to Pondy Bazaar. But then came the Share Auto, a box shaped, unstable moving object that could cram more people in than a Neutron star could cram atoms, and for a mere Rs. 15, transport the cost conscious Chennaiite from Loyola College to Avadi.
The Handheld Yagna Smoke Blowing Fan – For millennia, priests used handmade fans to blow smoke from yagnas. These fans were an extension of the priest’s hands and were expert at directing smoke straight into my eyes as I went about finding locations in my home where I wouldn’t go blind and suffocate to death. But by the middle of this decade, tech savvy priests, apart from flaunting Nokia N-Series smartphones, were also blowing smoke using miniature, battery operated fans. While it might not seem like much, this humble introduction of technology into day to day religious ritual was an inflection point, the moment when technology entered the temple. Booking archanas online, LED kutthuvalakkus, automatic beat-generation and bell-ringing machines at temples followed quickly after. Perhaps in a couple of years, my family priest’s junior assistant will carry a Kindle, loaded with mantra pdfs. Perhaps Indian guilds in World of Warcraft will conduct Ashwamedha Yagnas before going on quests.
This emerging aesthetic is…. Tampunk. Tampunk devices, to quote Sottai
- might be powered by fumes from sacrificial fires. Therefore, Tampunkers have to carry compressed cowdung cakes and igniters to
generate necessary smoke.
- are always heavy, always ugly, with fantastically mismatched colour schemes
- Leopard print Earmuffs (as Karthik Krishnaswamy suggests)
- Uranium Powered Kosubats (DC powered for now)
So what else do you think defines the Tampunk genre?
Note: A shorter version of this piece appeared in the New Indian Express today