Every Republic Day, India finds itself caught at the crossroads of celebration and self-crucification.
This year’s been no different: while we’re trying to say that the world’s largest republic is still sexy at sixty, we’re also asking whether we’ve been honest to the very idea of being the republic our founding fathers wanted us to be. All in the same page of the broadsheets and in the same capsules of prime-time news. Almost predictably, the same opinion-makers appear, by turn, to be questioned by M/s Roy, Chandra, Dutt, Goswami and Sardesai.
They say the same thing but with shades of wit and vitriol that vary depending on the character of the TV channel they’re on. Split screen. Split persona.
The question, however, is not what we’ve achieved or haven’t achieved. That’s a debate done to death.
The dilemma I face is of a republic that’s at odds with the Internet.
Internet? Now, where did that come from, you ask! He’s off his clicker – or whatever they call the old rocker these days, you mutter!
But, here’s where I come from.
On a Tuesday, last week, almost 25% of advertising and marketing professionals from a range of industries and cities, in their early-mid 30s couldn’t recognise the Twitter logo. This is not hearsay but the truth: I ran the poll as part of the Advanced Program in Digital Marketing I run at NIIT Imperia which the IAMAI certifies. It amazed me at first, but then I consoled myself saying these 70 people were here to learn because they did not know. Simple.
Cut to Friday. The venue is The Shri Ram School at Vasant Vihar. The audience: approximately100 students of class 5 – age 10 or 11 years old – and a few of their teachers. Unlike the Tuesday session, my mandate here is exactly the opposite: dissuade these children from Facebook, etc and caution them of the perils of the Internet.
(If I go schizophrenic someday, you’ll know why.)
Surprise, surprise: all of the kids recognise the Twitter logo! They’re not on it – not yet anyway – but they know. (A dozen of them, however, did admit to being on Facebook and to having fudged their ages to bypass the site’s rules.)
Does this mean that people who should know a brand like Twitter don’t and those who needn’t, do?
Does it mean that obsolescence will hit this generation harder and faster? I’d like to go back to another batch of Class 5 next year and see if they’re already on Twitter.
Or does it mean that digitally-savvy kids will be self-taught and courses like the one we now run will be redundant?
You’ll say that I state the obvious. Which may be true, but parts of a nation are gearing up to show off their military might tomorrow morning and others are cursing this extravaganza that closed the foggy airspace over Delhi for days, thus delaying their delayed flights even further. Others are wondering how a former Pakistani Air Force Chief could find his way into a Government-sponsored ad while yet others are scratching their heads trying to calculate the cost of those ads and what they could’ve fetched the girl child who was meant to benefit that day (if not every day).
I am reminded of the 1999-remake of Inherit the Wind (the Jack Lemmon & George C Scott version) where Matthew Brady says: “ I do not think about things I do not think about.”
Instead, I tell myself, that there is a power up there somewhere who knows what He’s doing in collaboration with Darwin himself.
And, hopefully in our own way, we will all evolve. Eventually.