“How did you ever do your projects?!!”
This question came from bewildered twins from my neighbourhood who had decided to tap on my generosity to help them complete their school project due tomorrow. Ostensibly, to avoid the wrath of their parents who would have blasted them off for procrastinating for so long.
So it was affectionate Aunty M, with a laptop and a printer and time to spare!
As I was navigating through Google identifying suitable pictures to add to the now almost completed 10-page project, I was telling them, that during our time, we had to cut pictures from glossy magazines. We would also trade pictures amongst classmates because not all of us had magazines delivered to our homes or with the pictures we need.
That had astounded them!
Responding to their question, I said we went to the school library to gather data for our projects and sifted through large volumes of books to get what we needed. And then wrote our own essays.
“But how would you know which book to choose?”
“Well, if it was a History project we would go to the History aisle and start looking for books for the period we are interested in, likewise for Geography, it would be another aisle with books lined according to regions and so on.”
“Yes, but didn’t that take like the whole day or several days to figure out which book, which page, which para to get the information from?? I mean, you had to read many books to figure out what you need, right?”
“Yes it did. That is why in our times, we couldn’t afford to keep our projects pending till the last moment.” I said with as much severity as is appropriate from an affectionate neighbourhood Aunt. “We had to spend a lot of days and hours gathering the information we need. We were lucky if we got the material we want from the library or the pictures from magazines. If not, we would have to talk to the elders at home or our teachers and take copious notes. If we didn’t find apt pictures, we would have to draw diagrams and graphics on our own.”
“Well, you could have simply Googled and saved all that time?”
“Yes, dearies, but we didn’t have Google that time.”
“Oh no! how did you all survive?”
“How did you get answers to your questions??”
The questions started coming fast and furious.
“As I said, library, elders and teachers.” I responded
“Well, how did they know the answers? They couldn’t have known everything?!”
“Well, in those days, they did.” That’s the best answer I could manage. Well, actually Google wasn’t there to validate the answers, but I didn’t say that out loud.
“With no Google, how did you all cook?”
Change of track now.
“What do you mean? We cooked food like the way we do now, over cooktops or ovens. No change there.”
“Well, what about recipe? How did you all know what ingredients and condiments to put?”
“We had cookbooks?” Trying not to alarm them now.
“Cookbooks? You mean you had to read books to cook?”
“Yes, I mean, you didn’t always have to read to cook. The elders knew the recipe by heart. And even now you do read the recipe off Google to cook, right? Same, but from books, if need be.”
“Yes, but how did you all know what the ingredients looked like or how to wave the skillet and shake the pan and toss the condiments to get the perfect mix, without the cooking videos?”
“We didn’t have that and it didn’t matter. Most of the time, folks shared recipes amongst friends or were passed down from one generation to another and that is how most cooking were done.”
“How did you all figure out what to buy, at what price, which is the cheapest but the best quality and durable and long lasting?”
“We went to the market, visited several shops, and then selected what we need?”
Those were day long trips, going from one shop to another, looking at metres and metres of fabric and bargaining for the best price. Walking or mainly being dragged by the parent, from one end of the market to the other, in the quest of that perfect fabric, with no end in sight. If we did get that perfect fabric with the choicest blend of color and pattern, it was followed by getting measured by the tailor and then mother haggling with him to get the dress ready before the impending festival. These were not so happy memories for me. There was never ever a promise of ice-cream and very seldom would we get one. But here I seemed to be in a competition to show that we had a good life too, so I didn’t get into the details.
“Well, how did you all go anywhere?”
This time I knew what they were getting at.
“Just like you all do now, walk, bike or drive.”
“Yes, but how did you all navigate without Google Maps?”
“We had paper maps.” This didn’t sound so remarkable, so I actually showed them the small folded booklet which opened up to show the map of Delhi. They seemed very unimpressed, I presumed because the paper, once glossy, now looked yellow and tattered.
“Paper Maps will not tell you the Estimated Time of Arrival or the traffic congestions.”
“Also, you cannot possibly be looking at these paper maps while driving?”
“That is unsafe driving, just like texting and calling”, chirped the other one.
“Well actually, if we drove intercity, we did carry such maps around to help us navigate. Within the city, we managed by asking passers-by or bystanders, hawkers and the like, the direction.”
“How would these people know the direction without Google?”
“Because people actually looked around and noticed things more, and knew their neighbourhood, I guess. We have reached destinations never visited before, guided by so many of them. Never got lost”.
A pause. But I could see the whirring inside their little heads, as I braced myself for the next barrage of questions. What could that be?
“How did you know the weather forecast?”
This part was tricky.
“We didn’t. We got up each morning, looked at the sky to figure out how the day would be. Again, the elders in the family would sense the direction of the wind, and let everyone know, very accurately, whether it would rain.”
“But there was no way of knowing the weather if you were flying to a different city?”
“Well, no. But the seasons were not so erratic those days. So, in winters we would pack woollens and in monsoon, the umbrella.”
I could see from their questions and from their expressions, that I am not impressing them at all.
For them, a world without Google was incomprehensible.
I mean to do school projects, you have to go to the library and search for the most appropriate book and read and understand and then write with your own hands, the whole thing in your notebook? Isn’t it just easier to ask Google and then copy and paste relevant parts and paraphrase somewhat, to avoid plagiarism?
You have to read books to cook? And come on, you have to stop the car, wind down the window, and ask the hawker for the direction and even trust that they know?
Oh! mankind has come such a long way!
They didn’t say it, but their faces did.