It’s festival time. With the bustle and sparkle of the moment, it may be easy to forget the real tradition of the occasion. We will remind you: It’s about purchasing electronic consumer devices that you mostly have no need for.
It is a practice that goes back to Lord Krishna’s time, as we can see in this verbatim exchange between Him and Yashodha:
Yashodha: I will tie You to the grinder so that You will not roam around and create mischief.
Krishna: Just as well you are doing this now, mom. Because soon, a few thousands years down the line, we will have grinders with castor wheels for easy mobility. Then there will be no stopping me.
Yashodha: Perhaps we must get that type of grinder for this Deepavali.
Krishna: Mom, you are getting ahead of the plot already. First allow me to grow up and kill Naragasuran before you can even think of Deepavali.
We may have come a long way from those early times. But the basic spirit still remains. Each festival season, we make a beeline to the malls and purchase cutting-edge technological goods, which are increasingly looking like goods that have been thought up after a week of binge-drinking Smirnoff.
We draw your attention particularly to the “twin-wash” washing machines. As it is, we males have a huge problem when it comes to understanding washing machines. In most men, that part of the brain meant for storing details of how to operate washing machines is probably occupied by snarky putdowners for women who don’t get the offside rule.
We men generally dump all the clothes into the washing machine and switch it on and forget the whole thing probably in the hope that a clothes fairy will come and take them out and put them on the clothesline.
It is when our respective wives come back and ask what happened to the laundry do we remember that we forgot to take the clothes out of the washing machine. But it usually doesn’t stop with that.
Wife: Hope you had the temperature setting on for washing towels and bedsheet with warm water…
You: This takes in warm water? There is a setting for it? Anyway, I also washed little Ashish’s nappy.
Wife: Good. Did he cry when you removed his nappy?
You: Oh hell! He was in that nappy?
The reality being this, we men have to now contend with this “twin-washing” washing machines, which are washing machines with two different drums — one for washing clothes and the other for just confusing the already clueless menfolk. And then there are washing machines that come wifi-enabled. Your toothbrush and your jockey strap are the only things left that manufacturers haven’t enabled with wifi.
But it is not the washing machine alone that has us stumped. Refrigerators too are providing good company. The newest in the market is something called ‘convertible refrigerator’, which, as the name suggests, allows you to convert it for use based on your need, like as bedroom during Chennai summers.
Okay, that would have been ideal, but what it lets you to do is set different temperatures for different compartments and racks. But fridge manufacturers are letting their imagination run riot. I really mean the word riot. There is one model of refrigerators that comes with — I kid you not — built-in speakers.
The company’s pamphlet, without any trace of irony, reads, “Want to rock out while you rummage through your fridge? You can do just that thanks to built-in speakers.” It would have been okay if they had stopped with it. But they have something more. The fridge also offers — you surely must have felt the need for this when you were trying to fetch watch from it — Bluetooth connectivity, “so you can connect your smartphone and play your favorite tunes, podcasts, or audiobooks”. I bet the highest quality of Colombian crack was needed to think this up.
The thing is while thinking up ridiculous stuff that people perhaps find no use for, the consumer durable industry drops things that people actually need. In the early ’80s, there was a brand of refrigerator named Zenith that came up with an innovation of water-cooler on the door of the fridge. Its working was simple, you had a small water tank inside, you filled it up, and through a small tap outside on the door you can get water without opening the door. The whole thing was compact and efficient, which is a huge mistake in the industry. And the manufacturers quickly dropped the whole thing and moved on to — innovation is key, folks — a refrigerator that musically chimed when you opened its door.
Still, compared to fridge folks, the television manufacturers have a lot of catching up to do. But they are getting there, as they have shown by putting voice-recognition system in remote controls. Do you get it? There are people out there who may be too lethargic to even operate the buttons on their remote controls.
Just thinking about them, I have become lazy too. You finish this piece for me. Just ask your refrigerator, they might have programmed it to throw up some ideas.
e-mail the writer at