Our tryst with the rising sun

Dawn heralds the beginning of a new day, a new opportunity, a new hope. For my family – my mom, dad and brother and me – the rising sun will always hold special significance.

*

I remember the morning almost 48 years ago when my brother a lanky teen and I an eight year old, had tagged along with our parents on their usual walk in the Hanging Gardens. A quiet solitude bathed the garden, the animal figures carved from hedges barely discernible in the morning haze. As mummy and papa took their customary five rounds, bhaiya and I hung around, examining spider webs, hunting snails and caterpillars, playing hide and seek, and then tired, sitting at the far end of the park, enjoying the view from our vantage point atop the Malabar Hills ~ the steep slope of the rocky hillside, the high rise buildings in the distance, the Arabian sea down below.

Little did we know that at that very moment, our parents were making decisions that would change the course of our life. That my dad would decide to work on his dream of making a thesaurus in Hindi, a vital resource for the language not yet conceived and created by anyone. That my mom would begin saving in earnest so that my dad could give up his job as editor of the film magazine Madhuri and devote himself full-time to the thesaurus. That we would move to our family home in Delhi to escape the high cost of living in Bombay.

The sun was coming up as mummy-papa joined us. Together, we watched the rising sun bathe the sky a purple-pink, turning the gulmohar trees on the hillside a golden tangerine and the sea a mass of twinkling blue in the distance.

Mesmerized, the four of us stood there, hands resting on the garden railing, silently taking in the vast expanse of openness around us… Looking back, I realize, the rising sun had been a harbinger of hope and hard work in the times to come… forging the paths of our lives.

*

Two years later. 19 April 1976. The day my dad wrote the first card of the thesaurus.

Since their decision in the Hanging Gardens, my parents had actively begun to give shape to their dream. Preparations were afoot ~ reference books purchased, cards for writing the words printed, trays for housing the cards customized… Papa decided he would launch the work in Nasik, a city in Maharashtra on the banks of the holy river Godavari, where his company, the Times of India, had a guesthouse. We could stay at the guesthouse, a comfortable bungalow with huge gardens and compounds, for the entire summer while papa began work on the thesaurus. 

Rising early that day, the four of us made our way to the Godavari for a dip. Everything seemed special that day. The glow from the rising sun, the near-empty banks, the pigeons on the banks, the ring of temple bells, the whoosh of wind in the trees, the sound of our feet as we went down the steps to the river… 

The water rippled as the four of us waded in. I slipped my hand into my mom’s… For a long moment, the four of us stood there, looking out at the river stretching before us till it seemed to meet the sun in the sky, and in that moment, the river became a molten gold, blinding us to tears. It was magical. A perfect morning to launch a dream.

Later, we bought a copper urn and had the date engraved on its rim. Returning to the bungalow, papa wrote the first card of the thesaurus (then titled Shabdeshwari) and all four of us signed on it, date and all. 

Though I would fully appreciate the true significance of that day only twenty years later, when mummy and papa presented the first copy of Samantar Kosh, the first ever thesaurus in Hindi or any other modern Indian language, to the erstwhile President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma.

*

Today, forty five years later, I wonder: Was it fate? Or destiny? Or the will of a higher power that my dad’s dream became a family enterprise over the years? And that Samantar Kosh came to epitomize togetherness in its truest sense and became the binding link of our family?

Who would have thought that day on the banks of Godavari that papa would dedicate his entire life to Hindi, overcoming hurdles, physical, financial and personal, in his unabashed, undefeated and undeterred pursuit of a dream?

That my brother Sumeet would be instrumental in making papa’s dream come true. That he would organize funds for a computer, and despite being a surgeon, learn programming himself to create software for the database, and then teach papa how to work on it… and that he would become an integral part of all papa’s works for always.

That papa would not rest on his laurels even after the stupendous success of Samantar Kosh but continue to improve and update his database, and most importantly, link it to the English language making Arvind Lexicon the only bilingual database of its kind in the world.

That my mom would prove to be the ultimate partner in life and support my dad unconditionally through thick and thin. That she would be there alongside him ~ building the database, looking after his health, taking care of us.

That from a little girl who only comprehended that her father was working on a ‘book,’ I would take it upon myself to take papa’s work to the people. And that my husband Atul would encourage and support me completely in my efforts.

*

Last week, Samantar Kosh brought our family together once again. As part of our venture to document papa’s contribution to the Hindi language in a film, we came together at Rock Beach, Puducherry, a town where my parents and Sumeet spent many years working on the database. And the four of us, decades later, witnessed yet another glorious sunrise.

A cool breeze blew in from the sea as we made our way to the black rocky path jutting into the sea, the blue water stretching endlessly before us. And the orange disc of the sun becoming visible through the clouds above the water, tinting the sky a bright orange, outlining the clouds with a vivid pink. And brilliant rays of light fanning into the sky!

It was simply divine. 

Wordlessly, we watched as the magnificence of the moment filled us with wondrous joy, transporting us to another realm, drawing us still closer. It took us back in time to the sunrise at Hanging Gardens when the four of us had begun our journey almost five decades ago. We stood there now, each one of us silently acknowledging the vital forces of nature that had been inspiring us, guiding us, urging us, all along. Each one of us happily aware that togetherness along with devotion and dedication are key to realizing dreams, however unattainable they may seem!

We turned back, revived and revitalized, with another dream in our eyes, the vision of linking the Arvind Lexicon database with global languages to create a World Bank of Words… the rising sun our witness once again.

REBOOT @50

REBOOT @50

With every passing year, our circumstances change, our aspirations change, our priorities change… and life? Life adjusts accordingly.

At 20, I was a student looking to complete my education, begin a career, get married. At 25, I was married with a baby girl and working with an international NGO. At 30, I had crossed over from the field of health & nutrition to hard core consumer research. At 35, I was a mother of two and had given up my full time job to work from home. At 40, I took up my passion for writing, wrote on health for newspapers and magazines and authored a book on nutrition. At 45, I set up a firm for publishing our in-house dictionaries and thesauruses.

At 50, my children had flown the nest, and it was just me and my husband at home… We spent more time with our parents and friends, travelled, ate out, attended plays & exhibitions, binge-watched TV shows… a refreshing change from the time-bound commitments of earlier years.  

It also gave us a lot of time to think. To think about ourselves. What did we want as individuals? As a couple? As a family? What direction did we now want our life to take? More importantly, how could we prevent ourselves from sliding into a comfortable existence with only memories and remembrances to bring joy? How could we ensure that we had something to look forward to every single day?

This thinking-through process was especially important for me. I had spent the last 20 years working from home in the mornings and then being with the children when they were back from school. Now I had the entire day to myself. How could I make my days more meaningful, more purposeful?

It was now time. Time to review, renew, refresh. Time to reboot.

*

Something the American talk show host Oprah Winfrey frequently talks about finds complete resonance within me.

Your life journey is about learning to become more of who you are, and fulfilling the highest, truest expression of yourself as a human being. That’s why you’re here.

Oprah Winfrey

Inspired, I dug deep within me. I asked myself: What do I really want to do for the next 10, 20, and 30 years of my life? What gives me true happiness? What aspects of my life do I need to change? What flaws do I see in myself? How can I align myself more with the world around me? And the answers set me off on a path of self-actualization wherein I have done the following:

1       I have reignited my spark for learning.

I have become passionately curious. I am all eyes and ears for news on politics, economics, technology, business, health, fashion… I realize that being up-to-date helps me understand the world we live in, it empowers me to participate in conversations freely and knowledgeably.

To stay intellectually alive, I try to expand my knowledge every which way I can ~ meeting new people; reading newspapers, magazines, and books; listening to podcasts and talks; watching YouTube videos, films, documentaries and TV shows; participating in workshops and master classes… I now seek to learn from each person I meet, every interaction I have, anything I come across. So that I never ever become outdated.

2      I have become more social.

Nothing de-stresses more than the company of people we like and vibe with. I have reconnected with long-lost friends from childhood, teachers from school, colleagues of yesteryears. I now mingle with them regularly ~ heart-warming interactions over coffee or a meal or on whatsapp. I do more ‘together’ things with them ~ zumba, dance, mah-jong, movies, short holidays and such.

I have also begun volunteering within our community, something unimaginable five years ago!

3      I have taken charge of my health.

I have – with considerable success – shaken myself out of my comfort zone and begun to focus on improving my eating habits, exercising seriously, resting adequately, getting health checks regularly and whatnot. And believe me, the sense of satisfaction is beyond description.

4      I have tried to become a better version of myself.

I have finally begun applying the self-help gyaan I have been reading over the last so many years. (Richard Carlson remains my favorite author till date… his Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series suggests simple daily changes for leading a more fulfilled and peaceful life.)

For instance, I am – slowly but surely – making peace with imperfection and becoming more tolerant; letting go and accepting others as they are; talking less, listening more; becoming more compassionate, more kind, more helpful…  Most importantly, I have become less rigid in my likes and dislikes and more open to change.

My self-improvement list is endless… but a beginning HAS been made. I now get along with the world more easily, more amicably.

5       I try to make every day count.

Every day is important and I try to include all that I consider essential in my day – work, fun, rest, exercise, socializing… so that when I go to bed, I can happily (and honestly) tell myself that the day had been meaningful and that tomorrow will be even better.

*

Given the improved quality of life and advanced health care in our times, I genuinely believe that the 50-70 year category is the new middle age. And this definitely merits a major re-think of our life as we turn 50.

Each one of us is unique. And the path we choose for ourselves will also be unique. But choose we must. So that the next few decades can be as full of energy as the decades gone by. With no regrets for the ‘roads not taken’.

The very fact that I have been able to identify my path fills me with great joy. The knowledge that I am moving along my chosen path fills me with an intense sense of fulfilment.

And I look forward to my next REBOOT@60!

Hello Aparna.

We don’t know each other though I have seen you on the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. Something you said on the show has been bothering me for months. Hence this letter. Don’t dump it… read through please.

Your single-minded conviction to excel is impressive. You moved to the US with your mum and sis when you were a kid. Today, you are a young successful lawyer in Houston. Bravo! In search of a ‘perfect’ mate, you have networked with friends, tried dating apps, and now, hope to find one through the services of a matchmaker. And I sincerely wish you find your match soon!

And perhaps my ‘two-penny worth’ could help you in your quest? And who am I, you may ask, to advise you? Consider me a well-wisher who is happily married with two grown-up children and who would like to share her learnings from a life spent living with the same man for the last 30 years.

An interfering antiquated auntie? That I am not. DEFINITELY NOT!

*

You are right: we don’t pick our parents, we don’t pick our siblings, the only family member we CAN choose is our spouse. True. It’s a choice with lifelong repercussions. You seem to be a person with sound judgment; indeed, as you say, every choice you have made since the age of three has been great. Good for you. This will surely help you find the right man soon!

True. One can’t settle with just about anybody. And you have every right to reject men ‘because they haven’t fit with what I want in my life partner.’ But what really unsettles me is your single-minded steadfastness when you say that the person you pick has to fit into your life perfectly.

How does this happen Aparna? Is a perfect fit possible when two people come together?

You rejected one guy because he loved football and you hate it. You declared that you would never watch football with him, not live, not on TV. You didn’t think much either of the guy who had not heard of the salt plains of Bolivia or of the man who said he would like to visit Dubai and South Africa, both places you don’t think much of. You found it weird when someone expressed the wish to spend ten days on a beach, doing nothing. You were horrified by the prospect of going mountain climbing with another. Anyone with a sense of humor, according to you, does not take life seriously.

Aparna, each partner brings his or her own likes, dislikes, interests, obsessions, strengths, weaknesses into the relationship. Every individual is unique. Even congenital twins. So how can a spouse be exactly like you? Does one marry a clone?

My husband Atul and I are poles apart. He loves anything and everything to do with business, economics, politics, crime, war ~ be it news, books, movies, shows, documentaries. I am into nature, history, travel, space, art, literature, sci-fi and romcoms. I love shopping, he does not. I am crazy about movies, he is not. I love meeting people, he is unusually shy. He loves to eat out, I am a cook-and-eat-at-home person. He is committed to golf, I am not. I can go on and on about how different we are as individuals… Yet, our relationship resonates with happy togetherness.

Each one of us has learned from the other, experienced new things, widened our perspective and I seriously believe, grown into better individuals with time. And isn’t this how it should be when two people share a life? And this togetherness has taken days, months, years to nurture.

I request you Aparna to approach the matter differently…

Don’t be categorical about what you like and what you don’t. Instead, next time you meet a prospective match, ask yourself: Do I connect with this man? Because if you do, you can carve out a shared vision for your life together.

Communication is key. In all relationships. To talk, discuss, argue. To share your thoughts, to express your viewpoint. To sort out differences, to bridge the divide, to be able to reach an agreement. Especially since each partner brings his or her unique ideals, experiences and expectations into the marriage.

And once you do settle on a match, commit yourself wholeheartedly. Marriage then can be a wonderful journey where both of you grow without growing apart, without changing the other, without resenting the other.

*

Another thing on the show bothers me. The matchmaker Seema Taparia reiterates, time and again, that marriage is a compromise. I disagree.

Compromise implies giving in, relenting, resigning, succumbing, suffering, doing something against your will. Marriage is not a game of one-upmanship. You and your spouse are a team. If changing one’s ways helps the team, it is NOT compromise. It is charting a path with mutual agreement, even when at times, it may not be entirely suitable or convenient to one of them.

A married couple creates (or rather, needs to create) a life where strengths and weaknesses of one complement the other. Somewhat like Atul and me. Where his ethically motivated choices complement my aesthetically motivated ones such that, I am the action to his vision. He is the clarity to my clutter. I am the how to his why. He is the thinking to my feeling. I am the anchor to his industry. He is the contemplative to my reactive.

And it is this complementariness that secures and strengthens our relationship. That keeps us warm and secure in happy times, in trying times.

*

This letter has begun to sound like a sermon… forgive me Aparna. But I HAD to write it in the hope that it sets you thinking anew. And when you do find your special someone, remember: No decision can be de-risked completely, however much you think, deliberate, analyse. And once you do decide on your mate, will you be happy?

Well, who knows?

MY Social Dilemma!

MY Social Dilemma!

It all began with the coronavirus lockdown.

As the lockdown kept getting extended, we as a family went completely online. Finally. I began to make all payments online – water, electricity, phones, house tax, staff salaries. The list of daily essentials would be Whatsapped to the grocer and payment transferred. Amazon and Flipkart sent us all the stuff we needed ~ sanitizer, face masks, vitamins and zinc, writing pads, shampoo, house slippers, walker for my dad-in-law, bindis for my mom, dog food, plant manure… even raakhees.

A simple swipe. For anything we needed. Any time of the day. From any device in the hand. At discounted rates. Guaranteed delivery. No driving, no parking hassles. No haggling, no physical contact.

Buying stuff had never been so convenient, so easy. And online shopping never so addictive.

*

Even as the city unlocks, my first instinct now is to check availability of things online before I venture out to the market. The wonders of online shopping have not been lost on Makku, the young girl who helps me around the house. She sits me down to buy things I am too lazy to shop for ~ microwave cover, shoe polish brushes, buckets and mugs, toilet caddy, ice cube trays, oil funnel… It is another matter that in the process, I have also bought an artisanal tea pot, milk frother, meat tenderizer, non-stick pans, makeup… other splendid stuff.

Late one night, I found amazing satin tulip pants on Instagram; one click, and they were home the next afternoon! It is an Aladdin’s cave out there… and I am bewitched by its treasures!

And then I saw the documentary film, The Social Dilemma, on Netflix (see note at end of post) that warns me: The wonders come at a price.

*

Big Tech experts in The Social Dilemma confirm allegations that have been around for some years: Corporations track our behavior on social networks. Every time we share feelings, ideas, thoughts and experiences on social media, each time we like a post or upload a pic or watch a video or tweet or do anything online, it is tracked. Every single thing. Our likes and dislikes. Our opinions. Our quirks. Our preferences. Our leanings. All are monitored and recorded. What gets our attention, how long we look at it, how we react to it, all is tracked. Anything and everything about us that helps social platforms learn what makes us tick.

But why would anyone want to understand us?

Because we are consumers. Potential buyers. Selling is the most difficult thing on earth and if the seller can understand and predict what we are likely to buy, they can position their stuff with sure-shot success.

*

Understandably, profit is the key motive of any commercial enterprise. The internet today is one big giant mall, a market place that did not exist until a few years ago. What makes the current system damaging is that the business model is disguised in the garb of social media.

We may think of social networking as the best way to connect and share our life with family and friends; the reality is quite menacing. All our data on social networks is fed into giant computers and analysed using algorithms. As technology advances, these algorithms are becoming better and smarter in selecting and showing us posts that will attract us, interest us, captivate us. It is their job to find out how they can catch our attention as much as possible. And it is this attention, this mindfulness of ours that social platforms sell to advertisers. This is how these corporations make money and are the richest in the world today. This is why we get FB and Insta and Twitter free because… someone else (the seller of goods) is paying for us.

We are unwittingly laying our lives bare on social platforms and this information is being mined to produce marketable predictions about what we will do/read/buy/believe next. It is a surveillance system that is, in the words of some experts, “extracting and exploiting what’s inside our heads” and controlling what we see. We remain unawares as our behavior changes, ever so little, ever so gradually. It is this imperceptible change in our behaviour that the social media platform seeks. And we happily let them do it.

Innocuously, we are being manipulated. And it is a part of a well-thought out conspiracy.

*

Their strategy is simple.

They first attract my attention.

My phone chimes. The notification bar blinks, and I, almost always, leave whatever I am doing to scroll down photos, invites, current events, messages, FB posts… I can’t seem to help myself. Precious minutes go by as I check new posts, respond to comments, send birthday wishes… until my attention is caught by something I like. I explore the entire category, marking things, checking out sizes… I scroll down and see fascinating stuff like the innovative toilet brush that scours out germs from the farthest reaches, the DYMO label maker that syncs with a smartphone…The onslaught continues. By design. This is how social media hooks my attention and keeps me engaged.

Then they begin to coax me. When I show interest in a product – be it dresses or ice cream or reflex balls, the same brand appears on top of my Facebook feed, my Insta feed the very next day… I must have watched the 30 second video for the expensive toilet brush at least 15 times! If this is not enticing me, what is?

Then social media tempts. With discounts. With emails from Amazon that urge me to place the order right away. Uff! Transparent, double-sided tape at 40% discount! Shoes at 20% off! Cash back rewards!

It’s human nature. When I see the same stuff again and again, day after day, I am likely to give in to the temptation. I finally bought the toilet brush when I saw a large discount on it the following week. Without me realizing when the seduction became coercion and the relentless pursuit led to my capitulation!

Which the social media platform knew and intended all along. This is persuasive technology at its best. These companies have spent billions of dollars in understanding our psychology; they know how to tempt us, how to persuade us, how to get us to do something they want us to do, and have built it into their technology. These companies are behaviour change geniuses. And we thought insurance agents are best at it!

*

My screen time on social networking sites over the last week was almost three hours per day! For a person who professes to be busy and always short on time, this is a horrifying revelation! And nothing short of hara-kiri!

Enough to shake me out of my stupor and ask myself:

Why am I checking out new posts on social media ever so often?

Am I a puppet in the hands of these corporations? A lab rat? A zombie?

Why am I becoming so materialistic? When did I lose my sense of objectivity?

Which leads me to the more worrying questions:

How good will my willpower be in resisting the lure of social media?

How can I hope to retain my sanity against supercomputers and their exponentially advancing artificial intelligence?

I suppose realization is always the first step.

*

PS: Would you like to share your experiences with social media?  

*****

About the new Netflix release The Social Dilemma

This docudrama explores the rise, over the past twenty years, of social platforms such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, WeChat and other services like YouTube, Quora, Snapchat, Pinterest, WhatsApp and many more. The film discusses, simply and succinctly, the impact of these social media from the viewpoints of technology experts, researchers and analysts from Silicon Valley, universities and think tanks.

The film also explains how, with its far reach and complete understanding of human psyche, social media has been able to bring like-minded people together and program them to behave in the nefarious interests of certain individuals; how it has affected real world emotions, moulded views, and triggered desired behaviour without ever triggering the users’ awareness; how easy it has been to radicalize society on the lines of race and religion, pursuits and preferences. 

An Eternal Quest?

Imagine reading a story 5000 years old. And then to realize that despite the millennia gone by, we face the same dilemma today and the solution remains as elusive as ever!

*

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one such story. The earliest surviving work of literature, the epic fictionalizes the reign of brave Sumerian king Gilgamesh who ruled Uruk in modern day Iraq around 2600 BCE.

In the story, King Gilgamesh is two-thirds divine and one-third mortal. He is young and handsome, energetic and athletic. Also cruel and arrogant. When the oppressed people of his kingdom appeal to the gods, they create Enkidu, an equal in brute strength, to humble Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu engage in fierce battle. Gilgamesh wins; the two acknowledging each other’s might, become friends. On one of their adventures, they incur the wrath of gods who decree Enkidu’s death.

When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh is inconsolable. He calls upon the mountains, forests, rivers, animals, and all of Uruk to mourn for his friend. He clings to his dead friend for days until he sees a maggot drop from the corpse’s nostril. Disgusted and appalled, he realizes that one day, he too will die. And he resolves to overcome death.  

He sets out to find Utnapishtim, the only man granted the gift of immortality by the gods. He travels for days under the mountains, over the oceans, until he finds Utnapishtim.

Utnapishtim asks Gilgamesh to first conquer the ‘little death’ of sleep for six days and seven nights. Gilgamesh is unable to pass the test. Utnapishtim then instructs him to fetch a magical thorny plant from the ocean’s center which rejuvenates and ‘makes an old man young’. Gilgamesh fails again.

A dejected, depressed Gilgamesh returns home, as mortal as ever but wiser with the revelation that “death is the inevitable destiny of man and man must learn to live with it.”

*

Like Gilgamesh, we accept death as inevitable. We live our lives knowing that in the end, we will leave everything – our bodies, our relationships, our material possessions – behind and become one with the elements. Yet, our innate instinct to survive keeps us searching for the key to youth and immortality.

The quest continues to this day.

*

Till the early 1900s, people could reach, at the most, middle age.  People died from poor health due to insanitary living conditions, inadequate nutrition and lack of medicines, surgical treatments and vaccines. Today, we can hope to live about 70-80 years which may increase by a few more years as healthcare improves. But even under the most ideal circumstances, the shelf life of our species cannot exceed 120 or 130 years. And living up to a fantastic age of 200 years or longer remains the substance of fiction, legends and myths.

*

Recent scientific advancements have given a modern fillip to our pursuit of eternal life. The fields of biology, genetics and medicine have come together with engineering, nanotechnology, computing and artificial intelligence to make the war against death more relentless than ever. AND we may be successful sooner than we think.

Interestingly, modern scientists have an entirely different take on death. They view the human body as a system run by tens of thousands of biological processes. The body is at peak performance in the early 20s; thereafter, it keeps becoming slower, weaker, and more prone to infection and disease. What if we could maintain optimal biological performance indefinitely? What if we could strengthen the body’s ability to resist infection and ward off disease?  What if we could regenerate or replace damaged tissues and organs in the body? What if we could remove all glitches in the system? What then could prevent us from leading a healthy productive life forever?

Sounds improbable? But then, so did treating injuries and infections two hundred years ago!

*

Government institutions, private organizations and academic institutes all over the world are exploring different routes to slow down aging.

Genetic engineering – wherein genes are edited or removed/ added/ activated/ inactivated – shows the most promising potential to extend life. While 15 genes have been manipulated to extend the life of worms, flies and mice by almost 50 per cent, similar bioengineering in humans will be many times harder. But not impossible.

Antioxidant therapy to remove free radicals – toxic elements that accumulate in the cells with age – has been able to extend the life of fruit flies and worms, and made rats more physically and mentally agile. Will consuming antioxidant-rich supplements then delay aging for us humans too?

Particularly promising is the development of a class of drugs called senolytics which destroy cells that stop dividing and secrete compounds that damage surrounding tissues in old age. Or will deft manipulation of declining levels of hormones and antibodies do the trick?

Another approach reduces caloric intake in diet to slow down aging. Since humans are unlikely to starve themselves to prolong life, efforts are on to develop drugs that trick the body into thinking that it is on a drastically-reduced diet… could these mimetics do the magic for us?

Latest research at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine claims to have identified synergistic cellular pathways that amplify lifespan in tiny nematode worms called C. elegans by 500%! In terms of humans, this would be equivalent to a life of 400 or 500 years!

Also it may soon become possible to generate tissues from the patient’s own cells to replace defunct parts. Or to insert inorganic implants to replace damaged organs. Or to insert nano-robots into our cells to repair them or to open blocked blood vessels or to fight viruses and bacteria or to eliminate cancerous cells… Or perhaps to link our bodies inseparably with inorganic parts to modify our abilities, desires, personalities and identities?

Scientists sincerely believe that a combination of therapies will be required to remove all glitches in our functioning to give us an indefinite lifespan with good health. How soon? They cannot tell.

*

Anti-aging research is serious business today. The latest to enter the race for eternity are ultra-rich Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and technology innovators who are investing billions of dollars in anti-aging research be it Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, X Prize foundation founder Peter Diamandis and many others. Most of the companies and foundations set up by them are working in stealth mode and have not yet revealed concrete achievements.

How long will the quest for immortality take? 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years? Who knows… Perhaps we will be proven to be wrong all along. Only the future will tell.

Living in the FUTURE

Living in the FUTURE

This is an introduction to a new category on my blog ‘Living in the FUTURE’ which explores latest innovations and developments happening in our world today.

We humans are an inquisitive lot; and it is this trait that compelled our ancestors to venture out of Africa and overrun the entire world. We are also an acquisitive race, which is why we continually seek and strive to better ourselves and everything around us.

Over the last 70,000 years, we have driven all other strains of the Homo genus into extinction to become the sole surviving human species on earth. New ways of thinking and communicating and cooperating heralded the agricultural revolution, and led to the building of kingdoms, empires. We invented writing, created religion, introduced money to take our story forward; and in the last 500 years, have gained unprecedented power through scientific discoveries, industrialization and global trade. In more recent times, we have forayed into the realms of nuclear power, information technology, robotics and artificial intelligence. No longer limited by the boundaries of our planet, today we seek newer worlds in the infinite universe.

We sure have come a long way. What new frontiers will we conquer in the next 50 years? 500 years? 5000 years?

Science fiction writers and movie makers have been telling us fantastic stories about superhumans, intelligent machines, time travel, space missions, extraterrestrial civilizations, alien invasions, invisibility, and all that can be possibly – and impossibly – imagined! Perhaps the future will have some semblance to these far-fetched wonderful tales?

***

Undoubtedly, the future will be shaped by technological breakthroughs happening today. While it is difficult to look further than we can see, one thing is for sure: the future will be very different from what we can anticipate today. And my foremost thought, laced with quite some anxiety, is: How will I adapt to this new future?

When I look back at the last 10, 20, 30 years, in fact all my adult years, my life has changed phenomenally. Computers, smartphones, flash drives, search engines, Google maps, YouTube, social media, cloud computing, Bluetooth, electric cars, 3D printing, e-readers, online shopping… are an integral part of my life today… and I, like others in my generation, often catch myself thinking, “How on earth did I manage without them?!”

And the breakneck speed at which science and technology are advancing in our 21st century is mindboggling! Disruption is a tsunami taking down the old order furiously… The future is already happening ~ every day, everywhere. AND we need to ride the furious waves of change. Otherwise we will be left behind ~ outdated, outmoded, outpaced.

I shudder to think of a time when I wake up to an alien world, disoriented, disabled, defeated. Overcome and overwhelmed by the changes around me. Changes that leave me feeling irrelevant and inconsequential. What meaning will my life have for me then?

To survive such a fate, I need to become a part of the change. I need to keep my fears under control. I need to become less rigid and more willing to accept new ideas. I need to update my knowledge. I need to sharpen my ability to learn new things and hone new skills. Only then will I become a natural resident of the new world. Most crucially, I should never allow my AGE to become a barrier in my endeavors.

The future is here. And we need to live in it. Now.