Digital Deepavali

After putting it off for some days now, with the benefit of having some prior engagements rescheduled at the last moment, my wife and I finally dropped by a Deepavali bazaar, last Friday. We just wanted to take a look at what was on offer at a nearby bazaar. With the times being what it is, we decided to go with a strict budget, one of the low-budget type. This was to be a reconnaissance only trip. Yes, strictly window shopping only. At least, that was the plan.

Source: Pexels

So there we were, moving from one stall to the other. Looking at clothes of all shapes and sizes. Clothes in all shades of colour, all sorts of texture, decorated with simple to intricate patterns and designed for adults and children, as well as for men and women. There were stalls that offered all the mouth-watering delicacies that one can’t help indulge in, never mind what the doctor says. Delicacies ranging from the sinfully sweet candies to the ever so crunchy murukku.

Source: Pexels

Then there were the stalls offering an array of accessories for the women to match with their beautiful and vibrant outfits. The accessories ranged from bangles made out of metal and glass to ear-rings of all sizes and designs. There were stalls displaying incense stick-like sparkles, boxes of the noisy pop pops and some packets of firework. There were also stalls that sold decorations to spruce up the house for the upcoming festivities.

Having walked among the stalls from one end to the other, taking in all the sights, while trying to speak with each other over the cacophony of various songs blaring out of the speakers, my wife asked me a question. She asked, if I noticed something or more accurately said, if I noticed the absence of something. She mentioned that she did not notice any greeting cards displayed for sale at any of the stalls we passed by and asked if I noticed any.

Source: Adapted from Pixabay

Now, I am not sure about other bazaars as we have only been to one thus far but I was quite certain that there were no greeting cards being sold at the bazaar that we were at. In fact, I was not even looking for it as I had not planned to send one nor have I sent out a Deepavali greeting card in years. It took me a while to recall when I last gave someone or mailed out a physical Deepavali card. I think it was some time in the 00s, that I gave or posted a Deepavali greeting card.

That’s when it struck me, how technology has in some ways, changed the way we celebrate festivals with our loved ones and friends. At the turn of the century, with increasing access to the internet and emails, greeting cards were slowly replaced by electronic cards or better known as e-cards. E-cards, made up of a mix of colourful texts and images to short animated clips, conveyed the same greetings, albeit electronically, replacing the need for physical greeting cards. Sending e-cards was also faster and cost almost close to nothing.

Source: Pixabay

This expanded further to the usage of MMS as a form of greeting during festive season. Then, as the usage of smart phone and with it, messengers like Whatsapp, became widespread, usage of e-cards themselves dwindled. They made way for even more creative messages, sent out via messengers in the form of text, images or even short animations. These could easily be edited with personal messages or simply be reused and sent out immediately to others in the contact list. These messages can be sent out in an instant, to a large number of people, all within a few clicks and best of all, from the comfort of one’s own home instead of a trip to the post office.

With lesser greeting cards being sent around one other aspect of the festivities also changed. Back in the days of the physical greeting cards, it was quite common for the cards themselves to be part of the festive decorations. The colourful physical cards of all sorts of design, would be placed on the tables and adorn the walls during the festive season. These days, there are less or zero cards being used as decorations. Besides, I don’t recall seeing anyone having printed versions of MMS, e-cards or messages from messengers, used as festive decorations, at least.

Source: Pixabay

Technology, to an extent has changed the way we celebrate and share the festive joy with our loved ones and friends. It has made it easier and faster, to send greetings and wishes to others during the festive season. It has even saved us the embarrassing realisation of not having sent out a card to someone who took the trouble to buy, write and send out a greeting card to us. Besides, it may have helped us in some ways, to be environmentally friendly during the festive season.

As my wife and I drove back after our visit to the bazaar, I wondered how much more would technology change the way we celebrate festivals. With online shopping and the availability of everything and anything on it, I did wonder if festive bazaars like the one that I just left, would survive in the current form or change in any way to be relevant with the current times. In case you are wondering, our plan of a reconnaissance only trip to the Deepavali bazaar, it failed miserably. I suppose one can’t do “window” shopping at a bazaar, among stalls that lacked windows. No, the change in plan was not affected by technology. It was simply a battle than the mind lost, over matter.

P.S.: The image of the vilakku was sourced from Pixabay.

P.P.S.: Yes, I am hoping to post more regularly, instead of one every few months. Hope that the next one will be up around Deepavali.

To moon and beyond


Source: Pexels

About a month or two ago, while surfing the many channels that I seem to have subscribed to via Astro, I ended up watching a small part of a documentary entitled Moon Machines[1][2]. Luckily, as most shows aired on Astro are repeated at a later time, I managed to watch all six episodes of the Moon Machines series of documentary over a six-week period. The documentaries brought back a warm feeling and some fond memories of my childhood. It reminded me of my deep fascination about the moon in particular and the cosmos in general.

As a little boy, I have always been fascinated by the moon. I can’t really remember when this fascination started or what exactly brought it about. However, I am pretty certain that I wasn’t fascinated with the moon because I happen to be a werewolf, just in case you were wondering. What I do know, is that as a child I gazed up longingly into the star littered sky on clear nights. I enjoyed looking up at the beautiful cream coloured moon, imagining what it would be like to be on it and how earth would look like from up there. I used to wonder how the moon changed shape as it waxed from a new moon into a full moon and then waned from a full moon back into a new moon. I also wondered how the moon stayed up in the sky with all the stars at night, just as I wondered what kept the sun up there too.

Source: Pixabay

At some point in my childhood, I had this weird believe that the moon was made of cheese. I am certain that this must have been the result of a cartoon that I watched as a little child. At that time, it made silly young me fret as to what would happen to the moon if mice managed to get up there and build a colony. Perhaps that is what caused the moon to wax and wane, I thought. Thankfully, a combination of clarifications from my parents, a book about the moon and a section of an encyclopedia on the moon, helped set the record straight on what the moon actually is. Otherwise, I may have well gone to school, thinking that the moon is made of cheese and it is hung on the sky, just like the stars and sun.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong [3]

Growing up being inspired by the images of lunar landings from my encyclopedia, I wanted to travel to the moon. I wanted to walk on the moon, just like the astronauts from the Apollo missions had done[4]. Back then, what Neil Armstrong, followed by “Buzz” Aldrin, did, on 20th of July, 1969, encouraged me to read up all that I could find from the limited books that I had access to, about space programmes and missions to the moon. On hindsight, I think my ambition to become an engineer had some roots in my desire to go to the moon, as much as my incorrect childhood believe that it is an engineer who drives the locomotive engine at the head of the train.

Source: Pexels

Watching the documentary gave me some fresh insights into what happened in the background, from the conception of the idea to the actual landing on the moon and beyond. To start with, it took the vision and inspiration of great leaders to set the tone for the trip to the moon. Then American President, John F. Kennedy (JFK) made a speech in Congress, on the 25th of May 1961, stating his vision of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth[5]. JFK’s speech in Congress, got the Americans started on their mission to land a man on the moon.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” – John F. Kennedy[6]

Other than JFK, there was also the leadership of various people within the space programme, from NASA to the various vendors working with them, who led teams of thousands of people to work on the complex and challenging programme. There is no doubt that the space race with their Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, was a big motivation in America’s thrust to go to the moon. Afterall, until Apollo 11 landed successfully on the moon, the Soviets had always been one step ahead of the Americans in the space race, from having launched the first man-made satellite into Earth’s orbit to the first man-made satelite to orbit the moon[7].

Source: Pexels

Besides leadership, the amount of technological advancement and progress that came about from the mission to the moon is mind-boggling to say the least. There was the question of how to get man to the moon in the first place, which resulted in perfecting the already available rocket technology, from the fuel to the various stages of the rocket during its flight up to Earth’s orbit. It also brought about the design of the various modules in which the astronauts will travel in and return to earth. The final design, resulted in the command and lunar modules as well as the cone-like landing capsule.

Then there were the other questions, like what the astronauts were going to eat and drink, how they would go about with their regular bodily functions, how they would walk on the moon, how they would maneuver their space vehicle and so much more. Other than the rocket technology, most if not none of the questions had ready answers when JFK made his speech in front of the Congress and set the timeline to land man on the moon. Interestingly, each question resulted in new discoveries and huge leaps in technology. Integrated circuits, spacesuits, freeze-dried food, insulation, improvement in computer programming as well as the reduction in the size of a computer, were among some of the results of the advancement in technology, just to name a few[8][9].

Source: Pexels

There is no doubt that the mission to the moon back in the 1960s and early 1970s, had inspired an entire generation of people, not just in America and the Soviet Union but all over the world. Today, at a time when many countries around the world seem to face a lack of visionary leadership and people trying to destroy each other while attempting to send us back centuries into the Dark Ages, perhaps what we need is another mission to the moon or an equivalent to that. Such a mission might just be the catalyst that we need to get humanity focused on a common deed centering on something constructive and productive rather than trying to bring about Armageddon. A mission beyond the moon, perhaps to Mars, might just be the answer that we need to inspire yet another generation of humanity and bring us forward.