Saturday, May 31, 2014



I knew that something was wrong with him about eight months ago when suddenly in the midst of our conversation he blinked. Though this was not the first time, I was concerned, for in the past I knew it was due to a lack of energy and because he was fatigued. He used to come back to his normal self once he was plugged on and the charge started flowing through him. For a long time now he was on support system for his batteries had stopped functioning. I did not get him new ones as I found out they were costly and I couldn’t afford to buy them, but then it did not matter for he was quite comfortable being plugged on directly. It was only later that I realised that he had a major flaw. He used to start getting hot and ultimately too hot for me to handle. I found that the only way I could cool him down was to place him over a cool pad when I woke him up. Of course he was quite considerate for he always kept my coffee warm whenever I placed the cup next to him while working. It was my daughter who ultimately told me that the problem with him was in his genes (you see I never question her in such matters as she is into this biotech and genetics stuff and I have grown to rely on her for such advices from time to time). She said “Pa, he belongs to the AMD family of processors and they have a habit of getting hot very quickly. Why did you in the first place get him when there are more cool headed chaps out there?”

I told her “See he was given to me by Bank and I could take him with me when I retired and do you know he was one of the costlier and smarter ones out there and I did not want to let go of the Bank cheaply. What more, this guy had the ability to turn his head 180 degrees and I could fold him and also use him as a notebook (though of course I never did have the opportunity to work with him that way but I was always proud of showing of his abilities to others around).”

She only said “Since you do not want to let go of him I can only advice you to back him up every time you talk with him, after all you have put all your bets on him and if he decides that enough is enough and calls it a day you will be left high and dry. You see all these guys belong to an older generation and have lost their relevance now. You should seriously be in sync with the new generation.”

I kept quite thereafter for I was not sure whether she was advising me or taunting me. But I did follow what she told me and diligently followed her advice of backing up.

And then it increased the number of blinks in frequency and duration. That was not the only thing. I had also noticed that over the last two years his response time had slowed down considerably and he was finding it hard to recollect his memory. It could have been due to overload on account of my persistent conversations with him, but the doctor told me that he had viral infection. I told him “But doctor I have had him vaccinated a number of times, this should not have happened.”

He replied “You see every day a new strain of virus is causing more complications. I feel that you have exposed him to all sorts of unwanted sites from where he could have picked up the infection. If you ask me his days are numbered. You should actually look for newer and better options. The pity is that you cannot even go for an exchange as no one would want him and even if they do it will be a pittance.”

That was it but I continued with him for he had been a loyal companion all these years and was privy to all my secrets. I watched as he slowly started slipping into coma and then one day he blinked one last blink and then closed his eyes. I tried to revive him with all the methods I knew (quite a few of them had been effective on previous occasions). I wrung his neck 180 degrees and then folded him in and out trying to elicit some response, but to no avail. I knew he was dead, but I called in the doctor anyway and he repeated what he had said earlier and added nothing much can be done except that he can take his brains out and give it to me to be kept as a memory. I accepted his offer.

Now he lies buried below all my dresses in the cupboard much to the consternation of my wife who is ever annoyed with my habit of keeping all dead things with me and these include all my old cameras and watches. But I calm her down saying that who knows one day there might be a museum of all my dead possessions when I become famous and rich. She knows that I am an incorrigible optimist.

My daughter rang me up the next day and said “though in a way I am sad for you, one has to accept the reality that the old order gives way to the new. There is this latest generation Laptop that I am sending you – very sleek and fast and has a good memory and I am sure that I shall at least be able to hear and see you on Skype when next time you call.”

Yes the old order gives way to the new and that’s how it will always be. So what’s the difference between us and a laptop?


Ravi Easwaran said...

Good one ,Somerset.
to answer your question the laptop does not reflect consciousness ....your body does. Which is why this comment is addressed to you and not to your laptop. :)

vaikuntam said...

I remember a 'middle' many years ago about a friend called 'Chandubhai'. The author has lived with Chandubhai since early childhood. In Chandubhai's company the author enjoys food and speech. In particular, Chandubhai loves sweets. In the end, the author mourns the passing away of 'Chandubhai' the previous day - the tooth having been extracted by a dentist past its useful life.

Varsha Uke Nagpal said...

This is one of the calamities that strike in today's age! Thankfully, it is always with a warning. Happily you have got a new replacement quickly. The way things are changing for the better, and technology is getting upgraded, one has to keep moving very fast to be with the times.
Your epitaph has reminded me to take a backup, although everyday my laptop reminds me but I have been recalcitrant and lazy and have not been listening to my dear friend.
A very good read!

Suprabhat Ganguly said...

A fine piece of prose. The rate of obsolescence in technology is so fast that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace.

kerala said...

Great piece, Gopalasamudram. I mean your writing, not the laptop. My only complaint with you is the choice of gender. You should have used She instead of He, as a laptop is sleek, helpful, intelligent, has excellent memory and remembers the sites you visited secretly, none of which are qualities men have. And then you lost an opportunity of saying stuff like "She used to start getting hot and ultimately too hot for me to handle. I found that the only way I could cool her down was to place her over a cool pad when I woke her up." :)

Induchoodan said...

Fine piece of writing, Subbu. The similarity between human brain and the computer is indeed striking. But there is also a major difference. The laptop does not have the additional baggage of emotions which clutters its operations. May be that is what distinguishes consciousness from the computer.