Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is necessity the mother of all inventions?

In one of my writing classes, to encourage the fruitful fusion of the right brain with the left side, the instructor suggested that we go crazy with our imagination. She asked us students to invent an equipment/machine (in our fantasies) and write a few lines about this "dream come true" piece. Okay, so this machine could perform any function that you wanted. The caveat: it could perform only one core task.

Anyway, when the time came for us to go around the class and share our imaginations, I was dumbfounded by some of the choices. The classroom was redolent of New York attitude. Each one of us, even in our fantasies, chose to invent utilitarian objects, in turn, making life easier for ourselves. Like automatic dog poop picker, mugger alarm, subway sound-deafener, tourist-repellant etc. I was one of those who chose to invent a machine that would give a 30-second buzz to men adorned with jewelry--like zinging them and throwing them across the room. I mean a thin chain across a man’s neck or a wedding band is one thing; but some men can take it too far with piercing and metal indulgence. Well men, here is a newsflash: call it sexist, but most women get nauseated when you flash your bracelets, earrings, and other strange piercing and blind us with metallic reflection.

I digress. Anyway, about fifty percent of the class shared a common desire. How strange is that, right? They wanted to create a remote that would mute kids around them—kinda like the Adam Sandler movie, “Click.” None of these people came across as children loathers. They didn’t mind the presence of kids in their world; they just preferred not to hear them.

Let's talk about the "mute- the-child-" remote that most of my classmates decided to invent. The few of us, pretending to be socially appropriate, expressed our surprise at the choice. I mean, how could they say such a thing? Aren’t children lovely etc. etc. etc.? The truth is, every adult, at one point or the other in his or her lives, has desired for a gadget of the sort. I have friends, who love their children, but would trade in their vintage jewelry for moments of silence. Still, I pondered over the candidness with which my classmates opened up their heart.

The same evening on the subway ride home, in my continued state of bedlam, I was rudely introduced to the adage and the reality in "necessity is the mother of all inventions." A lady with two kids (maybe 8-year old girl and 6-year old boy) hopped onto the subway. Okay, my Indian customs and attitude coerce me into offering a seat to the elderly, pregnant, and people with children but at 10:30p.m., on a weeknight especially, I wish I could care less. I mean, by then, I am out of compassion and full of cynicism, hunger, and exhaustion. You know what gets me the most-- people embarking on the sympathy bandwagon and cashing on the situation--like this lady. With a pitiable face, she stood right next to a few us --”Poor me. I don’t have a seat.” Before I could replace my irritation with empathy and offer the woman my seat, someone else decided to earn “good karma” points and did the good deed.

Uh-oh! Biggest blunder.

The baby boy (old enough to have a coherent conversation) decided to pollute the subway car full of ornery commuters with his shrieking and yelling. He wasn't in pain; he was being a pain by throwing unnecessary tantrum for attention. Everyone sitting around the family had the same look and thoughts too, "Get off the train. It's too late in the night for this drama.” The mother looked aggravated with her child and a bit mortified too. Twenty random strangers giving you the “I hate you” look cannot be pleasant for anyone.

Anyway, at one point, I thought something would happen to this kid if he didn’t stop screaming and drowning in his tears. After 30 minutes of howling, this brutish boy decided changing strategy for attention. He started singing, "If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands". He expected the rest of the commuters to join his choir and scream our lungs out. I think his mother agreed with him. Ironically, happiness arrogantly exuded the train when the wailing kid decided to embrace it. The song was like spreading salt over a wound.

It dawned onto me what my classmates had been venting about all evening. When my stop finally came, I mentally apologized to them. I could finally vividly see the genius as well as agony behind their fantasy.The train ride taught me that necessity is the mother of all invention. I guess, Bose came out with those soundproof headphones after genuine market research. Maybe my classmates were a part of their focus group. Who knows?

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.11.2008

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” ~Franklin P. Jones


SB said...

Funny...sign of things to come for me!

Already people roll their eyes and hope they're sitting far away as possible from me + baby on flights!

Anonymous said...

Haaaaa. Really funny. so you.

S said...

I liked it! Thanks for sharing.