As individuals, families and communities, we all respond to change differently. We accept or resist it, we sometimes settle for a compromise, evolving to accommodate change.
Although recognized, change is not as often realized.
As we gravitate towards an era where we turn more unmindful and impervious to this condition, it is perhaps imperative to question the equations that structure in our lives.
What is essentially dispensable and what is not.
Immediately after independence, driven by the need to build a strong economy, the Indian government implemented economic policies that promoted industrialization, import substitution and the growth of the public sector through central planning that failed, creating a macro¬economic crisis, curbing the country’s economic growth immensely. This is debatable as many economists argue that the emphasis on building the public sector enabled equitable growth and the building of infrastructure that laid the foundation for economic liberalization 45 years later.
The decades that followed independence were characterized by a pride in Indian goods and a collective desire to contribute towards to the economic development of the young nation. This aspiration was embodied in slogans such as ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’ a carry over of Gandhi’s call to boycott foreign goods and embrace Swadeshi. Thrift was a virtue and saving an imperative. Middle class families tended to make do with what they had rather than hanker for what they could not afford.
Sixty years after independence the mood is completely different. The year 1991 saw the beginning of a new era of globalization that began with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Economic reforms, disinvestment in the public sector and impetus to foreign direct investment opened the country to foreign trade and privatization of many sectors.
The arrival of global brands, increased investment in telecommunications and easy availability of credit resulted in increased consumerism across the Indian middle classes. The ‘Make Do’ perspective gave way to ‘Must Have’. All these changes lead to the Indian middle class household becoming a platform for technological experimentation. The privacy of the middle class home as well as the public space was invaded by a series of evolving tools and technologies.
Growing up in my grandparents’ home during this period, I was oblivious to not just the fact that we functioned differently but had distinctly different experiences and relationships with technology in spite of subconsciously accepting our differences and establishing a healthy rapport.
From there, I tried to find these instances and the spaces within which our differences manifested. After going round the clock, observing our lives, I started coming across tools… both simple and complex tools that guided both our activities through the day and our lives.
One such space I explored was communication, specifically transmission of sound, the first form of live communication and the tools that enabled it. Something about the way my generation and my grandparents’ generation has been socialized, combined with this new communication technology generated various interesting interactions between individuals, communi¬ties and the tools itself. Interactions that reflected our dispositions, perspectives and practices.
The phenomenal rate of change has prevented us from questioning, comparing, judging and reflecting on even the most elementary activities we engage in.
This compilation is a study and representation of such technology mediated interactions that took place over the past fifty years in the Indian middle class household.
Stories about interactions tell us how these were key in shaping our social and personal lives, redefining our values and constructing “middle class culture”.