Sunday was turning out to be inconsequential. I was lazing and gazing on a tiny patch of green that I call my terrace garden. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a house sparrow in ages. Where did they disappear?
It is now a cliché to reminisce the beauty of my adopted hometown, Bangalore. But one of the little things that added to the sounds of the city was the chirpy sparrow. I lifted my gaze and as if all of a sudden the view changed. I wondered why I had not seen it. May be it crept upon me ever so slowly that I did not notice. The utterly monstrous nature of the cancerous concrete has devoured everything that was once Bangalore. The little sparrow lost all the nesting places; the cacophony of the new urban civilization drowned its existence to the biological archives.
Nostalgia is a beautiful place to visit. It just needs a trigger to turn the clock back. The thought of the sparrow sent me floating back in time. Of the few things I have carefully preserved, my Walkman WMD6 occupies the pride of place. It was the finest machine of its kind that Sony or any of its many pathetic clones made. I also acquired its smaller brother, the Walkman WM DC2 which was basically the same machine but without recording function. Both are in pristine condition and perform as well as it should.
Listening to cassettes seemed strange. The sound of music of yesteryears did sound aged and curiously I felt something was missing. Our brains are now so fried with the fidelity of digital sound that even the once mighty WM D6 felt like a inadequate relic. I sighed.
I succumbed to the desire to compare it with the iPod touch. I was being unfair. iTunes and playlists destroyed the world in which the Walkman thrived. The iPod rearranged our brains. The word Walkman has become a sparrow.
Technology is a many splendored thing. It’s a trap. It’s a disruptor. It’s a creator. Of contexts and expectations. It trapped Sony in the cassette context so badly that they went blind. Thank God for that. For if Sony executives had understood that the idea of the Walkman was bigger than the cassette player; if they felt the joy of freedom that playlists provided against the tyranny of obnoxiously priced cassettes and later CDs; if they had trusted their wonderfully gifted engineers; if they were a bit more attentive to what people were doing to get music, we may never have had the iPod. And Sony’s sparrow would still be chirping!