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Suresh Menon: Ringing in the (non) changes

Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.


There are those who, upon hearing of a new version or the latest update of a gizmo, rush to buy it. They can't afford to be seen with last year's phone or the previous leap year's nose clippers or, quite often, the past decade's wife.

In their ideal world, they would carry with them a mobile phone that is yet to be invented, a version of a pad the company has not yet thought of, a television set that is straight out of a futuristic movie.

The obsession with buying the latest, however, does not guarantee that a person will actually do so. Quite often this obsession means that nothing is actually bought. The reasoning is simple: let's wait another year for the even-more-latest version.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason many of us don't have the latest gizmos on us. It is not that we don't like the pad 3 or phone 4 or anti-virus 6 or operating system 8, we just know that pad 4 and phone 5 and anti-virus 7 and operating system 9 are just around the corner, so why not wait? It is possible that some of us will go to our graves without having handled even once many of the labour-saving devices our children take for granted.

All good things come to those who wait, the saying goes. Not applicable, however, in the case of the galloping numbers that follow many of our gizmos.

Economists don't have a word for it - perhaps they are loath to have one in case someone else comes up with a better word soon after they do. ‘Postponed gratification' lacks zing, and ‘future enjoyment' is not even true, for the future is always ahead of us, and so are the smaller, better, fancier, more exciting gizmos and never the twain shall meet. The wait is never-ending - perhaps we can call it the two-in-the-bush syndrome.

I suffered a version of this as a child planning to write a letter to friends. "But if I write it tomorrow, I will have more to say," I would argue and postpone it. Next day I would argue for the efficiency of writing the following week, with more news, and more views. In the end, of course, I would never write for, as we know from experience, next week, like tomorrow, never comes.

The trick, I have discovered, is to skip the middle generations. Go from phone 6 to phone 21, for example, ignoring everything in between.

On the other hand, if enough of us didn't buy phone 6, there would be no phone 21. Isn't it nice to know that both the buyers and the waiters contribute to our economy?