I sat across the man in squared glasses. I was just out of college and quite nervous in that awfully cold room. “So, where do you see yourself in 20 years?”, he asked me.
I had heard that question before. It was my fourth interview and I had realised by then that I was supposed to know the answer. I don’t remember what I told the man, but I think I must have said something right because, very soon, I was on their work floor — day after day. Now, many years later, I am reminded of that question. Funnily enough, I have the answers too — many of them.
Back in the days, the year 2020 was a timeline, most people had their eyes on — visionaries, politicians, scientists — everyone. It was called “Vision 2020”. There were lofty ideas — tall skyscrapers with clouds floating around, superfast vehicles, space travel and what not. Some cynics told us that, we would live in arid lands and we would have to look for a new planet to live. Sci-fi movies had its own set of ideas that wanted us to believe in flying cars, robots that could predict crime, and come, 2020, we could potentially be taken over by an army of robots.
It seems like, we may be outdone by something we cannot see. To fight this, we don’t need sabre swords, nor those fancy flying cars.
I was young and a believer. I had my own set of dreams. “Maybe we will live in a spaceship”, I had thought. Naturally, owning a car was simply not in my plan and learning to drive one sounded ludicrous. My creative juices splashed images of capsules that could travel in supersonic speed and I was almost certain that long train journeys would be history.
“You know, some scientist will definitely try to have a Jurassic Park of sorts in some remote island”, I had told my friend. “Who knows”, she had said, “that would mean, we would have to live on the moon” and both of us had agreed on that bit.
Today, as I go over the ideas of my younger self, I laugh. While the year did start off with a lot of promise, the weeks that have followed have handed us with many things that are nowhere near the grand “Vision”. Yes, mobile phones have transformed our lives like nothing else has but we all still continue to do the same things our forefathers did in terms of eating, showering and sleeping. We are mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, mining cookbooks for recipes and restricting ourselves to confined spaces. But, what seems to have us connected to the world and keep us all sane is a miracle called internet that fits in our palms. This truth alone has become more evident this year than ever before.
“Can I go back in time and tell my 20 year old self how 2020 would be like”, I shake my head in disbelief.
I wonder how my interviewer would react upon hearing all the possible things about the year. Nope. Nothing much happens in 2020 because, all that people are trying to do is stay safe. There are no Mars missions because, outside is an area we have to get to in the first place. Nor are there any dinosaurs being made as most scientists are busy working on Petri dishes hoping to discover a magical remedy. No. We have not been overtaken by an army of robots.
It seems like, we may be outdone by something we cannot see. To fight this, we don’t need sabre swords, nor those fancy flying cars. And, for the first time in the planet’s history, nearly half the humankind is doing one thing in common — staying home to put up a fight! That, my friend is the biggest twist in the story that no one saw coming.
— Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.