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The machine age

Monday November 29 2004 09:11 IST

By Karmayogi

Discussing the character of people in various parts of the earth from many angles, a famous European author came to the topic of Asians handling machines entrusted to them. For over a hundred years, the Machine Age is ruling the destiny of man.

The machine has come to stay. Man no longer can escape it. Even the saintly Mahatma who set his face against the machine had to use a few of them sparingly. He could not travel all over India on foot as his disciple Vinobha did.

He had to hire a special train. The machine was born in Europe and has spread all over the world. The Chinese used powder in their crackers long before the Europeans, but rifles and cannons were made in Europe.

A century of scientific thinking followed by another century of technological innovation saturated Europe with a culture of machine where the worker feels a sentimental reverence for the machine he uses.

We use the machines the Europeans have discovered. Naturally, we are not so oriented towards their operation and maintenance. The author who dwells on this theme at length makes several valid remarks about Asians handling the machines entrusted to them.

He says the Asians do not fully understand the atmosphere the workshop demands, nor do they know about the upkeep of the machines.

With the result, looking at their performance after some years, the author says a European employer would rather hand over the machine to an ill-qualified Westerner than to a well-qualified Asian.

Every observation of this author is literally true. It is true we have not invented them, designed them or manufactured them. But we are using them for over a hundred years. Even in future, we Indians are not going to deny ourselves the use of machines, as they are a live part of our existence.

What do we do in this context? What is our heritage and potential? The relation of the Westerner to the machine is one of the parent who gave birth to it. His association is long and absolute.

The Westerner often talks to his machine. He refers to it as she. Still, the relationship is one on the surface of his being. We relate to the field we plough as bhooma devi, the grain as Lakshmi, our tools as gods.

We have a festival for them, Ayudha pooja. We are capable of knowing the tools as gods and worshipping them. It is a deeper relationship than the Westerners interest. At least, at our best we can rise to his level when we draw upon our spiritual attitude.

Thus, we will overcome the lack we now suffer.

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