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What we won’t have in 2030

Aditi Sengupta | Updated on January 02, 2020 Published on January 02, 2020

Read the signs: Not just librarians, receptionists and bank tellers may also be counted among ‘things of the past’ by 2030   -  H VIBHU

The resourceful librarian, the large-hearted grocer and fresh air are unlikely to see us into the next decade

People of a certain vintage will remember those huge halls, with high shelves spilling with books, and signs on the wall that said: ‘Silence’. Along with those rooms, the friendly, occasionally formidable, but always bespectacled person who was a storehouse of information on anything from Kafka to Kant is likely to be relegated to the pages of a dictionary. For the library — and the librarian — will soon be going out of our lives.

Not just librarians, by 2030, receptionists and bank tellers, too, may be counted among ‘things of the past’ or ‘holders of jobs that don’t exist anymore’. Automated systems and self-checkout machines are fast replacing human-to-human interactions across counters and windows. And the growing popularity of Kindles, tablets and e-libraries is elbowing the resourceful librarian into obsolescence. Also headed the librarian way is the bookshop owner. Who is going to browse for books in brick-and-mortar shops when you have the Internet telling you what you would like to read?

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover — one that underlines the danger of placing too much importance on outward appearances — needs a new twist of life. E-books don’t quite need the cover to reach out to the reader. Social media posts, bloggers and search engine algorithms will do the needful. But the human face — one of the first things to be judged when it comes to appearances — will still be as important. That’s because passwords will be passé; facial recognition software will unlock every door, from homes to smartphones.

Among all that we will miss in 2030 will be paper, for the invasion of the digital, which is likely to grow stronger with every passing year, also spells the end of paper. This, one may argue, augurs well for our trees. The man who still delivers the newspaper every morning may feel differently about it. And the magazine vendor, who is still a fixture at most railway stations across India, may not be around at the end of this decade, to help you kill time at the platform. There are no postcards to send home anyway. Emails replaced them years ago.

The next 10 years will weave more changes into our lives, and we will be bidding a nostalgic goodbye to many who were once a part of our lives. Take the friendly neighbourhood grocer. First threatened by big departmental stores that offered patrons a discount that he couldn’t match, the kirana storewallah now has to contend with digital orders and e-baskets. Goodbye, grocer, and thank you for all that you gave us on loan.

The all-familiar seasons — spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter — won’t be the same anymore. Global warming has already transformed climatic patterns across the world. Summers in Delhi, for example, are no longer the kind that help ripen mangoes, with the mercury adamant on staying at 45 degrees Celsius or more. Mumbai’s monsoons are likely to become heavier but erratic. And spring — that breath of cheerfulness and colour after a grey winter — is getting shorter. If it’s any consolation, climate change has gifted new words to the urban lexicon. We can fall back on ‘solastalgia’ — a word coined in Australia to describe the feeling of distress caused by environmental changes — when we have no use for “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.

Decline in annual rainfall and overpopulation in cities have already put a premium on drinking water — something that we tend to waste in restaurants, hotel rooms and conferences. In 2018, a report by NITI Aayog said that 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by this year. To put in plain numbers, the depletion will affect the lives of 100 million urban Indians in 2020. By 2030, 40 per cent of the country will have no access to drinking water — even if we have the money.

And let’s not forget fresh air. That’s going out of our lives, too. Despite the efforts of young Greta Thunberg and her friends, pollution levels are going to spike in the coming years. Delhi — and the other metros — will be blanketed in smog. The birds have already been disappearing: Our sparrows, vultures and owls. Honeybees — the ones who work tirelessly to keep us well-nourished — are vanishing, too. But we can always sink back into the sofa and watch documentaries on missing species on an OTT channel. There won’t be a scramble for the remote. We can watch alone in a roomful of people watching different things.

Published on January 02, 2020

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