The Millennium Special

The Past

The Present

Shobha De

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The celebrated novelist on 10 likely trends in the next century

Unlike most futurologists who invariably present a grim dark scenario of the "next" world, I, being the eternal optimist, can only see better, bigger and brighter tomorrows. Which may be why my 10 likely trends are anything but apocalyptic. In fact, I see a few things coming full circle (as things inevitably do) in the next 100 years. And welcome the 'back to the future' wave.

My 10 trends are written primarily from a woman's/ housewife's point of view. There is a lot of wish fulfillment in the list, as every woman reading this will immediately recognise.

Trend number one: No more cooking. Or cleaning or housekeeping or ironing. This century will mark the end of domesticity as we know it. Food will come in the form of easy-to-digest pellets, available at the press of a button from a conveniently placed dispenser in a robotically manned home.

The State will ensure every citizen has such a slot machine and that the government machinery is responsible for maintaining a steady and unbroken supply. This will put all our super chefs, restauranteurs and fancy food growers/manufacturers out of business. Housewives (yes, they will still be around in the next century) will not be responsible for pellets not consumed on time by family members. Nobody will complain about lousy food at home.

Trend number two: Nobody will want to live beyond 30. That will be the cut-off point, even though scientists will have figured out ways to stretch longevity. The choice to live a healthy life up to 150 and more will be there, but hardly anybody will opt for it. "Youth" will rule.

Trend number three: There will no "lifestyle" to speak of. Uniformity will prevail. The way people live will be decided by a Supreme Council. And everyone will be happy. Everyone except the peddlers/dispensers of lifestyle products. The State will provide identical, stainless steel housing to all. This will eliminate the problem of 'keeping up with the Joshis,' since all units will look the same. Housewives will not have to agonise over picking the right curtains or upholstery to match.

Trend number four: Nobody will obsess over saving for the future. The State will make sure everybody gets the same compensation and gratuity. Retirement benefits will be standardised. What would anybody want to slave/save for anyway? There will be nobody to impress since everybody will enjoy exactly the same benefits. Goodbye condos. And time shares.

Trend number five: Dress designers and clothing manufacturers will shut shop. The State will hand out sets of throwaway, disposable unisex garments each month. This will take care of laundry, ironing and problems that double creases on a husband's trousers create in relationships. Since women won't be dressing up or dressing down and sex-appeal for both genders will be delinked from what they wear or don't wear, there will be more time for the important things in life -- like… like… watching sunsets (yes, the State won't interfere). Women won't have to worry about skirt lengths or choli designs. Freedom from fashion tyranny!! What a relief!

Trend number six: Stark minimalism will dominate. Since everybody will be dressed alike, and living the same standard of life, nobody will bother with decor of any kind -- personal or otherwise. Offices will look like offices. Hotels like hotels. And homes like homes. Acrylic and steel structures with integrated circuits controlling and regulating everything from the temperature to the functioning. Everything will work in an uninterrupted fashion -- no power failures, too. There will be no scope for architects and interior designers to leave their awful "stamp" on anything. Without homes to re-re-re-decorate periodically, housewives will devote more to… to… thinking about re-re-re-decoration.

Trend number seven: A few generations will flirt with singledom. It won't work. The State will do its bit to make sure good citizens err... copulate on cue… to produce more good citizens. The State will monitor and regulate new crops of good citizens, so that there is no danger of over-production when new babies are harvested.

Single parenting will be officially banned as unsuitable for the manufacture of future citizens with known gene pools. With births and nurturing taken care of officially, housewives won't have to bother with dirty nappies or late-night feeds. That will leave them more time for… for… well never mind. There'll be fewer women with dark circles under the eyes and sagging breasts.

Trend number eight: People will stop travelling. Since it will be a world without borders the joy of going to a "foreign" land to taste forbidden fruit will be missing. They will prefer to stay home and watch what their neighbours are doing, thanks to electronic all-seeing "eyes" that will make every nook and corner of the world accessible at the press of a button.

Housewives wanting to know what their counterparts in Hungary are up to will only have to reach for the remote control. Nobody will bother -- what's the point in watching other women eating identical pellets, and wearing the same clothes for God's sake?

Trend number nine: The State will take care of all "entertainment." Which means there will be none. Which is bad news for film-makers, television companies and those in the music business. The State's idea of "entertainment" will vary from decade to decade.

Each decade will be declared a "special projects" decade… the projects varying from 'beautifying' the landscape with weather-proof installations to creating conducive environments in space shuttles carrying citizens to Mars and beyond for periodic 'cleansing' trips. Housewives will have more time to fantasise.

Trend number ten: It will be a trendless world. "Trendies" will be the new social outcastes. Those dangerous people with dreams. And the talent to fulfill them. The State will banish anybody who dares to be different in thought, action or appearance. Housewives will be relieved --no teenage angst to deal with.

Nobody will wait for Godot.

Illustrations: Dominic Xavier

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