Saturday, January 28, 2017

116. Reduced to numbers

Being a preferred client, I got a call from my bank's relationship manager about why I had not submitted my 12-digits Unique Identification Number to the Bank. 'Since getting such a number is not yet obligatory by law why should I reduce my identity into just a number', I had responded with a matter-of-fact clarity on the subject. I thought i was tacit in my response, notwithstanding a sigh of exasperation at the other end.     
From being a digit on the population register to a number on the electoral rolls, we have been reduced to a number on the cash book at the bank, on the directory of the mobile service provider, on the currency that is but largely plastic in nature and so on. One's birth is a number and so is one's departure; an inner wear has a number and so has an outer wear; neither is a shoe without a number nor is a sandal; phone without number doesn't ring and neither does a mobile; success counts on number as failure rues the lack of getting the desired number. 

With everything but a number, what is a big deal about a person being numbered. But for a crazy soul like me, no one seems to be complaining. What is in a name after all, most seem to be in agreement with Shakespeare. However, my parents don't see any sense in it having named me and my siblings in an elaborate social exercise. Assigning a name to a new born has cultural and spiritual ramifications, that they say can hardly be undone in a jiffy.

And, I don't buy the argument that a number can hide my 'caste', and can put to rest the prevailing social disparity around our cultural identity. Come to think of it, each identification number is only assigned after securing an in-depth social and economic profile of an individual. It could be anybody's guess how this number game might play up at the end, by those in power holding these numbers in big databases to their advantage. I shudder to think about the myriad possibilities.      

Born with the largest brain relative to body weight, nature has bestowed a unique position for humans among all other species. Our upright posture and the ability to walk on two legs have placed us on top of the ecological pyramid, making us the master of not only our own destiny but that of others too. But far from using the big brain to bridge the gap between the physical and the spiritual and beyond, it is pathetic that we have ended up being an exercise in sheer 'numbers'.

The more critical I think the more it surprises me that there is a indeed an unending fascination for numbers among everyone around me. The psychology of numbers has played so heavy on the democracy of numbers in an era dominated by the economics of numbers, that its cumulative impact has been felt by each one of us. No wonder, our house help is as enamored by it as my better half. The game of numbers has caught on with everybody.  
Irrespective of caste, class, creed, competence or credibility, the quest of each human of late has been to attain the first six digits. A six figure income is all that each one of us is craving for (as of today). Ironically, those who have already attained these 'six digits' are more unhappy than those who are striving to achieve it. Yet, the race to gain access to a higher digit is relentless. I wonder what worth is life that has been reduced to numbers!