Monster technologies

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Image:The Big Camera.pdf Leela Mayor

The Gramophone Stone

Ganesh Kumbhar the actor, who plays Shakuntala’s friend’s role in Sangeet Shakuntal lies in the afternoon, on bed, sick with a dreaded fever. Very soon he will be taken out of the house so that he cannot infect anybody else. He is going to die, and after five years of playing Shakuntala’s sakhi, he has to relinquish his role to a young newcomer.

In his dream he is on stage again, performing his favourite role - Shakuntala. Just as Shakuntala, graceful in sorrow, finishes a song about her separation from her beloved, Ganesh waits with bated breath. Will he hear one last time, the "once more!!” the ultimate response to his performance?

He sinks into happy daze of delirium as he hears "once more!!" and starts to sing again. The other actors have obligingly given their little cues and responses again. So far in his career Ganesh has seen a maximum of five "once more"s in one performance. This time however delirious Ganesh does not stop.

As he lies on his sick bed in the afternoon, his old sister, akka, grinds grain on a jaata the round stone grinder rhythmically. She too has the gift of voice, she is singing an ovi as she slowly grinds rice, the stone going "grn, grn..." with each turn of her hand. Something strange starts happening - as the grinder completes one round Ganesh starts getting a "once more" and has to sing one more time. He cannot seem to stop almost as if his singing is linked to the stone grinder’s rounds. He is starting to tire now. But he cannot stop, because the jaata goes on.

Then his sister puts in his wig of long hair into the grinder. Suddenly the grinder starts goes round and round fast, turning into a machine and instead of grain, starts grinding out round black disks of hair. Ganesh knows that each disk is his song going round and round repeating itself to an eternal "once more". Akka, his sister thinks he is delirious again, as he smiles feverishly, but he knows that now he can stop singing and die in peace.

In Germany at the same time an inventor sees a photo of an Indian stone grinder in the catalogue of “Photographs of Indian people and their cultures”. He dreams of a disk which reproduces sound with the help of a pin and realizes that his problem of reproducing voice is solved.

Renu Savant

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