Double Trouble | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 20, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 20, 2019

Double Trouble

Give him a piece of wire, a nut, a bolt and a small sheet of aluminium foil, and MacGyver makes a Mach 2.0 aircraft in the blink of an eye. For us with wide eyes and narrow choices of TV channels (in fact, just one), the man with the blonde mullet (a term I learn many years later from seeing hillbillies in checked flannel shirts driving pickup trucks in the deep Midwest) is my hero. A hero more so, since I am an electrical engineering (EE) student. Not that I have the desire to be Mr Gadget, but rather to form a deterrent against mom from whom I constantly get flak: “What [electrical] engineering are you learning, huh? I had to call the electrician whereas you could’ve fixed the fridge!”

Yes, this is the curse of the EE student, whose calibre is predicted based on his abilities to fix any conceivable contraption that requires batteries or the power from the electrical mains. Thank heavens I am not also required to fix the “tennis racket”—for this is the time of the unborn mosquito zapper.

So MacGyver is my ray of hope that one day I will make mom proud by fixing the malfunctioning refrigerator with spit and rubber band.

The weekly anticipation of my favourite TV series has my heart racing for another reason—the fear of the inevitable power outage. MacGyver, if only you were here, you could fix load shedding with a banana leaf and the outer shell of a coconut. Remember, this is the time when video-on-demand means kids demanding to watch video (TV) in lieu of being taken into custody by the private tutor invariably choosing to come during one’s favourite TV show. The option to record, rewind and replay at the time is through the “2-in-1” radio-cassette recorder. Young readers, I know this is Swahili, so Google up—if unsuccessful, try searching “dinosaur”.

Then comes colour TV. But we only have a black and white one (yes, yes, mom has asked me several times to fix the blown-out picture tube). So, I watch next door at my friend’s place—the talk of the neighbourhood. For they have bought the brand new, top-of-the-line Sony Trinitron colour TV. Wow! This is what blonde-mullet-in-motion looks like. Awesome!

Lest we forget the selfless contribution of “Trinitron” by the mighty “Sony” for the zillion colour ecstasy, no one dares peel off the sticker boldly displaying on the top left corner of the monitor, where no man (in a colour-TV-accustomed world) has displayed before, the words “Sony”, “Trinitron” and a swarm of fat, red dots. With a third of the monitor’s prime real estate gone, MacGyver, through some sadistic pleasure, chooses to make his gadgets at that very corner of the TV screen, nicely eclipsed by “Sony”, “Trinitron” and the dots. On reflex, we careen our necks and almost fall off of our stools, as if hoping to see his hands in action “around” the annoying sticker.

But this is not my TV, nor is it my dad’s. In fact, I am merely a neighbour imposing on someone ELSE’s private family time at HIS place, enjoying HIS snacks while watching HIS TV, purchased with HIS hard-earned money, warranting every bit of double protection for the screen that HIS choice. This is also our national DNA of putting two layers of protection against every dire consequence (except for the Aedes mosquito), so as not to take any chances. This is why there is the seat cover on the seat of the car, the former to protect the latter that is never to be seen nor enjoyed. This is why there is the extra screw bolted on to the “Toyota” insignia so that it does not end up at an auto parts shop to be re-purchased by the original owner. This is why there is the sticky leather cover on the steering wheel so that the seasoned driver ends up with carpal tunnel syndrome. This is why there is the “oil cloth” on the table cloth on the table top so that we see the embroidered table cloth yet don’t stain it (let’s face it, we are the ones who invented the “bone plate”, the absence of which prompts us to use a bigger “bone plate”, aka, the table top itself). This is why we immediately go to the “mobile doctor shop” to buy the screen “protector” and the phone cover so that we don’t put scratches on our expensive smart phones…

It is this very DNA that deprives our children of the late afternoon exercise as they run from one private tutor to the other or one coaching centre to the other, where the “coaches” are not too dissimilar from the coaches of Bangladesh Railway trains or the Bangladesh cricket team—expensive while with questionable efficacy and short shelf lives. All this jazz to merely “reinforce” the learning that was imparted that same morning in school. (Well, “running” from one tutor to the other at least is their exercise, for there is no field to play on and no fresh air to breath anyway.)

And then? What really is the result of the double trouble? Sure, a plethora of golden, silver, platinum, titanium, aluminium A+’s, but have we really taught our children to solve problems and to think laterally? Or, are we, at best, making them MacGyvers, half covered by “Sony Trinitron”?

 

Naveed Mahbub is a former engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA, the former CEO of IBM & Nokia Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla’s The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed’s Comedy Club. E-mail: Naveed@NaveedMahbub.com

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