Academic bro returned from the US the other day. One of the things he returned with was a new iPod for our Dad, his first one no less.
The chances are that you're Sri Lankan or you have knowledge of Sri Lanka and its people. Therefore you'll probably appreciate that, when a 70 something Sri Lankan Dad decides the time has come for him to get kitted out with an iPod, these things really have hit new and previously unheard of levels of popularity.
This is a Dad that struggles to operate the steering wheel on a car, often turning it in the opposite direction to the way the indicators are, well, indicating. Although I must admit that he makes what is often regarded as the best mutton curry and dhal in the world.
I remember being in a bungalow in Yala many years ago. As we tucked into our totally mouthwatering dinner of mutton curry, rice and more vegetable curries than I had thought possible I wallowed in the atmosphere. There was food, of the Sri Lankan variety, there had been wildlife and we had just had a close encounter with an lone elephant very close to the bungalow, there was that starry sky that contains not stars but the brightest of LEDs poking through a jet black sheet and there were friends of the closest kind.
If only I had a drum kit with me the setting would have been perfect, I feel sure that a small Bonhamesque solo would have added to the atmosphere too. But, as we tucked into the food and the arrack flowed, one of the friends remarked
"Wow, this mutton is superb no? The second best mutton curry I've ever had."
"What's the best one?" I asked him.
"That's Uncle N's (my Dad's)" he answered. Please note that he didn't actually say "(my Dad's)". they were my brackets that I put there in an attempt to show that he was referring to my Dad, who is Uncle N.
Needless to say I felt quite proud. It must have been about 15 years ago and it's stuck in my mind, which is handy really, otherwise writing about it would have been awkward.
So fair play to the old man. He makes a world beating mutton curry and a comparable dhal (parippu). I have a whole story about my attempts to learn his dhal recipe and method but I'll save that for a separate post.
But, prior to a couple of weeks ago, I would never had thought that he would take to iTunes seamlesly and easily. He is a chap who, on occasional forays into that whole world of sending emails to people, gets my Mum to do it for him. If you know my Mum you'll understand the relevance of that. For academic bro, bringing an iPod back here was the easy bit. Teaching Dad how to use iTunes, how to upload cds and synchronise was going to be a tiny bit harder than teaching a fish to speak Latin. And I'm not talking about an Italian fish either, more like a particularly chavvy one.
Music biz bro and I made ourselves unavailable at the merest mention of showing Dad how to use the hardware and software. I would have happily done most other things but a chap has limits. So academic bro was left with the task and we kept quiet, waiting for the backdraft and the fallout.
A few days later I heard a rumour. It was one of those ones that people don't pay any attention to at first, like that one about Galle Face Green being closed for refurbishment. But the rumour persisted, the whispers continued and it got to a stage where they could be ignored no longer, investigation was required.
Yes, the rumour that had hit the streets was that Dad had been given instruction on his new iPod, on iTunes and on the concept of uploading his cds to iTunes and his iPod and it had all happened seamlessly and painlessly. He was reported to be strolling around the house, iPod strapped into place and merrily listening to his cds without a care in the world. What's more was that, in the whole uploading process, there had been no computer or electrical disasters either in his house or in the immediate vicinity.
I called him, did a bit of smalltalk about the weather, grandchildren, work and stuff then he got on to the subject of his new toy. He told me with some pride of how he has learnt how to use it, how to use iTunes and how to synchronise it and do everything. I was still sceptical so checked with Tarquin, academic bro.
He confirmed it. He said that Dad had understood all, that he hadn't been calling him every half hour to ask those frustrating questions that parents ask us about computers, that all was looking good. Then, at the weekend I went there and saw and tried the little electronic marvel for myself. Sure enough the music was on it and all was working well, Dad even knew how to use it.
They may be able to redefine portable music, they may be able to make millions of people buy their invention and they can make people like me actually have feelings for a laptop.
But they've come up with the iPod and iTunes and my Dad can use them.