In Plato’s Cratylus, the character Socrates makes the following comment about Heraclitus. He says that Heraclitus is supposed to say that all things are in motion and nothing at rest and compare them to the stream of a river, and says that you cannot go into the same river twice. It means everything is always changing in every respect, so much so that a river is not even a river from one moment to the next.
This world has undergone many transformations and the lives of people inside it have transformed many times. From the Dark Ages to the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Science and Technology, why people lived has acquired different meanings along with how they lived. The hunters and gatherers that men once were, spent much of their wakeful time looking for food and then eating them raw. These men lived in caves in the fear of darkness, lightning, storms, hails and ferocious animals.
All of that changed since the invention of fire. And then more inventions changed human lives even more, shifting them incrementally further away from their natural state. Still everything required a great deal of time and effort before science and technology brought speed and reduced distance. People traveled by boats, horses and palanquins, spending days to complete a journey that now requires only hours.
In the cover story of this issue, we have dwelled upon vanishing professions. Imagine the postmen of yesteryears who traveled on foot by night to deliver letters from one place to another. Many of us can remember the days of the night soil workers, who once removed human waste in the wee hours of the morning. What about those bullock cart drivers, who carried people and goods to distant cities and villages? The boatmen's profession is now dwindling one.
Times have changed needs, needs have changed livelihoods, and livelihoods have changed lives. The IT workers of our time are a whole new phenomenon. So are the call centers, for another example. More professions are now deskbound compared to the physical intensity of earlier days. Remember how much effort went into letter writing, from finding pen and paper to collecting stamps to waiting for days to getting letters posted and delivered. That entire exercise can be completed within minutes by email. Professional letter writers earlier are hard to find.
These changes, however, have their goods and bads. While more work can be done within a short period of time using fewer manpower, the psychosomatic effects of these changes are significant. Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stress, depression and various other ailments are associated with new professions despite their many benefits. Many of those professions also involved human contacts compared to increasing role of automation in our lives.
While the forgotten professions covered in this article by no means exhaust the list, our readers will find that a number of these professions were unknown to them. We hope the readers will enjoy this cover story, while thinking of those interesting ways of life that have long vanished into the layers of time. Each of these professions speaks of history, of how our ancestors lived before they passed this world to us.
Albert Camus defines an absurd man as someone who does not know where he came from and where he should go. Continuity requires knowledge of the past and vision of the future. The journey is most satisfying when the destination successfully connects with the origin.
A profession is a paid occupation. It reflects how people earned their living. Every dead profession is a living example of the old saying that the only thing constant in life is change.