Wednesday, August 2, 2006

They've all gone to look for America...

Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America

Yesterday one of my close friends just left for the states. I didn't go to the airport to see him off. I suppose it just seemed so commonplace now, what with everyone 'doing my MS in the US'. I've got now 6 of my close friends happily slogging away in the States. With the others scattered across Hyderabad and Bangalore and the paltry few in Madras (down to two now, one of whom probably will be leaving to the states on work in a few months) working late nights, I don't recall the last time I've had actual human contact with any of them. I probably know every line on the faces of their yahoo avatars tho (Hey, nice tee! When did you change your shirt?)

But the funny thing was when and how it actually hit me that this guy who I've grown quite fond of and so close to in the past few months is leaving, putting miles and miles of vast blue sea between us. It happened when I woke up the next morning and stopped halfway thru my message and had to erase his number from my mobile phonebook. When do you say your goodbyes? In the airport? At your last get-together? Over your last phonecall? I think they should turn erasing numbers from your phonebook into a symbolic rite. You know, like dropping the first fistful of dirt over the coffin. It doesn't really sink in till you see those unsettling words surface on that wretched device. What do you call that moment? That actual moment in time when you stop and your mind quickly shifts into reverse and plays back all the memories, all the scenes of the last eventful days, complete with emotional baggage? It's the very opposite of the 'Aha' moment, a kind of wind getting sucked out of you as opposed to running thru the streets stark naked shouting Eureka!

Oh well, the situation isn't that dire I suppose. There is *sneers* tech-no-logy. *tries to inject as much venom as Times New Roman Font Size 10 will allow* But jokes aside, it really is infinitely easier to keep in touch with these days. Thanks to tech-no-logy. It's been hardly two years and I think I've forgotten how to be happy with 1MB of email storage. Ah but lets start at the very beginning... I remember in the 8th when I was one of the very few people who had a computer and I think the only one in the entire school to have a modem. Forget that it was an ancient smoke-signal-sending relic cleverly crafted by VSNL to look state of the art with lots of flashy LEDs that didn't do a damn thing but looked quite spiffy, like something a 1960s movie would take to be their idea of a 21st century computer. Also disregard the fact that it was in fact a measly 14.4kbps that would take hours to connect, staying connected for only a few seconds at a time and in those elusive few seconds make you want to manually push out the 0s and 1s over the dodgy telephone line. Forget that. The thing is, we were actually around to see it happen and we remember a time before the Internet. Heck, I even remember pagers and pre-historic motorolla phones that had all the sleek elegance of a brick tearing away one pocket seam at a time.

Do you remember what a pre-Internet era school assignment used to mean? It meant physically hauling your ass into the nearest mode of transportation and stepping into some dusty bat-filled archeological site called a library, complete with dusty bat-filled librarian. I remember going on this great coming-of-age-ritual when I was twelve years old. There I stood, in the savannahs, armed with only a rusty old spear and staring eye-to-eye with one famished jungle-cat… Oops, wrong story. There I stood in that old dusty mausoleum, armed with only a pen and 180pages ruled notebook with a picture of Shah Rukh Khan on the cover, staring eye-to-eye with a crusty old relic, replete with tight hair bun, huge black retro frames four decades out of fashion, big billowy flowery ruffled shirt tucked into a chest high ‘midi’ skirt and culminating in four inches of pruned weathery old-maid-skin before ending in socks-covered feet carefully tucked into sandals.

‘What do you want then Eh?! Can’t you read! SILENCE!!’

The cry of the shrill banshee. It was a ritual every school girl went through at least once in her life. It built character. Sigh, those were the days. And now look!

‘Where’s your report?!’
‘Give us a second, luv, haven’t had the chance to google it yet’

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned 180pages ruled and Reynolds pen? I dread the day I’ll see them nestling comfortably in some forgotten museum: their final resting place, next to one dusty bat-filled banshee. Relics of a bygone era. This was the stuff my childhood memories were made of.

It’s not all been bad tho. Pre-internet meant wallowing in a pool of ignorance in those Doordarshan filled days. Every Sunday you went in your white ambassador to the beach, happily scorffed down beach soondal without having to worry about your five year old nephew start off again in his nasal tone about how he read on MSN Health that soondal contains 15.7grams of carbohydrates and then come home in time to watch Olium Olium and all the women would speak about that beautiful parrot green saree newsreader Fatima was wearing and all the men spoke about government and politics and propaganda and we just ran around in circles till the cartoons started. Now with everyone connected, knowledge really is power.
Whether its keeping track of the latest news events as they unfold across the globe, or downloading that fab new sound from that UK garage band or keeping tabs on Who Paris Hilton is dating now, it’s amazing how much has changed and how quickly. Having spend the last dregs of childhood growing up in such changing times, it only seems natural that you would turn to that machine hooked up in its medusa of wires for some human contact or pick up the nearest radiation emitting device to holler out a ‘Hi, how’re you doing?’

It’s not bad, just a bit weird that’s all. Still, if I hadn’t the Internet, would I be blogging? I don’t think so; I was never that keen on keeping a journal. A blog on the other hand in like your own republic of Lavanya. You make up the news, you provide the commentary, you initiate debate and dialogue. You keep tabs on people living thousands of miles away. You know what you friend in Indiana thinks about the Israel-Lebanon crisis unfolding as we speak or how your friend in Washington completely botched up his first disastrous attempt at cooking. Surely it’s not a bad thing that we have recreated the experience of sitting around a table in someone’s basement smoking pot and talking about like, whatever man, dude, that’s deep!

So what if you’re not constantly ‘constantly’ in touch thru sms (5am broadcast messages: Hey, anyone up and studying at this hour? 5:01am - 17 replies: Yeah, what do you think?!) and cell phones that have become an additional growth on your hip. (I suffered phantom pains when my last phone was amputated. My fingers still ache for the touch of those familiar grooves I know and love). Between audio and video net conferencing and VOIP phones and orkut scraps and Gmail talk and offliners left on yahoo… I think we’re doing pretty alright.

Phonebook Contact Deleted.


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