Bread pizza at midnight


It is midnight. There’s a light drizzle. I shut the balcony door and head indoors, checking all the doors, lights and fans on my way to the bedroom.

I pick up my phone to set the alarm. My screen lights up at that precise moment. I am delighted to see my daughter’s name flashing on the screen.

I pick up and we start talking. As we talk, she says that she is famished and wants to eat. Immediately on mom-mode, I chide her to eat wholesome meals at regular intervals. She nods. A practiced nod from years of hearing the same thing from her mom all the time.

I think back to the time when my daughter was with us at home. She would wake up in the morning and greet me with a hug. She would then squeeze herself on to the kitchen counter and watch me as I cooked. She would demand coffee, and as she enjoyed it, we would chatter about this and that!

Now, on my phone screen, I watch as she heads to the kitchen, thousands of miles away. She places her phone on the kitchen counter, as she mulls over what to cook. I can see the world outside my daughter’s window on her screen. It is grey and cloudy. I look outside my window – it is dark and cloudy.

Her voice suddenly announces, “I am going to make bread pizza! I feel like eating cheese!”

She potters around her kitchen. I can only hear the knife on the chopping board, and the clanging of pans. Suddenly, a sauce bottle comes into view on my phone’s screen. It looks cozy and warm, and contrasts beautifully with the grey, cold weather outside. The sauce bottle and I keep each other company.

My daughter suddenly pops into view and tastes the sauce. “Yumm”, she says. Again, the sauce bottle and I look at each other, accompanied by the sounds in the background, as my daughter disappears from view.

My daughter is finally done, and has popped her bread pizzas into the oven. She sits down and we talk – about this and that – sometimes staring into space, lost in our own thoughts.

After some time, she says that the aroma of cheese and bell peppers is wafting all around. When the bread pizza is ready, she brings it over, and we talk as she eats.

She sighs in contentment. I am happy. It is nearly 1.30 am in my part of the world. My eyes are shutting of their own volition. My daughter orders me to sleep. I fall into a blissful sleep, thankful to technology for the joy of such simple moments!

Where is my memory located?


There was a time, many aeons ago, when lyrics of my favourite songs roamed freely in my memory, ready to flow into song whenever I wanted.  There were ready records of phone numbers of friends and family that I could rattle off at will. Birthdays and anniversaries were etched in my grey matter, giving me the joy of wishing dear ones on their special days.

Cut to now. There is a song that has been eluding me from this morning. It sits at the edge of my memory and teases me. I know that I can pick up my phone and look for it on the internet, but just for once I want to recollect and download it from that once sharp memory. As I walk briskly, I furrow my brows, as if that act will somehow help me remember. I give up after a while.

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Has my memory been transferred to my phone? It is a shocking possibility. My phone holds my calendar, appointments, birthdays and anniversaries lists, mobile numbers, landline numbers, sticky notes, songs, voice recordings, news, weather reports, kids’ schedules, shoppings lists, book lists and many other things. Is there anything that I really need to remember on my own? Will I eventually lose my ability to remember even simple things without my phone? Seems quite plausible.

No wonder people clutch their phones as if their very existence depends on it. Wherever one goes, people are tapping into their alternative phone memories for simple, everyday tasks.

Such problems did not exist a few decades ago – a time when my mom could easily quote recipes and lists, where my dad never forgot where he kept anything, where my gran could recollect and narrate hundreds of stories from Indian mythology to keep us engaged.

Somewhere between then and now, our phones have hijacked our memories. And, sigh! The song is still teasing me from the edges of my memory.

Trapped!


The roads are jammed, and most drivers have switched off their engines. I stare absently at the scene outside. An old lady is standing under a bus shelter. As I watch, she pulls out something from the waistband of her saree. It is a small cloth bag of the drawstring variety. She rummages inside and pulls out a few betel leaves and pieces of broken areca nut. She patiently tears the leaves and folds them, places the areca nut in the center, and puts it into her mouth. Her eyes have a faraway look, as her hands tighten the drawstring pouch and tuck it back into her waistband. She chews the leaves, and is deep in thought.

I watch in fascination.

A young girl soon joins the old lady. She is in her teens. As I watch, she stretches her arm into her bag, and pulls out her smartphone. She is soon completely absorbed in her own world!

I laugh at this contrast.

The old lady has stopped pondering. She looks around now, and looks at the young lady, who is completely oblivious to the goings-on around her; her neck bent at an awkward angle.

This makes me think. When did we become this way? When did we stop looking out at the world? When did we trap the world into a smartscreen and start looking for all solutions in that small screen. Instead of looking out and going out into the world, we have brought the world into our palms, to the point where we don’t need anyone or anything else to keep us occupied.

Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

As I watch, the old lady chews her leaves and watches the world curiously. Her eyes fall on me. She smiles – a toothless smile, her mouth stained by the red of the betel leaves.

I smile back. There is still hope!

Not so remote problems


The afternoon sun pours into the living room, leaving long streaks of gold on the floor. The flowers in the vase on my coffee table sway gently in the breeze.

Everything seems peaceful, but I am not. I am repeatedly clicking my tongue in exasperation. “Why?” you ask.

I have problems with my remote, remotes rather!

I have an elegant remote-holder next to me, on a side table. It overflows with remotes that help us stay entertained, with movies, soaps and lovely music.

Each device has a remote, and there is a ‘universal remote’, who’s the boss!

All’s well when all these remotes are behaving well. However, it’s not always like this, is it?

So, I have decided to watch a short film that was recommended by a friend.

Despite the latest gadgets surrounding me, I have to now battle with the remotes. Of late, the remotes have become quite rebellious.

The main TV remote has to be directed at the TV screen for a continuous period of 5 seconds, with the power button pressed, for the TV to sense it. It was not always like this. It used to be a good remote. We changed batteries, tried hitting it on the palm of the hand (isn’t that the universal cure for faulty remotes?) and also pleaded with it to work.

But this is the way it behaves now!

Our next remote is the smart remote for the smart TV. All is well here, except that something keeps rattling inside the remote. And ever since the rattling started, the ‘forward/right’ button has stopped working.

Courtesy – Openclipart

The one good thing in all this is that some of the features of these two remotes overlap!

Which means that before I start watching the short film, I have to use the ‘point me for 5 seconds before you see a flicker remote’ to switch on the TV.

I then use ‘the not so smart remote’ to click on youtube. I then navigate with the pointer on the mouse to reach the magnifying lens, which is the symbol for the search function.

If only it would point and click. Instead, the arrow runs wild on the screen, as if playing a game of hide and seek. I click in exasperation, as the pointer disappears from the screen.

I have to do it manually now. The right arrow on the not so smart remote does not work, I use the up, down and left arrows to reach ‘search’. Phew!

At this point, the naughty pointer arrow is back from its break! The system opens up a keyboard for me to type-in my choice.

I move left, up, down with one remote, then switch to the second remote, where 5 seconds are wasted before each letter is selected, then back to the other remote!

And this crazy thing goes on for two to three minutes, and I whoop for joy as the short film finally gets loaded.

“We have to get these serviced,” I mutter to myself, as I become one with the characters and their lives; and at this time, my problems seem remote!!!

Neighbours


Today, we have more smartphones and tablets than the number of members in a family. We sit on our couches or slouch on our beds, busy connecting with people from around the world.

But the world was not like this at all, when I was growing up. All social networking was done face to face.

We had neighbours. We grew up with them, till we went to college, got jobs, married and moved out.

We played for hours on the street, till the street lights came on. We played riotous games, and sometimes spent entire evenings looking for a missing tennis ball.

We formed numerous clubs, drawing inspiration from Enid Blyton books, and many other childrens’ movies. We put up stalls, and all kinds of shows for our parents.

We attended exhibitions of butterflies and other insects put up by the neighbourhood boys. We went into the neighbouring woods to collect eucalyptus leaves, which we used to light bonfires.

We spent all our time in and out of each others’ homes, bringing plates filled with lunch, and eating together in a friend’s garden.

We had fights, silly squabbles and long battles that sometimes lasted an entire season.

We eagerly opened boxes of yummy snacks that neighbours sent to us. We went in droves to the home where the first television made its appearance.

Image courtesy – http://www.fotosearch.com

We watched the glorious Indian Monsoon with our noses plastered to the windows – howling winds, lashing rain and falling trees.

We watched the first frost of winter, and gobbled up piping hot venn pongal that was served in the neighbourhood temple.

We knew a lot about each other and our families. We lived at a time when we got ‘live updates’ about each others’ lives.

We had lovely neighbours.

The Bulbul’s message


We are at my mom’s, enjoying our summer vacation. We have just had a sumptuous lunch. The children and their cousins are playing a board game in one of the bedrooms.

All the adults are seated or stretched out in the living room, as the day curtains billow in the cool breeze. Each time the curtains billow, one can see the green leaves of the trees outside, glistening in the bright, afternoon sun.

Most of us are trying not to sleep after that heavy lunch. We chat on and off, the pauses and silences are comfortable ones – those that belong to family, to love and to familiarity.

A sudden sweet bird song cuts through this family web.  There is a pause, and the bird song plays again.

My sister says, ” Someone’s got a message.”

Hands and bodies reach out to their phones, like the arms of an octopus.

Most people in the room say that the ring tone is not theirs. The bird sound continues.

We quickly discover that there is a ‘real’ Bulbul bird sitting on our balcony, singing away merrily. We gently move the curtains to watch this beautiful bird.
             

                   Picture courtesy – Wikipedia

How musical it sounds! How could we even mistake it for a ringtone?

We laugh uneasily. The Bulbul gave us an important message today. 

Maybe we should take more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, those that are not in any way connected to technology or smartphones.

e-Stranged!


The phone alarm rings. One of those mechanical sounds that are meant to goad you into action. I turn lazily, and open my eyes gradually to adjust to the bright light of day.

The first thing I do is check my phone for messages, emails and the other notifications that I have enabled.

I wake up with a jolt. There are no red circled numbers near my message or Whatsapp icons, not even near the email icon.

Something must be wrong, I check the WiFi icon, the curved tree is in full bloom. Then why have I not got any messages? I am almost tempted to shake my phone, but reboot instead.  Even after the phone comes alive again, there are no messages.  Nothing has changed!

      Courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

I ask my husband to send me a test message. It arrives immediately. I am still suspicious, how could I have not received even a single message or email? That’s like a ‘first’.

The statistical probability  of this event baffles me..! I check the Internet, everything is ok.

I accept. I give in. The impossible has happened. It is possible…I smile, I go on with my day.  But believe me I feel strange!

Have you had any such experiences? Would love to know.

Slow on the uptake


I am out for lunch with my friends. We are a noisy bunch, as we tuck-in to yummy food and girly gossip.

Just before we say our byes, one of my friends and I visit the powder room. I wash my hands and look for paper towels. Can’t find any; but there is a dryer. So I place my palms under the dryer, waiting for warm air to gush out.

Hmmm…no warm air. Upon closer inspection, through the translucent glass of the so-called dryer, I see a roll of paper towels.

“Ah! A paper towel dispenser”, I say.

image

       Courtesy -www.shutterstock.com

My friend then tells me that it is sensor-operated, and that she had tried waving her hands before the sensor to activate it, but in vain.

There is a symbol that shows a palm, and below it is a small button. I press the button, and one paper towel comes out.

We laugh.

Then we discuss why the sensor doesn’t seem to be working. My friend shows me how she waved her palms at the machine. I wave my palms frantically.

We laugh and proceed to take our bags. There is a gentle whirring sound. We turn around to find that the machine has sensed all those waving palms, albeit slowly.

The machine is spewing out paper towels, one after the other, almost like a saree. We are in sudden shock.

We are close to the machine, and afraid that it will start spewing more if it senses our movement.

Like a pair of guilty children,  we back out with minimum movement.

We come out, catch each others’ eye and burst into fits of laughter.

Data vision


I am stretched out on the recliner and want to listen to some music. I connect my phone through the bluetooth to my sound bar.  Soon, melodious music surrounds me.

I can feel it, every fine nuance. I start thinking about the quality of speakers we have these days, and wireless technology. 

A strange thought strikes me. What if I could actually see the data travelling in space to the speaker. What would it look like.

I laugh aloud, because if we had ‘data vision’, we would probably be shocked by the zillions of zeros and ones, bits and bytes swamping us.

image

    Courtesy – http://www.dailygenius.com

Since all messages and texts and music get to where they should, maybe the scene would look organized rather than  chaotic.

What if we could see this data, and just stood and shook all these bits and bytes. What would happen to them?

Music or photos, jokes or videos – they are but millions of tiny fellows marching towards a particular destination, with a clear focus and purpose.

These data bits have to be wonderful team players, since they have to reach their destination together, sometimes in a nice sequence.

I switch back to reality. The music envelopes me again. Hidden bits and bytes working their own special magic.

My Social Skill Set


Whether I like it or not, social media has become an integral part of who I am. In addition to all the ID cards I have, I now take great effort to maintain my online ‘social identity’.  Maintaining a social connect is not as easy as it seems. It calls for a skill set that would put top-notch resumes to shame!

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Picture courtesy – http://www.dailygenius.com

So what are the skills?

It calls for a certain type of skill to read, like and comment on forwards and articles. It calls for a strong memory to remember which jokes have already been received and which jokes are to be forwarded, and to whom?

It calls for round-the-clock alertness. It calls for enormous amounts of self-control to stop refreshing messages. It calls for a calm mind to stop reacting each time you hear a ping.

It calls for the ability to take quizzes about your personality, your IQ and your vision. It tests your skills as a farmer, as a ninja, as a catapult expert, as a word builder, as a selfie-taker, and many more.

Social network forwards play on your emotions. You suddenly find yourself reading about missing children, and raising money for surgeries. How do you verify the authenticity of these posts?

While you worry about these little kids, there is one article that claims coffee can burn all your fat. As you scroll down in happiness sipping your coffee, you read another article which says coffee will make you put on weight. Phew!

Some articles make you guilty, some make you laugh. You read about the holidays people are taking, the movies people are watching, and add your own to this space.

Even if you go on a social media detox program, it will lure you back – back into a world where everything is virtually real.