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January 04, 2008

Information, Time and Us.

I used to wonder why old(er) people, the general category of uncles, aunts, parents, in-laws and others, began conversations with "In those days...". I used to think that that was such a non-starter. Because "those days" were relevant to the people who talked about them, not the teenager who is listening to them half-heartedly, stifling a yawn. I wonder if I am making the transition from the latter to the former. At least in the sense that I want to begin my conversations with "In those days..."

Anyway, the thing with those days is, to put it simply, "time". It seems the sepia-tinted photographs of yesterday represented people who had time at their disposal. And to seek information, they went to institutions like the public library, relied on word-of-mouth and mostly advice from elders and wise men. Those days when people would have laughed if you told them "books" might become obsolete (books, not ebooks, just plain good old books). The days when time-management was not a science learnt from books or blogs but an art that women and men learned and passed on from one generation to another. I guess the difference I am trying to point out is for instance, waiting for your patti to finish her chores so she settle down to your favorite story-telling time versus downloading AmarChitrakatha from the internet and reading it to your kid right now because he wants to hear it now - the anticipation that fills the wait-time makes all the difference, doesn't it? Perhaps that is not feasible because we live here and patti in India , to me it is again a question of time and how much of it we are willing to spend on ourselves and on others...something that this generation of self-help (American?) books keep quoting - "Spend time pampering yourself", "Relax and spend time just the way you want it"...And in this indulgence is lost a much greater time that you think...

Fast forward a few decades and you reach "my school days" when I did not check email, did not know what SMS meant, orkut/myspace/facebook did not exist and instant-messaging was definitely not a buzz-word and greeting cards were not synonymous with hallmark. And then in Bits-Pilani, we were told we could use "Pine" and whoa! We could actually write electronic letters to each other. And that's what we did. Our emails were long and had a beginning, middle and end, somewhat like a letter.

Fast-forward a few more years and now I see kids that are always "logged in". Every morning, they check their cellphone for SMSs, missed-calls, voice-mails, next their preferred social community scraps or whatever the fad-word is that kids these days use to indicate incoming messages :p and then they log on to msn/yahoo/aol - actually I think they stay logged on through out the night - they just check for IMs they might have perhaps missed and then emails, RSS feeds, reddit/digg and so on. If the parents are lucky, the kids might have sneaked in a good-morning and actually made eye-to-eye contact...

And really, I am no better. Perhaps I don't scrap (see how this is also a verb now?) on social communities 25 times a day but I am definitely a product of this generation of people overloaded with bits and bytes of information wherever they go (But a slightly older product and hence capable of standing at a vantage point and looking behind at a day when people were not so information-obsessed). While we are considered fortunate to have so much information so easily accessible (Imagine how much easier it is to locate a pizza hut and order a pizza - google even makes the call for you...well, come to think of it, it was probably more fun to stop and ask someone for directions and maybe discover parts of your city you had never seen before, but those are indulgences for people of a different time. Not us. We need information. Yesterday.), we also see situations where people have to actually make a resolution to stay off the internet. I remember an article talking about email becoming obsolete and then I remember reading about this guy who wanted to see how long he could exist without hitting google. Now, we have made the switch to "existing" without information, not just information as a way to make our existence more comfortable.

After making you read through five fat paragraphs about information overload, I am going to claim that I didn't really intend to write about IO.

I wanted to write about patience and time. Patience in a world that is constantly filling your thoughts and being - patience to actually open a scented letter wrapped in silk, filled with words written painstakingly, slowly by a human hand. Patience to write such a letter to a loved one. To take the time to think and write. Not type and then think about it. I wonder how different it would be to live in that sepia world of our old photos, to rise with the sun and have the time to serve hot coffee to your husband, just the way he likes it, and to savor the smell and moments of significant nothings, precious moments spent together before he buried his nose in the morning newspaper and I guess, at that moment, I would have sighed and walked back to the kitchen waiting for the other women in the house to rise and share "information" with me - limited but first-class information, like my first-class coffee...

First-class because I hear it from a human being. It might be prejudiced, incorrect, incomplete...but it is personal.

5 comments:

kamal said...

Why does the letter have to scented and silk wrapped? Can it not be just a hand written letter?

SK said...

very well written. Liked the last line the best.
We cannot help but observe the sea of change around us and try to catch up, lest we are left behind.

RS said...

kamal - Thus begins the death of romance :p

sk - thanks.

livewire24 said...

ok, this comment is out of context, but since i have spent the last one hour reading thru most of ur posts (i went till august)i have lost track of what is where..but, i have to say that u write very well, and i've enjoyed every bit of it....pongal nalvazhthukal

RS said...

livewire24 - Thanks, do keep reading :) Pongal nalvazhthukal!

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