I belong to the generation who, while growing up, treated the word internet as something divinely unattainable. It was like a spaceship from another planet which crash-landed on Earth – exclusive and quarantined. I remember, while doing my Masters, someone pointed a guy to me in college and whispered in my ears that he had an internet connection at home. I looked at that guy with awe and from then onwards behaved with him as if he was Tom Cruise. I came very close to kissing the ground on which he walked.
At that time if anyone would have suggested that one day internet will be available on mobiles, he would have ended up like Galileo.
Sometimes, the leap which technology has taken in the last twenty years boggles me. From a time when mobiles and internet connection were unheard of, we have reached a point where a street vendor has a better mobile than me, where my maid talks to her boyfriend all the time while doing the dishes. My mind still does not comprehend the fact that I can browse internet on my mobile. Was it another life when I visited an internet cafe to browse for twenty rupees an hour on a rickety 56 kbps connection? Was it another life when I had tears of joy in my eyes when I heard the mechanical sound of a dial-up connection in my house for the first time? It is amazing that I once had the capability to derive joy from such minuscule things.
I also belong to the generation who has lost a lot of friends to distance. Leave aside internet, telephone connection was a distant dream for my family when I was in school. The only way I could keep in touch with my school friends was by calling them from a local PCO (which I did religiously) but then soon gave in to my college studies. When we finally got a telephone, it was a necessity not a luxury.
It is being argued that internet has killed real-time conversations. I do not think internet has anything to do with it. Our life is not similar to that of the previous generation. My friend circle is spread over continents. We do not meet in years. In India too, we are spread over various cities. I haven’t seen so many of my friends in flesh since ages. So, it’s not internet that is responsible for the changing equations, it’s our work culture, it’s our lifestyle that has changed. Sitting with friends over a cup of tea in the evening has turned into a privilege only a few could enjoy, just like an internet connection two decades back. The irony is palpable.
That is why I think internet is a blessing. I can pick up my mobile, login into a social networking website and share a moment with my friends. I can see them going for further studies and enjoying their new friend circle, I can see them getting engaged, getting married, going for honeymoon, having babies, celebrating birthdays of their children, enjoying their holidays. I do not need a PCO to hear their voices, I can have a video chat with them. For someone who once tried desperately to keep his friends from dwindling, you cannot begin to imagine the joy all this brings.
Time is a running Cheetah and we are sitting on its back. But then all of us need our moments of sanity and who else can give them if not our family and friends?
My mobile is like a window in each of my friend’s life and internet is the latch. I can open the latch any time and be a part of their lives and make them part of mine. It’s amazing how our lives are shared virtually by zeroes and ones. Who knows, a few more decades down the line, we might be sharing pictures of our children getting married. And who knows humans might have discovered teleportation by then and our children will laugh at how we used internet to connect. But, till then, I have realised that I still have the capability to derive joy from minuscule things. I have my mobile and my internet connection and I can see my friends.
Yes, I can see them.