Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Technology’s deadly punch

Technology has delivered its next fatal blow and the victim is none other than India’s 162-year telegram service, which will be laid to rest on July 14, 2013.
I remember how during my school days, the very mention of the word “telegram” used to bring shivers among the recipients.
Mostly, the messages were negative and highlighted the death of an elderly person in the family in a far-away village or city. Of course, there were the occasional positive messages, where near and dear ones who could not make it to a function, like marriage, used to send greetings through telegrams. It is another matter that the telegrams invariably reached after the function. Whatever the content, telegrams were the fastest mode of communication, as there was no concept of mobile phones. 
India’s first telegraph lines were laid by the East India Company in 1851 in Calcutta, stretching 40 kilometres down the Hoogly River. Work proceeded on amazing speed and four years later, 6,400km of cables had been laid. In 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Now, only 75 offices exist. For an industry that once employed 12,500 people, now there are hardly a thousand.
As a journalist, I have seen technology devouring several traditional jobs and systems. The trunk calls, telex, teleprinters were among the earlier ones to go. Thousands of proof readers lost their jobs when spell-checking computers made them redundant.
I remember a lawyer-friend who used to show off his huge collection of Encyclopaedia books. When I met him recently he said his grandson had compressed the huge books in tiny CDs.
The hefty phone directories are not a necessity anymore. Mobiles double up for cameras and remind me of the days I used to run around looking for expensive camera colour film rolls.
Technology will continue its killing spree. Change is the only constant, as Heraclitus put it.
But there is one aspect that makes me wonder: The personal touch of a handwritten love letter. I do not know whether youngsters get the same feeling receiving an “ILU” message via email.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why me?

"Why me?” my friend asked with tears in his eyes.
“What happened?”
“My dad passed away, dearest pet dog died and my sister lies paralysed in hospital. All in one year. Why me?”
I did not know what to answer, but had to say something.
“This ‘why me’ question is asked by 6 billion plus people on earth at least at some stage in their lives. Just yesterday, a friend told me about his dad’s expensive heart surgery and asked ‘why us?’ Accept the situation with courage,” I suggested.
“Advising is easy but to face it is different,” he reacted.
I narrated a story that I read in a magazine. A drunken father battered his wife in front of his three children and killed her, smashing her head against a wall. He landed in jail and the kids did not know where to look for the next meal. “Are we in a worse situation than them?”
Instead of pacifying him, my story annoyed him.
“Why do you compare people’s situations? You are lucky your life is smooth.”
I did not take the bait and unfurl my sob story. As they say, the ship is safe at the harbor but is not meant to be that way. It is supposed to sail and face all kinds of weather challenges. A soldier with wound marks on his face and yet smiling shines. Right?
“What will you do if you were me?” he threw the final question.
“I will look at the mirror and ask myself how should I look – a defeated face or the Buddha serenity.”
“Boss, you overact,” he said turning the discussion into a war.
I could not smile. I realized I am another one in the six billion. I parted without a smile then.
Now at home, when I write this, I understand. The war is all about inner peace. Neither he nor anyone can snatch it away from me. Here I go: Say cheese. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FB reality: As you ‘Like’ it

My close friend slashed half the names in her Facebook (FB) friends list when she heard about a German study that revealed joyful posts evoke envious feelings.
She was not the first one.
At least, eight of my acquaintances have acted similarly.
However, when another friend chopped many names, I was surprised. Her reason: “Some of them have not pressed the ‘Like’ key even once.”
A colleague explained why he found the social media deceptive. “One person was literally crying to me about the problems he was facing, but the same evening he posted a photo of himself dancing on a beach.”
Another colleague gave his judgment: “Social media is like a knife that can cut a vegetable or kill a person. The choice lies with the user.”
Personally, I found a new world with my blog. It brought me some of my best friends from across the globe, who have stood by me through thick and thin. Some of us have met, interacted on phone, helped each other on specific needs and never crossed the red line when it came to decency.
If rightly used, the virtual world can indeed log us onto the happiness mode.
Heard this joke about social media: 
“If you have nothing interesting to say... join FB and tell everyone.”