Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Virtually me

What can be worse than Google-ing your name on internet and finding nothing? "– A friend recently posed this question and my reply was, “ May be Google-ing your name and finding that there is another You – the virtual you, who has little or no traces of the real you.” Even without this little experiment I am daily finding proof of existence of my virtual self.
The growth of mobile phones and internet has resulted in a death- ….. the death of distance, the death of reality and also the death of privacy . The physical location of you is now immaterial. You are always connected, always near and always here.” I was amazed at the argument of this speaker few years back, in a class on Changes in society due to Development of Technology. Something which was a matter of poetry and imagination is now true. You need not be physically present in a place to meet people , to impress them, to build relationships, to feel human emotions of love, camaraderie or…. even hurt . Your virtual avatar is capable of all sensations and emotions like the real you…and who knows, may be more than real you.
My journey on this time square of the global village of tomorrow- that is on internet, started off in 1999-2000 when my sis introduced me to email and Google . That was the birth of the virtual me . After finding information on most strange subjects, meeting my long lost friends and making impossible tasks happen in minutes- I am convinced that internet is God …or virtually God . I know many net-addicts like me who use internet almost as a pensieve of thoughts, we exist as much on net as in real world . For last few days almost every day I get to know of something which is strengthening my suspicion that this virtual me is getting more well known than the real me. I realized long back that Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life…they exist almost exclusively on the virtual web. But was convinced that I am not one such addict. It was only recently that media and social experts started making noises about the other side of this liberation . The virtually empowered people were losing their social skills in the real world for lack of practice. "Now that we are online Let's chat "
Technology that was built to shrink distances to bring us closer actually begin to encourage us to live a virtual life by pushing us towards seeking face-to-face interactions through the use of these devices and not the real way . My first such experience came with Yahoo messenger chats. Through chatrooms , I could meet people with similar interest. Though not all of them were nice to interact with after few chats but it was through net that I found some of my (now) close real life friends. I would not easily forget the expression of confusion plus anxiety on a friend S’s face when we first met face to face. We had talked over phone a day back…so all he could manage to utter was … “Say something, so that I know you are really you .” We continue to be as good friends in real world as we were in the virtual one. But I have seen cases where it is not like that . Once people lose the thin cover of appearing on the computer screen they do not look/sound that good. The way net chatting and socializing has liberated us reminds me of the famous song from musical Chicago-
“In fifty years or so
It's gonna change, you know
But, oh, it's heaven
You can like the life you're livin'
You can live the life you like….
...And that'sGood, isn't it?
Grand, isn't it?
Great, isn't it?
Swell, isn't it?
Fun, isn't it...”
Yes it is all that and more…it can also be dangerous, criminal and even fraudulent . But now we have choices even in our mode of socializing on net as well. I could never understand the logic of social networking sites as they invade in your privacy too much beyond my imagination. So I gradually limited my use of these. What I finally got hooked to is blogging. Yeah, there is a hoot , a hint of thinly coated narcissism in each post one makes on a blog. Having unknown random visitors coming and reading your posts, giving their comments and appreciation…is a happy flattering feeling. Even criticisms sounds so mild when you find that in terms of comments…..but the real buzz factor lies in the possibility that someday I might just be able to transform this virtual connections into a real ones. I got one pleasant surprise the other day when Alan Shaw , the author of war memoirs "Marching on to Laffan's Plain" send me a letter after reading an excerpt of his book in one of my post (this one ) . I was thrilled to know that my 90+ friend from the virtual world took trouble to make a real life connection. I learnt so much more from his regular emails since then about an India he lived in the Raj days. Then on another occasion I once called a business associate and his secretary before connecting the phone asked me if I am the same Atoorva who writes a blog called “A Blue dot of thoughts”. Well, I was stunned . Then marched a vague and unsure 'scrap' on my orkut profile from a guy whom I remember only as a 7-8 year old younger brother of my best friend from school . Me and this friend had lost touch after her marriage and now after decades I came to know that she tried all methods of real world to know my whereabout and finally we were able to re-establish connection only through Orkut. The most recent is someone calling my sis on her company’s intranet inquiring if I am her sister . He read a post on my name( this one ) and discovered that her little daughter’s name (Atoorva) is not unique. I share the disappointment with this young father but somehow, it is a nice feeling that the real world is coming close to me through my virtual existence.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The lost knitting needles

There is something about winters that I miss for last two three seasons and I am not talking about Phantom sweet cigarettes . Actually, I do not see many women engaged in knitting sweaters( and shawls and scarf and many other things) ….in parks, in buses…err…even in offices and schools . Something which was so common in my growing up years is now a rarity. Somehow, the fad of knitting is gone….not that I was ever good in that, but it always intrigued me how women can keep themselves engaged and entertained in something so monotonous . As I was always a beneficiary of the art and never the practitioner, my knowledge about various kinds of wool, their suitability for this design or that and my curiosity to guess the design for sweater someone is wearing on the street is very limited. I was blessed with mom and sisters who could always oblige my whims to wear some crazy design. Like once I remember I was very jealous of my elder sister’s pretty sweater with 4-5 pink flowers made of crochet and insisted that I want a “more beautiful” sweater for my birthday. So on my 6th birthday mom made me a lovely ( to my eyes) sweaters full of flowers and leaves attached on it. That I was looking ridiculously funny wearing that was immaterial. Even now in old pictures , you will find me wearing a huge smile whenever I wore that sweater . Similar fond memories are associated with many other mufflers, shawls and other woolen clothes knitted and gifted to me by aunts, granny and friends. Though I was and still am , a totally talentless creature in this field, I do appreciate the amount of labour it takes to make a perfect sweater. The machine made sweaters may be the call of the day now but can never match the mamma made ones.
Growing up in small towns , I have many memories related to knitting in winter months. Whenever two ladies of the neighborhoods met, the talk usually came down to the progress of knitting project in hand and the future plans for copying this design and that . Getting the right shade of wool and the right number of knitting needles was also a major fuss. I remember my sis, always poor in her estimate , would fall short by few “lines” to complete a sweater and then would make me go shop to shop hunting the same colour of wool . My mom also had a knack of losing one of her knitting needles and then she would look for it in all probable places for days . It must have been a very acceptable hobby to pursue worldwide as I have seen at least half a dozen portraits of women with their knitting going uninterrupted. Like this one by famous french painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau : I also remember old posters , biscuit tin images and even Christmas cards when the mother in the picture has her hands busy in knitting. Somehow, knitting being a hobby one can pursue while doing other things made it so popular among women. I can recall teachers knitting in school busses and even in recess times .
In the changing world of speed , I miss those ladies and their wool balls . Last night , when I was taking out my winter clothes I suddenly remembered the fun it used to be to ‘ help’ mummy in getting her wool sorted and made into balls , my sister’s experimental designs and her re-knitting (mis) adventures with old sweaters and their creative ideas to use the leftover wool . The emotions attached to the sweaters gifted to babies ,fathers and husbands are all woven within the colourful world of knitting. And just in case anyone find this whole business of knitting very very sexist – I at least know a male friend from my university days who was equally fond of knitting. He even knitted sweaters for his dogs and ( my ) dolls…..however much we laughed at him, he never mind inquiring about a new pattern of sweater from our moms and no wonder was always welcome in our house.
Well, we still wear sweaters, may be far more stylish then ever but the fun and joy associated with those home made beauties is lost . I do not know many friends who still knit ….my sis is now more busy writing programming code for IBM than knitting sweaters for me and even mom hardly pick up her knitting needles . Though with the care she has still kept her knitting box shows how precious it must be for her. I wonder if they still get those knitting pattern books . Just found that these are now probably replaced by knitting pattern websites. Changing world indeed.