NUGGETS of LIFE: Living the virtual life, courtesy corona

At last, humankind has realised how vulnerable it can be

“It’s interesting how Corona has shifted the entire world to live virtually in real time and finally the revelation has happened”, I said looking up from my phone.

“Throw some light…”- came the swift inquisition from my husband who had his eyes racing across the news bulletin for quite sometime until now.

I went on rambling in my mind about how human lifestyles had become too fast paced to be lived efficiently and without a warm sense of hygge (coziness) as Danish would put it.

Until, came Corona and everything got bombarded in a lockdown – but for everyone’s good I’d say.

My husband now looked up at me sensing the silence and awaiting me to illustrate my statement. So I began.

“You see earlier the spicy gossips that happened over cards and kitty parties have now switched over to online Ludo games and WhatsApp groups. Similarly, when poori-chana were made on Sundays – close friends were invited over brunch, or the home baked cakes were shared over tea or coffee. Now they are shared on Instagram.”

“Now this sharing doesn’t lead to any olfactory satisfaction amongst friends in reality but since these turn into popular internet trends, so the poor things have to keep up with it – whether they like it or not”, I went on.

“Hmm, so it’s like I shared my cake now you share yours”, added my husband as my kiddo raced across.

“And just look at the change in the lives of all the kids! How happy they are with their virtual classes but they miss their friends terribly and evenings turn into drama parties for parents to handle. Yet there are many children across the country that do not have access to computers and sadly are also missing out the meal provided at school. There will be consequences of schools being shut down for so long.”

My husband looked thoughtful now. “You’re right! It won’t be easy to bridge the gap of holistic learning and of course deal the screen addiction.”

“Yes, so…there are also people posting pictures of working from home – on their laptops with a cup of black tea by their side – telling tales of how happy they are of this new trend of virtual offices across IT sector, while others are complaining how monotonous it is to work from home!”

“And by the way everyone has started to read newspapers online these days. It’s all getting digitized and techy I tell you. At least many trees would be saved.”

My husband shook his head in disagreement: “Dearest you would be flooded with fake news and targeted with algorithms if all you do is read from online portals. It would be no good for our society to completely do away with traditional print media.”

“But in between what is the big revelation?” he asked in a serious tone zooming back to my first statement.

I turned to look him full in the face – “At last humankind has realized how vulnerable it can be.”

Published in Hindustan Times on 11/6/2020

NUGGETS of LIFE: To be happy with yourself, what greater success!

Children at Delhi Slum

One of our house helps is unusually intelligent. She had just turned 19 when she joined us. I know her since the days she went to school. She would often come to visit when her elder sister was working at home; always happy to show me the medals she won in her academics and kabaddi. But years later, the day she joined, did I realise she had dropped out of school somewhere in between and contrary to my high hopes, never entered college.

While we were pulling out some fresh veggies from my kitchen garden, I started a conversation with her about something that had long intrigued me. I wanted to know why she did not continue her education. Was it due to lack of funds? Or, were her parents against it? I wanted to know if she had any particular dream or what she wanted to become. My concern grew because here was a young girl whom I knew when she was even younger and was certainly a bright student.

Not stopping her hands at work she smiled and replied calmly, “Kuch bhi ni didi. Bus jab shaadi ho jayegi toh ghar ka kaam kar lungi. Parhai toh saari zindagi kar sakte hai, ghar kitaaben laakar. Parna aana chahiye. Reema (her younger sister) doctor ban na chahti hai. Mai toh ese hi khush hoon” (Nothing, I’ll get married and do household work. One can study at any time, only one needs to be literate. Reema, my younger sister, wants to be a doctor but I’m happy just like this).

 I smiled. It had been a long time since I last met someone so serenely self satisfied and content. And her answer took me years back and reminded me of Suraj.

I was studying at Miranda House in Delhi then and those were the days of Common Wealth Games in the national capital. Hence a massive number of labourers had migrated to the city. As a part of my college outreach program, I went and taught children in one of these slums in Delhi where I became good friends with a bunch of kids and Suraj was one of them.

He was a young boy of 9 or 10. After completing their daily learning activities, all would pep up Suraj to sing and bravo what a jolly smooth voice the little one had! Though I never understood what he sung since it was in a Rajasthani dialect, it certainly was warm and joyous. Whenever I encouraged him saying, “Tum toh bareh singer banoge” (You will become a famous singer one day) -he would shyly reply that he wanted to become a mason like his father and singing is just to have a good time.

His answer too reflected nothing less than integrity and self respect. We, the privileged have a different looking glass for these children. Some of us feel sorry for them, some others empathize with them. But no, they need none of it. They are proud of who they are, how they are and much happier than most of us.

Just then my maid tapped the basket on the walking path to sift away the soil. “Didi ander chalen” (Do we go inside?) – she said with a radiating face after she was done pulling out the turnips. As we walked back, I was reminded of the lines by actor and poet Arunoday Singh – “To be happy with yourself. To be worthy of yourself. What greater success, could you possibly find?”

Published in Hindustan Times on 2/3/2020