where the writers are
Travelling Through the Static

Today, the internet turns 40. I like paying tributes to inanimate objects and abstract concepts. Humans are usually commemorated when they die; objects and ideas grow and outgrow the accolades we shower on them.

I got my first computer nine years ago. What transpired before that has been recorded. The question one asks is: Has it been good for you?

What does such connectivity mean where you can reach out to many more strangers than you would in the street, in restaurants, at school, in the public transport? How different is it from eyes locking in unspeakable sounds, the click a vibe, or the simmering anger of an upturned nose that sniffs out wrath? How different has it been from the days when you touched lives by the tactile motion of fingers, hands, nails? What do I scratch out when what I have written has stripped me? Is a delete button enough for me to break free when I need to tear away the last raiment of words that camouflage the self-deceit?

Is it enough for me to type out smileys when my smile has stopped reaching my eyes? Can anyone see those eyes? Psst, psst, webcam? I don’t have one. I cannot think of sitting and exchanging notes while someone is watching me. Would I be exposing a lie or too much truth? Will my face meet another face and call it an encounter?

I know there are real people across cable wires. Perhaps more real because, away from the constricting space of tedium and a tight fit with only an imagination to scrawl one’s life, we become more of what we are. We get rid of our chaff publicly. Unfortunately, sometimes we get transformed – or are seen as – that chaff. Those skin flakes roam from website to website and, snaking their way into unknown worlds, the serpents hiss. Oh, here is a kiss. XO. It looks like a chemical formula, but it is so easy.

Huggs…I want to distribute them. Reticence is my middle name. No one wants middle names on the internet. What’s my nickname, a pseudonym? I have always wanted one, so devastatingly charming. Mata Hari. Never used it.

I stay as what I am.

This morning, I was lying in bed and writing out a poem, two lines of a poem, half an intro for a column, two-thirds of an email I might not send…and all this will then become tangible as I run my fingers on the keyboard. Someone will read me. I will read others. We will be touched by words, even the feelings behind them. Then we will switch off this contraption – our dial-ups, our broadbands, our wirelesses. We will be on standby. Till tomorrow.

In the street below there are sounds. I don’t know those people. I know some of you.

I guess this is a good enough way to say thank you to the internet where I sign in only when I want to say something. Just as I do in life. It’s been good for me. It saved me from life passing me by, a loud beep heralding the arrival of a new message.

A message that says, “You have just won a lottery.”

You bet!

11 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

How interesting that the

How interesting that the anniversary of the Internet coincides with the anniversary of Woodstock. I don't have much more to say than that, how interesting.

It's a strange tension, this medium, to connect via mind without a body. Minds meeting, appreciating other minds (or having an aversion to), the way a mind puts a sentence together on the page, the way a mind associates, links, disassociates. These are the new gestures.

Comment Bubble Tip

The Woodstock anniversary

The Woodstock anniversary link did not register...so it is awfully interesting if we transpose the two. The latter-day beatniks are, in a manner of speaking, superimposed on reality.


Comment Bubble Tip


I've been on the Internet since the mid-80s. Back then, there was no World Wide Web; almost everything was text. There were user groups and fan lists where one could discuss whatever one liked -- I was on some early ones about literature and poetry. In fact, a poem I wrote called "I'm in Love with my Hoover" got sent around virally from one list and eventually came back to me with my name removed!
It was a shock recently when I Googled my name using the restrictor "news groups" and found some messages of mine from 20+ years ago ... no-one has ever deleted or weeded them.
I suspect that these virtual traces will outlive our physical bodies, so there will still be blogs and messages for electronic anthropologists to track down in the future.
On the whole, despite some tendencies towards net addition, it's been positive for me. I met interesting new people, found a publisher for a poetry book, have collaborated, flirted, and had some laughs. More of the same coming, I hope.

Comment Bubble Tip

John, thanks for the history

John, thanks for the history lesson. We got the internet only in the 90s in India and I was shocked when I was asked to write a column for a portal.

You are so right about all the stuff staying there, and following us like a bad past. What use are deletions, then? At least we can rid ourselves of demons in real life. I think.

I do hope you have all that you got and more. With your name not removed!


Comment Bubble Tip

I learned computer

I learned computer programming in the mid-1970s, used my first PC in the early 1980s, and bought my first laptop and got on the Internet in the early 1990s.

For me, technology is a decidedly mixed blessing. It has greatly simplified research and keeping in touch and made it easier to locate people who share my interests. But it is also a black hole for time, and I find many aspects of the Internet intrusive. Also, the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for people to pose as something they are not and behave in ways that are coarser than they'd behave if they had to identify themselves and be accountable.

Comment Bubble Tip

Regarding accountability,

Regarding accountability, Ellen, I feel we cannot make people do so in reality too. But I completely agree with you about intrusiveness and anonymity. In fact, they seem to go together - the anonymous are more intrusive. They trail you like shadows. Creepy.


Comment Bubble Tip

Well, some people only know

Well, some people only know how to take credit when things go their way, but haven't learned to take responsibility for anything.  But I think the anonymity of the Internet emboldens quite a few people to interact in ways they would never get away with in face to face communications, and there is a high creep-out factor when that occurs.

Comment Bubble Tip

It's a toss-up, Ellen. And

It's a toss-up, Ellen. And the internet soemtiems mimics real life but as larger than it. You suddenly find people seeming brilliant and others being reduced to nothing.

It's taken me a while and I am still not completely comfortable. But, then, I would not have met a life-guard to teach me swimming:)




Comment Bubble Tip

A hearty applause to you!

Dear Farzana,
A hearty thank you to you for posting this blog.
Yesterday, before rushing to work, I just read the first couple of lines of your blog, and signed out promising myself to read in the evening. After School, the staff assembled for a meeting. After exchanging greetings, The new Principal of the school said," Can a social teacher answer me? 40 years ago an invention happened that changed your life and my life, the whole world's perception in fact."
The social teachers looked at each other and raised their eyebrows and looked away. The vice principal looked busily into the minutes of the meeting, though she had written nothing. The hall remained silent, while the new principal assessed the general knowledge of the supposedly treasure houses of knowledge.
tick...tick...passes the seconds....a blank mind, ...in a flash, your words passes through my mind, like words on a blank screen....." Today, the internet turns 40. I like paying tributes to inanimate objects and abstract concepts."
Before he could open his mouth, in a split of a second I raised my hand and said simultaneously, yet confidently and loudly, "INTERNET".
Yes, you are right! he said, his disappointed expression breaking into a broad smile. My friends showed me a thumbs up sign! He said, "Now this answer deserves appreciation, give her a big round of applause!" The two hundred odd people clapped thunderously. While my mind thanked you Farzana, a thousand times,(may be less, I didn't count, to be honest..lol) for paying your tributes to the inanimate object.
I thanked you for leaving that note in time to teach me to share this knowledge with others.

Kindly accept this heartfelt thanks.

Sumathi Mohan

Comment Bubble Tip

Well, I am glad it helped in

Well, I am glad it helped in some way, although there are many things I do not remember or even know about. Sumathi, we share knowledge even when we disagree with it.

Thank you for remembering me at the moment when you did.


Comment Bubble Tip

I want to add here that I

I want to add here that I spend minimal amount of time on th Net. While I am writing I disable my connection. I hate the sound of beeps or the urge to check mail. Often, I do miss out on things, but it is not so much about cussedness as just denial. Therefore, I am all the more grateful for those who stop by and share their thoughts with me.