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.”