So we were having this random conversation this afternoon, my colleague Sushmita and I  and she came up with the idea that we should debate over something, after our highly successful (so we presume) debate in print recently on the last page of the mag I edit. (The topic was E-books vs tree books). But even after 15 minutes, we were not on different pages… we couldn’t find anything to debate about, which was surprising as I am almost a decade older (Ok, ok, I admit more than a decade older!) than she! (which makes me feel very proud, the ‘on the same page’ part!)

And it’s then we started taking of Reddit, social media and went back in time to the obscure chat site which was ICQ. She was in school then and I was already into some years of my career!

And so the internet it was…our point of debate (or different takes). I can remember loads of a life without one… and I’m waiting to see what she has… (rubbing my hands in anticipatory glee!)

Internet came into my life at the ripe old age of 23 and I became dependent on it only by the age of 30 or so… so I had pretty much a life before it.

Before internet:

# Chats meant my friend and I debating late into the evening hours, long after the sun had set and the lone street mercury light started flickering in the dark. This was after an hour of badminton. Chats also meant whispers well past midnight with cousins.

# There was Doordarshan, that began transmission at 6pm. My brother till today, insists that I watched even Krishi Darshan (a programme for farmers). Of course, I vehemently deny the accusation.

# There were outdoor games. Mean ones like seven stones where the boys threw a rubber ball that hit our backs right in the middle of the spine – the pain took atleast two days to subside. Then there were Four Corners, Skipping in groups, tenniquoit where we threw a rubber ring at each other and Frisbee at the beach.

# There were indoor games when the rain came down in torrents. Monopoly, Scrabble, Snakes ‘n’ ladders, Ludo or the simple chozhi (games with seashells). If we were bored, then we used stones or sticks to bring down mangoes from the neighbour’s trees. We loved the shouting as much as the taste of the raw priyoors.

# There were stories. Which we made up and told each other. Of dacoits and demons. And sometimes, my neighbour, older than us would pitch in with his special brand of ghost stories that had some incredible sound effects. After which we didn’t sleep for many days.

# There were books… borrowed and lent. Libraries frequented. Groups huddled at some neighbour’s house reading bound copies of Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha, Enid Blyton and Champak.

# There were bike rides. Learning to ride a two-wheeler, first a Sunny and later a Kinetic Honda was empowerment for me in every sense. My friend Sonali and I would zoom across the Napgur highway (outside the university campus) and race the  trucks. (I shudder to think of it now.) Now, I am too scared to cross the road in my home city lest a Cochin killer bus runs me down.

# There were seasonal festivals – the bhagavathisevais, ramanavami, sasthapreethi and the temple sadhis (yum! Yum!), not to forget the annual thalapoli festival at the nearby Bhagavathi temple, the aana shiveli (elephant procession), listening to the kathaprasangam (tales told with songs) and the Gana Mela (a group belting out the latest film songs).

# There were letters – sent by post. And the interminable wait for the reply. Asking the postwoman Surabhi each time, “Post undo…” (Is there mail?). Believe me, she never said, “You’ve got mail!’ but would just shake her head to indicate a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. And yes, such was the connect that she even came to my wedding.

# There were neighbours. Giving and receiving. This kuzhambu or that upperi (food), The Hindu in exchange for The Indian Express. Doors open during the day where we would just walk in and out. Of mini-fights and instant make-ups! Where it was understood that your neighbour kept your house keys when you were away and vice-versa!

I could go and on… But I wouldn’t diss the fact that the internet has broken barriers and boundaries and brought the world closer. If only it would teach us to be a little more caring, a little more humane and a little more accepting and forgiving!

Do visit Sushmita‘s blog later tonight or tomorrow for her take on life before Internet.

 

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