It’s been a few days – indeed, since the New Year – since I’ve tried to be ‘active’ on my blog or on Facebook. Of course, there has been work, as it comes in large doses sometimes. But more than that, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to stop blogging for a while and hosting ‘stuff’ on Facebook. It was, I surprisingly found, quite a welcome break. I felt like I had switched off my mobile phone and I actually enjoyed some sort of freedom. It’s difficult to explain.
I know blogs and Facebook and Twitter and all the rest are great communication tools, but we could still enjoy life without all of that. And enjoy life more, really. Perhaps technology has made children out of some of us adults. Like tweaking a new toy and getting the thrill out of it.
What I enjoyed most of all during the past two weeks, was the time spent with books (no, not newspapers). J.K. Rowling or Jodi Picoult or Ashok Banker, it was time well spent. And I was just thinking about how I had wasted all those moments making friends on Facebook and trying to keep old and new relationships alive. Oh no, I wasn’t really trying. Who does anyway! It’s just that most often there hardly seems any life there at all. It’s so much better calling friends or relatives over or going out and meeting them.
So, I was wondering why I ever got into Facebook and whether it has been useful at all. The answer that kept constantly hammering inside my head was No. The objective was to try and hook up with old school and college friends, probably a long-lost sweetheart, but either nobody cared or they didn’t have the time. Except for a few. But what I have noticed is that even if it has to do with old school friends, there isn’t that urge to revitalize those old bonds. Even among very close friends. Well, if you have 500 and 1000 and 2000 friends, you can’t expect to keep everybody happy, can you?
I instinctively found a striking difference when an old school friend called me the other day – quite out of the blue. He was among my closest buddies. Quite a character (I mean it in a good sense). He doesn’t own a mobile phone, still relies on the telephone. He’s heard of Facebook but I doubt whether he uses email at all. And I’m sure he’ll make no sense of blogs. We’ve had great times in Calcutta as classmates, as friends. He was a regular at home till I left Calcutta in the early 1980s. But we would meet and catch up whenever I visited, which was, of course, times without number. He went through a bad patch, had a failed marriage, his mother was humiliated, he lost his father and uncle. His life was in tatters, save for a business he continued to plough through in Howrah. God helps those who help themselves, and so it was with this friend of mine. He managed to salvage some pride and find a landing space. Finally, things are looking up. He looks after his aged mother and after a long time decided the time was right to get in touch with an old friend.
We chatted for a long time and decided to meet once again during my upcoming Calcutta visit. I’m sure it’s going to be a long session as always; probably he’s going to bunk factory that day. Whatever it is, with that phone call he showed that some friendships can remain as strong as ever. I had lost touch, his phone numbers had changed and I had given up hope of finding him. But here he was, bouncing right back. The phone call happened after the New Year and strengthened my resolve to spend more time doing all the things I used to until the Internet arrived – meeting and talking to friends often, devouring a book a day, listening to music, watching a movie, or just window shopping.
My daughter suggests that I sign out from Facebook. She feels my generation is not meant for it. But I haven’t steeled my nerves to do that yet. Now, if there wasn’t a blog, should I have been able to say all this? And if there wasn’t Facebook, would I have had to say all this?