Technology can change the world. Those were the first things I was told when I entered my first job. No I am not a software engineer. I am not even a technology enthusiast. But this is the ideology of the development agency that I had joined. Armed with the hopefulness with which one starts work in the development sector, I declared the same for myself. I do not know if this a feeling you get when you have officially stepped into the second half of your twenties or its just me, I am simply and plainly weird, but I felt I wanted to learn about ‘youth participation and technology’.
I was recently waiting at the airport cafe, trying to squeeze in the least expensive meal in my budget. No wonder I ordered a single Aaloo Paratha for the smallest sum of Rs. 120. The cashier had made such a face when I had ordered it, and then also offered to pay with my card. Not a credit card dude, just the debit one. I was just not willing to part with the petty cash I had. Anything can happen in Kolkata, I had to carry physical money for that. “What if the taxi-wallah overcharge me and I have to go to an ATM to withdraw cash, that too in the night. Wouldn’t that be un-cool?” The cashier actually smiled at me, although it looked as a rather annoyed one. He even discouraged me to order that Aaloo Paratha. He said it would take around 15 minutes. I was determined. I did not have anything to do either (I had arrived 2 hours earlier), except stare at my laptop and try to connect it to free Wi-fi. Even that I was not able to do in the end. The only thing remaining was to actually call someone on the phone and bore to death with all the happiness that came with going home. I decided to do the unintentional. I opened my eyes and ears to the nearby table who had some teenagers running around in the place. At the risk of sounding ageist, I shall emphasise that I did not like them that instant. They appeared rowdy, unapologetic, and loud, really really loud. That was another reason I could not ignore them. But I pretend to believe otherwise.
I had not eaten a real meal in quite some time. In the rush to make sure that I do not get late, I had ended up being quite early. This was really unlike me, and I had no idea how one should react in such situations. I ended up ‘pinging’ a few friends, wanting to enquire how they were doing in their lives, but really wanted them to ask me about my own. That is the purpose of ‘pinging people’, didn’t you know?! These chats were amusing, so were the next-table conversations. I shall illustrate both of them here.
Me : “Hey bro! Whats up…how is life??!”
I had no idea why I used such messed up version of my grammar, especially with the little things like pronunciations. Double question marks, no regard for correct placement of capital letters. My English teacher would have cried a thousand lives. I sat idle for a time till my chat messenger showed me that the message had been delivered. It took a while, because my friend on the other side was either away from an internet connection, or was speaking to somebody on the phone. This precious piece of information was a part of my training manual which was imparted to me when someone told me first about this newest cool thing in town, it was called Whatsapp! I was very happy to hear of it. The monthly SMS packs were now history, this friend had argued with me. I was not sure. Two months later, when I bought a smart-phone, I believed.
My bro replied after 9 minutes.
Bro : “Whats up brother?! Aaj meri yaad kaise aa gayi? (How come you remember ‘me’ today?!) :P”
I was aghast at this open blasphemy. “I was the one who had last called him, bastard!”, I thought.
Me : “Nothing much. Just waiting at the airport. Going home at last. 🙂 🙂 ”
I do not think he was bothered about my happiness. Rather than a “Wow! So happy for you :)”, he replied, “LOL!” and then said “ttyl! Gotta rush. Girlfriend waiting.”
“Bastard!” I again thought. My Aaloo Paratha was ready by now and I pounced on it with all the available complementary supplements – pickle, curd and green chillies. I was determined to not waste a single one of that 120 rupees.
“What the F Sneha, (I did no censoring work here) how could you do this to me?”, I heard some guy on the next table shout. Although there was a considerable amount of noise in the food court, it was still quite audible for everyone. He had made sure he was loud enough.
“What did I even do, you na only said you wanted to sleep. I just wished you gunnite.”, Sneha said. (All characters are named fictitiously, because I frankly do not remember their actual names. I am not being condescending here. Cut me some slack.)
“I was just telling you how my some-X-Box-game-I-don’t-remember crashed, and I lost all my points, and you just ‘Awww(ed) me and went to sleep. That is so insensitive. We are dating. Is it wrong for me to expect a little more support’? Bolo. Tell. Tell na”
I was both perplexed at the conversation and awe-struck. This dude here looked creepy like hell, and he sure did speak creepy, and he had a girlfriend! Respect Bro. I paid some silent praises for him. And then looked closely if I wanted to be like him. No, I muttered in haste.
“Last week also you did the same only. I told you some-random-mutual friend-who-was-sitting-next-to-them had broken up and I was with him. Rather than asking me how he was doing, you again ‘Awww(ed)’ me. I do not like this at all.”, he continued.
By then my Aaloo Paratha was over. I was waiting at the same table and unsuccessfully trying to figure out how that goddamn internet connection worked.
“Come no baby! I am sorry na. Acha baba I am telling you I did not mean it like that. Please give me a hug now.” There were some mutual friends sitting around who threw giggles at this, but seemed busy with their own phones, checking if their crushes had ‘liked’ their profile picture or not.
Lets be honest. We all do that. Or is it again only me? Why am I always that weird guy?! 😦 😦
After having that brief chat with my bro, I turned my attention to a close female friend. “Enough with these bastards. All of them do not care about me!”, I had thought again. I hadn’t spoken to this friend in a while. She turned out to be on a vacation with her girl-friends in Goa. But she still managed to extend the courtesy for an immediate reply, and even apologised for not being able to chat. She even promised to call me next week. I was so happy. “These guys only call me when they need money from me”, I declared to myself. Her chat had a lot of funny faces, popularly called emoticons. I used to love chatting with her. She used to throw multiple hearts in a single line and give me online hugs. I always replied with the happy faces. I never threw a heart back. I knew she was dating someone else. “That would feel offensive”, I always thought.
I was hungry, and the conversations on the next-table also could not be missed. I ordered one more Aaloo Paratha. The cashier pointed me to the large banners which also mentioned that they had some customised meals at cheaper prices, sensing that I was hungry, but also feeling miserly. I hurriedly took my plate and rushed back to table, apparently because I had left my laptop openly. But secretly, I just wanted to not miss these new mannerisms that I thought were extremely new for me.
“Also, when I sent you that goodnight kiss yesterday, you did not even reply then, although I could see that you were online and replying to messages for the next 16 minutes. Tell me, are you cheating on me.”
This dude was on fire. Although the girl was trying to calm him down; at times by ‘babu-ing him’ (which he also accused her of doing in excess, and in public, apparently to humiliate-him-in-front-of-his-friends)’ and at times by raising her own voice, he did not seem to even budge a little. “He has decided he will clear all of these things today”, I thought. He indeed sounded quite pissed.
“Dude dude! LOOK AT THIS. Come come.” Some friend who was sitting there the whole time jumped up suddenly. He was so spaced out with his phone that he did not realise that the temperatures were high. But to my surprise, nobody said a word to him. All of them, including the boy and girl held hands and watched it. It was the newest Justin Bieber Song. I had a strong prejudice against this singer/rockstar/youth icon. I think more because of his ill-reputation in my peer group, than with his actual singing skills. The song played on full volume on the newest iPhone. All the business-people who were busy making presentations now finally looked up, murmured a few things, and went back to staring at their laptops. I just ordered another Aaloo Paratha.