Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Primitive Art of Conversation

I have been walking around with a list for a while. Taking deep breaths every now and then. Putting the piece of paper down, and picking it up again. Fiddling my fingers and contemplating running away. You may suspect it is a list that could shatter a few worlds, or something as powerful. Sorry to disappoint you: it's my grocery list for the day. Or week, if you like, if you are a systematic person. Me? I just call up the shop whenever I remember an urgent item or two to purchase. And they deliver. I can pay with my card; they don't insist on cash. Easy-peasy. I have been calling them for over ten years. They know me now. The people who pick up the phone, if they have a moment to spare, ask about my well-being. I ask about theirs. So why am I trying to postpone the very simple, delightful task of ordering a few items which will be delivered to my door within the hour?

The answer is: I don't know. I try to put off calling the shop as much as I can. Almost until every necessary item in the kitchen has run out and there is no more escape if the family has to survive.

I have been doing some thinking and it occurs to me: I don't want to talk. Sad though it sounds, it is the truth. How much do I talk to people now? Very less. Everything happens via the phone - the very device which was invented for people to converse, is being used these days to do anything but. Almost every task gets done with enough amount of punching on the keypad or screen, not a word needs to be spoken.

Think about it: Family updates come via group chats. News from around the world pop up as messages; friends send their updates through social media. You can check at your leisure. You can reply at your convenience. Or ignore altogether, if you like. Food gets delivered, cabs line up at your door, books can be read, movies can watched - if you just know where to click. If you want to report a faulty telephone or know your bank balance, you don't need to say a word. Just dial, follow the recorded voice and keep pressing the keypad for the right amount of numbers. If you want to ask your neighbour something, send her a message and wait for her reply.

Here I must pause a moment to acknowledge people who still like to hang from their phones for hours on end, talking, talking, talking, dissecting every little detail, regardless of whether their curry is burning in the kitchen or whether the world stopped spinning on its axis. Off the top of my head, I can recall at least five acquaintances. Thankfully, not everyone is afflicted with my strange illness. (I shudder at the thought of having to call these acquaintances.)

Except for this grocery list, most of my purchases are the outcome of my punching on their respective apps. It's like magic, isn't it?? Tap, tap, type, type, click and voilà! What you seek is in your hand. (Accio Firebolt!)

The only reason I haven't moved my grocery purchase to a very inviting app (of a different shop) that does not require a reading aloud of my list, is a sense of loyalty to this shop, a loyalty which is at its flimsiest at this point of time - just because of the painful job of having to say, "Hello, I am calling from... Can you please send me..." I am impatiently waiting for my shop to develop an app: they are still taking baby steps. Perhaps it would be a clever idea for me to remind them: "Business isn't bad even without the app; but for how long?"

If this trend keeps up, people might find a method to avoid talking even face-to-face. Perhaps a technique would develop wherein we could just fiddle our fingers and the thought appears before the eyes of our spouse. We won't ever have to look anyone in the eye. Reminds me of the world of the future as depicted in the movie Wall-E.

Just as I begin to worry over the vanishing art of speech, comes the newest kid on the block: the talking / responding / obeying box of an assistant, currently immobile, but a precursor to the metallic dwarf-like creature that would soon trail after us and bring us tea. As of now, the orders are to be given via voice. Alexa, for God's sake call up the damn shop and order groceries! What am I paying you for! On one side, we are getting rid of conversation with humans; on the other, we have to parley with the non-living, to get things done. I am quite speechless at human progress. The future holds so much promise in the art of making conversation, don't you think?

Meanwhile the grocery list beckons. So what if sugar and salt and rice have run out, and the kitchen is empty, and the family starves? Perhaps I should throw loyalty to the wind and install that promising app of the other shop.

Loyalty prevails for one more day... I pick up the list again and gather courage to make that one dreaded phone call...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Remember, they don't get paid...

This Mothers' Day... Show some support - to the women in your life.

Look around, what are they doing? The mothers, wives, daughters and sisters...

Do you only see them relaxing on the sofa or catching a show on television?

Or chatting with friends on Whatsapp, or gossiping and laughing?

Do you think they are enjoying life, just as free as you are?

Do you think they are taking life too casually?

Look closer: are they not doing something more,

Something right before your eyes, but always out of your sight ?

Things you always knew, but never gave a thought to:

And if at all you did, it would be to say,

"God, I'm glad I don't have to do this!"

Who dusts the shelves? Who cleans the table?

Who picks up the clothes you have strewn around?

Who switches off the lights after you've walked out of the room?

Who reminds you to pay the bills?

Who washes the clothes, hangs them out to dry,

And folds them so you find them ready to use?

Who makes the bed, who waters the plants?

Who takes the garbage out every day or the dog for a walk?

Who makes sure the maid cleans the room every day?

Who ensures the family has a meal on the table daily?

Who teaches the kids to do the right things, over and over again?

Who keeps track of school activities, homework and exams?

Who balances the finances of the family?

Who buys the grocery? Who cleans the toilet?

Who do you blame if any of this is not done?

And if this were not enough, most of them have

A job to keep up with, and its own share of pressure.

Are they not doing most of the above, if not all?

And if the best you can do is say, "I am grateful

I don't have to do these", then think again:

At least pause a moment. See what they do.

Acknowledge their efforts, help when you can,

Because they may be too proud to ask for help.

Or they may be tired of asking and not getting any.

Don't mock them, don't ignore their cries if they complain.

Stop what you're doing and appreciate their efforts

For they're doing what you hate to do.

You have them to fall back on: they may have no one.

Remember, they don't get paid: not even with a word of gratitude.

Yet they have to do over and over, this cycle of boring chores.

Neglect may break a woman's spirit, and so would ingratitude.

She is not quiet because she is content,

She may be quiet because she has lost her confidence.

Spare a kind word, a thoughtful gesture,

Show some gratitude, make her smile.