I still lag behind “Generation X” and its likes when it comes to something basic – accessing internet. At least once or twice a month, I make an effort to actually sit down and do something random surfing the internet. When small sceen phones, phablets and tablets have captured the imagination of the world, I still prefer my laptop to keep me company on those occasions when I deliberately choose to shut off from the mundane world and tread into a nomadic sojourn. Oh by nomadic sojourn, I do not at all mean the footsteps of those very erudite world travelers like Huan Tsang or Ibn Battuta, my sojourns are leaned back in the sofa in my living room, feet atop the coffee table (with a coffee, according to the time of the day and my gastric conditions) and staring in the laptop screen.
At a time when normally we’d talk of an increasing speed or swiftness associated with most things, it is simply one way of me pressing the pause button on myself. I have become so much of a multi-tasker – I listen to music when I work, I watch TV when I eat, I read when I walk, and so on. So much of multi-tasking around me that I often forget that I, like, everyone else, started off as learning to do one task at a time with diligence. Those days when I used to sit down with a text book and notes with pens and papers and no laptop or desktop monitor in front, those days when having dinner meant sitting around the dining table with family and talking was the only thing apart from eating, those power cuts which meant a degree of social activity in and around the neighborhood. Those days. This is what I try to simulate when I sit accompanied by my solitude, with my laptop connected to the internet.
Internet is one big web. The kind of web where you latch onto one cog, and before you know it, you are somewhere deep inside with or without realization. I end up watching some of my favorite childhood videos, songs or advertisements. Sometimes it feels like bliss to sit and simply listen to Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, that Doordarshan song does to me something still inexplicable. More than twenty years since I watched that song, after probably watching it for close to a thousand times, I can still watch it that one more time. The Doordarshan Samachar theme song, which seems to remain embedded. My parents, as was the case with my teachers at school believed watching English news at Doordarshan would help improve spoken English and as a consequence I used to watch Doordarshan news fairly regularly. The ten year old me can’t remember a lot of news items or events covered on TV in those days but I certainly remember gawking at the anchors and thinking about them as legends who could “memorize” half an hour’s worth of news and recite it flawlessly without stuttering or stammering (Oh, I came to know about the concept of teleprompters much later in life). People like Sukanya Balakrishnan, Tejeshwar Singh, Neethi Ravindran, Suneet Tandon and Rini Khanna(among the names associated with faces I distinctly recollect) were truly charmers. I don’t know the role it played in impacting my English language or vocabulary, it likely would have, but it certainly inculcate the news junkie in me. Plus, the inexplicable feeling of nostalgia on hearing the theme at the start of the news bulletin. Something which remains, and inexplicably so. The other element of my nostalgia associated with Doordarshan are the advertisements. Nirma (“Washing powder Nirma”), Nataraj Sharpener (“Khoob cheele bina thode”), Cadbury Dairy Milk (“Asli swad zindagi ka”), Titan are among some of the advertisements I watch sporting a smile on my face. I guess before sporting icons and movie stars monopolized the advertisements, these advertisements had their simple yet unique charm.
One of the things I “progressed to” with the advent of cable television at home was BBC News. I remember watching the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center during dinner time from the cozy confines of my house, not fully comprehending the impact of that day but still knowing all was not well. Probably the most distinct “visual landmark” that I keep with me of my “BBC days” would be the iconic Countdown to BBC News. Sometime in the first decade of the new century, the television scene in India exploded with an astounding speed. I was absorbed into that metamorphosis where specialized channels came up for 24 * 7 news, movies and entertainment domains, as opposed to one channel (Doordarshan) for everything. Looking back, I can parallel that happening with my transformation from childhood to adolescence, probably one reason why I rather remember so much more fondly of those days with a single channel and limited programs.
Those frozen moments in time, idling and reminiscing of the time in front of laptops watching those videos, which are starting to become few and farther between, bring out the child in me. The use of internet, I realize, might not be all as is propounded and generally agreed upon. It could as well be a priceless source of reminiscence, of nostalgia. Indirectly, of some missing cogs in what forms the me of today.