It started with what life has become — a WhatsApp message. I see my friends, family, siblings and even own children communicating through these messages instead of just picking up the telephone and calling. My life is reduced to waiting for two blue ticks to come up on the phone screen.
But WhatsApp is my lifeline to my teenage son in college, on whom I try my magical innate helicopter parenting skills (every Indian mother has them and, if you’re Punjabi, you are blessed). Being a mother makes you a super-combative drone hovering over your child. A DP (display picture for the uninitiated) with a girl makes our antennas buzz; and half the clan will call up and congratulate you about a “daughter-in-law”, while the rest will say: “Maa da laadla bigad gaya!”
It doesn’t end here. More than the basmati prices, weather, or stocks and shares, it’s status updates on Smartphone that get us speculating. The only thing that can cause all this to stop but leads to another chain of calls is when the maid announces: “Bibiji, I can’t come to work.”
Some days, the messages are bright and meaningful, like the one lines my sister picks up from the sacred Guru Granth Sahib, and the essence explained by a Thai Sikh in a clean, simple, thirty sentences. I marvel at and salute the power of communication, at how a person sitting in maybe Bangkok is able to send his thoughts to a woman in Chandigarh, for her to share these with people in England, the US, and the heart of Punjab.
I still like the old-fashioned way of saving messages, of printing these out and keeping a hard copy, even as it is easy on the phone to bulk-mail, delete, and erase. Life is also reduced to adding friends, messaging them for a while, and then unfriending them. I don’t care if it’s the Chinese year of the tiger, rat or mouse, or about the promised seven years of luck, but every special prayer must be forwarded to at least seven people, or the moneybags won’t follow — so can’t take the risk.
Friends make fun of me when I keep the chain going. But I can’t help passing on medical information if it can save a dying person in faraway land, in a village whose name I can’t even pronounce. Yet, thanks to WhatApp, I now have innumerable friends in all continents. While the song goes “Daakiya daak laya”, my life is reduced to seeing the two ticks go blue.
(The writer is a Jalandhar-based freelance contributor)