I fear I've become an anachronism in a wired world. I don't come across anyone anymore who doesn't have a 'connection' at home. I don't have one. I love lapdogs, hate laptops. You don't have to hunch over desktops as much as you have to over laptops, but even so they are just about tolerable in office. Not at home.
"I don't believe in taking work back home," I declare officiously to people who look disbelievingly at me. "But don't you at least want to check mail at home?" they ask, continuing to look disbelieving. "Mail? What mail? No, no, never," I go offline. Completely.
What about the other kind of stuff, a few of them persist. Like, you know, e-dating… singles clubs… 'lonely hearts' clubs… Kind of stuff you can't do at work.
Believe me, I tell them earnestly, all these don't exist in my space, although I do have a cybernetic complex nowadays as three of my colleagues write columns on cyberspace (on one page, the Open Source one — check it out, and you'll know what I mean). So I must tell you the story of how I was, unwittingly, hurtled into the black hole of cyberspace. This was at the fag end of the '90s, when having a comp at home wasn't quite de rigueur but kind of getting there.
I have a friend who is fiercely Bengali but is, strangely enough, named after a Roman goddess (no, it's not Diana, and Diana is Roman, not Greek because Artemis is her Greek name). She'd just met her husband online (probably the pre-beta version of shaadi.com) and relocated to Holland, from where she happily informed me that she'd posted my profile (and home address) on some site, asking prospective 'grooms' to snail mail me.
A gentleman from Leeds, who worked for a French oil company, sent me a letter, with a Queen Elizabeth II stamp on it. He wrote that he'd come to India the year before and fallen in love with it; he now wanted to marry an Indian woman. There was also his photograph inside. He looked rather nice. Hmmm, I thought, not half bad.
I was tempted to start dreaming about watching cricket at Headingley, but obviously had to hold my horses. So I snail mailed him back, saying, hey, let's be pen-pals for the time being, and then take it from there. I fixed Mahatma Gandhi stamps on the envelope, and sent it off. I heard from him in three weeks' time. It usually took around 10 days for a letter to reach England and vice versa, so I calculated that he'd replied forthwith.
He sounded enthusiastic in his second letter, said he'd be visiting India in winter (half-a-year away), and asked me if I had an email ID. Of course not, I wrote back. I then fixed rare Indian birds' stamps on the envelope, and sent it off.
Over the next two months, we exchanged a couple of letters. I must add here that I didn't possess a cellphone at that time since call charges were prohibitive, and I couldn't dream of asking him to call me on my parents' landline because they'd then find out the kind of hanky-panky I was up to.
One day, when there was about four months left for winter to set in, I got one more letter from him. He wrote he couldn't be in touch with me any more — because he'd 'found' somebody who lived in Dubai (of Indian origin, I was sure), and was planning to visit her in winter. He couldn't even be pen-pals with me — since he felt he'd be letting down Dubai Girl.
He added, before signing off, how easily he had been able to be in touch with Dubai Girl because she had email.
Damn, I thought, damn and blast the bloody Net.
That's when I got my hotmail ID, which I don't use now.
Single In The City will not appear next Sunday. The column will be back on October 7