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Delhiwale: Family on a screen

Surya Ramasamy is not fluent in Hindi but that hardly keeps her from pursuing a career in Delhi. She lives the millennial way — skyping with her family in Chennai and visiting her husband in DC.

delhi Updated: Jul 31, 2017 12:25 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Surya Ramasamy talking to her family through Skype.
Surya Ramasamy talking to her family through Skype. (Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Once upon a time, our most intimate relationships were restricted to the geographical space we lived in. Today, they thrive on the internet.

One evening, we came across a young woman in the open air area of India Habitat Center. She seemed to be wandering aimlessly. She had an open laptop in her hand. She was speaking out loudly and gazing around without looking at anything specific. The trajectory of her eyes seemingly as random as that of her steps. Suddenly, she laughed. On getting closer, we heard her say in a loving tone — “Amma.”

The woman’s laptop screen showed three people sitting in a room, somewhere far away. We could hear their voices clearly. They were talking in an unfamiliar tongue.

“Are you skyping with your parents?” we ventured to ask.

The woman turned around, and said, “No, they are my parents-in-law.” Introducing herself as Surya Ramasamy, the woman said that she was a banker. “My office is in this complex,” she said, waving her free arm towards the red-brick multistorey structures of the India Habitat Center. “Sometimes, after leaving the office, I talk to my folks in Chennai, and then I walk back home. I live in Defence Colony. It takes me exactly 40 minutes to reach my apartment.” A Tamil speaker — she herself comes from Chennai — Ms Ramasamy studied Hindi in school but is not fluent enough to hold a long conversation in the language. She preferred answering our questions in English.

“My husband is a software engineer in Washington, DC. We live apart because of our jobs, but we visit each other.”

On her relationship with the city she lives in, the banker confessed that she spends very little time in Delhi markets. “I do all my shopping online,” she said. “Also, I’m used to Chennai-style food and don’t find it anywhere in Delhi. So I cook for myself.”

Suddenly, pointing at her laptop’s screen, Ms Ramasamy made the introductions with obvious pleasure: “Meet my father-in-law, Shri Kottaidurai. And she is my sister-in-law, Hemalatha. And here is my mother-in-law, Shrimati Jeyavalli.”

Ms Ramasamy finally said goodbye and returned to her screen. Chatting in Tamil, she walked away, oblivious to the twilight, breaking through a city that did not contain her entirely.

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