I vividly remember the day—two decades ago—when the postman mistook a letter of invitation to interview for an appointment order, and waited for my arrival to congratulate me. In those days, the LPG cylinder delivery boys, milk vendors and others of their ilk were much popular for their service. The long queue for the electricity bill payment, at the railway reservation centre or banks was an opportunity to mingle with people. Visits to banks, though time-consuming, would endear us to a few officers. Life moved at a languid pace.
I am referring to the 1980s and early 90s. The Microsoft Windows brought computers to the doorsteps and along with it, a paradigm shift in human relationships. Today, the payment of electricity bills, procurement of milk coupons, booking of railway tickets, deposit of funds in a bank account, booking of cylinders, payment of tax, encumbrance certificates and all sundry chores are done online. The regular autos have made a humble exit for the radio taxis that are also available online. Online consultation with doctors, with phone-linked ECG have revolutionised the medical field. The SMS has accorded a decent burial to the venerated telegram. Today, the ubiquitous postman is replaced by the nondescript courier boy. With the email gaining usage, the courier’s days are numbered.
Everyday activity appears simple today due to the burgeoning use of technology. The flip side? Nobody knows anybody, except by way of abstract imagination of the façade of the organisation they are using. The domineering technology has conditioned us to utilise only minimal resources, minimising social interaction. People are enamoured of gadgets and are locked up in small places for hours. A new generation has spawned, oblivious of the society they live in. Even in a lift, people are buried in an iPad or a smartphone. On a train, I saw a youth brusquely disconnecting a call, ostensibly from his mother, and plunging again into the laptop. A young man abroad was unable to spare time for his father’s funeral. He applied for his father’s death certificate online! A dichotomy reflecting technological growth and failing relationships.
Devoting time for social unions, meetings and banter have also become remote. Jokes and chats are found only in the social media. I got one summing up our times: “A girl was trapped in a lift that stopped midway. She started screaming F1, F1, F1.” It took some time for me to appreciate the joke: F1 is the short cut in the keyboard for “Help”. A contemptuous take, that we are becoming desolate. The issue is tendentious. But technology is inevitable. How we balance it with human relationship is more important.