Let’s call her Sally George. She works in a financial company in the US. When I go to sleep, she gets and when I get up she goes to sleep. Those people who have overseas friends in whatsapp, who live in different times zones must have this phenomenon of watching someone sleep while they are fully awake. Had it not been the invention of this device called whatsapp we would have cared much about someone’s sleeping patterns. I came in contact with this friend after a quarter of a century thanks to whatsapp. She was my classmate and I remember her sending me her marriage invitation with a handwritten map. Those were pre-google days. I do not remember whether I had gone and attended her marriage or not. But I remember keeping that invitation card in my personal archives along with many other little vignettes of memories collected over a period of time. From that marriage invitation to the day I met her again in whatsapp our lives had shared a prolonged period of mutual darkness or blankness. All of sudden the distance seems to have collapsed yet the difference in time zones making it a little curious as she goes to sleep while I rise up from my bed and vice versa. So what fundamentally transpires between two such long lost friends are the simple ‘good mornings and good nights’. On a lucky day it extends to ‘too much work pressure’ or ‘really tired’ and ‘driving’.
I am sure most of us have gone through this experience as all of us these days have found out our overseas friends who had once been our classmates or close pals. But there could be people who had some mere familiarity during the college days which was neither friendship nor just acquaintance. Certain kind of smile and nodding lingered between them when they were in college. Some of them, when they ‘meet’ each other after a long time in the virtual space they suddenly try to remember where and when exactly they had shared something significant to be remembered for the rest of their lives. In fact, from my experience, getting back to the college friends over social networking sites or messaging facilities like whatsapp, has always been a little tedious for the affectations of friendship in the virtual space aided by distance and sanitized conditions of intangibility, along with the possibilities of imagining a perfect live led by them and by us and getting envious of it at times could become a bit cumbersome. Such affectations and pretensions fall off along the way as the good mornings and good nights could speak a little more than their verbal conditions. If you are a sensitive person you could listen to something more in the mere words that are sent in as greetings.
(A Painting by Edward Hopper)
With Sally George my friendship was, as I mentioned before, something between a mere acquaintance and a temporary friendship. Basically in college you are knitting a complicated fabric which would later become a part of your life. So each one is busy in his or her own ways though they spend time and make merry within the confines of the classroom or a coffee house. In a society where seeing boys and girls together too often would have led to social shaming and house arrests, it was really difficult for us to hang out whatever that means today because in our college days the idea of hanging out was not there. Or it existed only for a certain class of students who could afford to bear the costs of hanging out, by all means. Hence, our friendship had all limitations of that time though we had exploited the mere possibilities to the hilt. Looking back I cannot say that we had a boring college life. We had made our days worth enjoying and living. Then we left, slowly the memories faded off, realities took over and we all realized that life was not a flower path. Life was supposed to be lived. Living demanded time, attention and ensuing struggles.
Virtual world has helped us to stage some come backs. The idea of reunion has always been remote till these virtual possibilities of connecting each other in real time became a reality. However, when I see Sally George telling me good mornings and good nights (not just to me but to the friends generally in the group) I feel that there is something more than just connecting with the old friends. There is an urgency to live the life backwards. I do not know it is just about one or two people in the virtual or it is same for all. I am a person who spends very little time in social networking sites. I glance at my whatsapp groups and feel good about what people doing there. However, I have observed that the verve and fury with which people share things there has got something more behind it. What they share there are not the real things. Whatever they share there is the tip of an ice berg. I understand, a long lost friend when he or she comes back to you, has already lived his or her life and learnt a few lessons, committed a few mistakes and confessed quite a bit. There are secrets that will die with them and there are revelations that their families will rejoice about. There are so many things in each person’s life; if you could imagine the world as a library, I could definitely say that each of us is a book which is quite fascinating to read, if someone really cares to do so. But fortunately or unfortunately, all the books are not written in legible letters. Some are written in very secret codes, there are languages that one need to learn to read those books. There are books that are written by tears, there are volumes that are written by sobs, there are toms which are written by dreams. Some books, when opened throw a cascade of laughter down. Some are quite grim and you don’t feel like going beyond a chapter. But this is a fascinating library.
If life is a fascinating library, then let me tell you what you see in the whatsapp messages are just catalogues and index notes. You can pick and choose and as you know none of read or hunt for those books listed in catalogues provided we do not have too much of an academic interest in them. Catalogues are always read for the sake of it and for the sake of curiosity. Each time you read a book list or a catalogue that publishes the names of the books, you determine to read a few of them because you are excited to see a good array of fascinating titles. But the moment you keep the catalogue down, you forget about the books altogether. We are not academically inclined about people because we are not psychologists or neuroscientists. Writers are those people who study from people but they do not make any deliberate efforts to ‘study’ them academically. They are like sponges that suck the traits of people into their blood stream so that they could reproduce them at their writing desk. Actors are those people who would prefer to study people deliberately and imitate them when they act. But as you know, the actors are self obsessed people and it very difficult for them to hide their personality and assume a character’s personality. So they are in a constant struggle to decimate their own personality and to get into someone else’s skin. Writers are different; they are like chameleons. They could change their colors at any time.
Let us come back to the case of Sally George. One after reading my blog, she sent a message in the whatsapp group saying that how he finds time to write all these. She said that she did not get time even to sit and read. Running between two actual spaces, that is home and office, and donning a few roles like wife, mother and an officer, she does not get enough time to be herself. By the time she is herself, she is asleep. I am sure that she sees a lot of dreams about being herself and in all those dreams she looks like a princess travelling in a decked up buggy driven by winged horses and her mother in her beautiful regalia as a queen holding the reigns for the time being. Why doesn’t she get time to live her dream or rather translate her dreams into reality? Yes, she does want to do so. But when she gets up there are different realities demanding her attention. There is a hissing faucet that needs her attention and hissing husband asking for a sizzling hot tea and a fuming son who wants his neck tie and socks right then and there. Suddenly she sees a princess degenerating into a maid servant and she regains her own self only when she sits at her driving seat. When she negotiates too many curves not only on the road but also at the work front she feels good about herself. She feels confident.
(a painting by Edward Hopper)
I wish all the Sally Georges in the world write down their dreams and translate their struggles into words. They say they do not get time. As Basheer the great writer had once said, only the god has got all ‘Time’ in his hands. We are mere mortals who are dispensed with twenty four hours. We need to use it wisely. It is not about time management for a successful life. There the very notion of success itself is in question. It is not chicken soup for souls either. It is about translating life into something eternal; sort of making mark in and on the great thing called Time. When you write, you write your time, your dreams, your land, your world, your politics and your everything. Great women in the world, by virtue of their biological traits have handled rouge husbands, brought up kids alone, handled jobs, written academic papers, attended seminars, led offices and have written books. I remember one of my academic friends, a single mother and a bold feminist and social activist, writing about her own life for the first time. She revealed that she wrote her doctoral thesis in the bathroom, at the commode, while keeping her howling child on her left thigh and the papers on a stool on her right side. I salute that woman. Hence, my suggestion to all my friends is this: write down your life. Translate your dreams. Write Write and Write. Translate, Translate and Translate.