Virtual communication over spoken words

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Virtual communication over spoken words

Thursday, 06 June 2024 | sanjay chandra

Virtual communication over spoken words

Each one of us needs appreciation, or validation, through a kind or loving word, and sometimes through a touch or even an occasional hug

We were fond of a nursery rhyme during our hostel days, “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for letter, four for toy...” I realised much later that we had tweaked the rhyme to suit us, to help us cope with separation. The original did not have any reference to letters.

Most of us had come out of the sheltered life of our familiar surroundings for the first time.

Emails and mobiles were not even on the horizon in 1974. Many homes did not have landline telephones. We were homesick and eagerly looked forward to handwritten letters from home. Each day, we anxiously crowded around the table outside the mess where the postman dumped all the posts. A few would gleefully pull out theirs, while others walked into the dining hall dejected.

A few years later, I was engaged to be married to a young girl within the next five months. It was a long-distance courtship. I was posted in a government job in Calcutta, she was in the final year of her graduation in Delhi. I did not have the benefit of telephone facilities either at the office or at home.

I did the next best thing – write her a letter every day. She also responded, with almost the same frequency. Almost four decades later, I do not recall the contents of our letters; but I am sure they would have served the same purpose that today’s practice of youngsters going out several times over months serves. We have begun to rationalise and accept the change in the younger generation for a better understanding before committing to a future relationship; while we did it after we had been engaged in an arranged relationship by our parents.

The traditional has given way to the new to suit the changing times. Age and familiarity bring inevitable changes in life. As years rolled on, we also got busier in our daily lives – jobs, raising children, and many other things, which some may call mundane, but which I call as the flow of life.

There would be bickering between the two of us, interspersed with silences, which we had not even envisaged through the rose-tinted glasses that we wore while writing those long letters during our courtship.

Now in our sixties – my wife is short of that magical number by less than a year – we even communicate through these silences. We are more like the couple of birds that I recently spotted sitting a little apart from each other on an electric wire looking in different directions, contemplating life, and probably in silent communication with each other.

Technology has also changed our lives in many ways. Virtual communication is the new order over the verbal or the written word. There are more messages of greetings on social media from and to family members living under the same roof. In the earlier days, when we did not have social media at our beck and call, a written note was something to be preserved and cherished.

One might argue that it is better than not communicating at all. My counterpoint is that not all communication should be silent or on the net. Each one of us needs appreciation, or validation, through a kind or loving word, and sometimes through a touch or even an occasional hug.

Lord Tennyson said almost two centuries back, “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.” Change is inevitable and needs to be welcomed with open hearts. To not change is to stagnate. It is within us to differentiate and embrace the good.

(The writer conducts workshops on creative writing for young adults and corporate executives. Views are personal)

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