Saturday, June 7, 2008

a glue called helplessness

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks cooped up with a group of strangers in a strange city. Looking back, I realise that I was strange too. I didn’t hit ctrl alt del once to lock up my documents when I stepped out for lunch or coffee. I uninhibitedly spoke about fears that I wouldn’t dare breathe to my mother or sisters (all of who I am quite close to).When I had to go out to take a call or to meet someone, I had no qualms about leaving my purse behind with these strangers. Night after night, all of us, male and female, slipped into our bunks in a common room.

This could have happened at an intensive spiritual workshop or a hippy commune, but didn’t in my case. I was outside the intensive care unit of a hospital in Mumbai.

There is something to be said about offline social networks.

We were offline in every possible way. The people we were there for (my father in my case) were separated from us by a heavily guarded door. Even when we got a peek in, we were up against barriers of tubes, needles and sedatives. Grim looking doctors who emerged once a day spoke to us in an alien language, using scary terms like lumbar puncture and mobilization. Those of us who had data cards were baffled by the number of ominous explanations that google threw up. What threw us furthest into offline territory was the fact that we couldn’t do anything for our ailing ones except wait.

So we waited, with our shared helplessness. And that turned us into a group, connected through our lack of power.

We participated in chats about doctors, treatments and incomprehensible news. We aired witticisms and mpgs from our cell phones. We could have been using super wall on facebook, only, we had no common friends. We trusted one another with our valuables and our thoughts, even though we hadn’t checked out a single profile.

But this was a social network with an expiry date. The day I left for home, I automatically signed out of the network. There’s no chance of reconnecting, because back in Bangalore, I realise that I don’t even know the names of the people I was so close to for eleven days.

I also know in hindsight that we weren’t held together by a cause, but a lack of one.

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