What if we were to go back to the 80’s

My mum told me a story which moved me and made me think about a bunch of things. Before I tell you those things, here’s the story:

I was born in 1987 in Nashik. Only a few days after I was born, my Dad got a job in Calcutta. He moved from Nashik to Calcutta at a short notice leaving me with my mum and my nani (mum’s mum).

Without dad, my mum and my nani did a lot for me. She developed a very close connection to me spending all day and night taking care of me. Then after three months, my Dad came back to take my mum and me with him to Calcutta.

Suddenly, all the joys of having a baby around disappeared. My nani felt very lonely. At the time, the only means of keeping in touch were letters and trunk calls. Of course, I couldn’t write a letter so the only communication that happened between nani and me was that when, during a very expensive and rare trunk call, she heard me make some noises. That almost always made her cry.

If I were born today, things would have been so different for the relationship that my nani would have developed with me. We would have the modern forms of communication – she could talk to me on the mobile phone even if my dad earned the same salary as then, she could see me grow up on Skype and if she really really missed me she could even take a flight to Calcutta (because they’ve become so much cheaper than those days!).

The story made me wonder about how much technology has affected us. I tried hard to understand what it must’ve been to have a relationship in that era but I am unable to. Sure, people must’ve dealt with it and got on with things. But I am more interested in the quality of the relationship of those times. We may never realise what it meant to long for someone.

I remember my mum telling me that when my Dad went to Europe in the early 80’s, he used to write her a letter a day which she usually received in bunches after a couple of weeks. Letters from India to Europe took even longer and because my dad was travelling, I am not sure how many times he actually heard back from mum. What must it have been to be my dad who had a one-sided dialogue with his newly wed wife for months?

Somehow, I am not sure that everything is better because of newer technology. We seek immediate responses and quick replies. Many have forgotten the art of letter writing. We’ve developed LOLspeak and gotten addicted to IM. Knowing people’s ‘status’ makes us happy even if you don’t know what is really going on their life.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be a Luddite. Technology has done lots to help. A frequent story that is repeated to show the power of technology is that of an Indian farmer who can now afford to make calls to the local market to figure out a better price for his crop. The grassroots have definitely been strengthened. 884 million Indians have a mobile phone today, that’s 73% of the population!

Even in my case, technology has done plenty. Skype is such a blessing. Every weekend when I talk to my parents for an hour or two, I leave the conversation feeling satisfied. It’s not just about knowing what they are doing but also seeing them and hearing them (so much is communicated through body language).

And yet, stories like the one about my nani make me think about the time without the internet, without mobile phones, without social media…