When people, (those who dwell mostly online) talk about free WiFi zones and the advent of ultra high speed internet access on portable devices the conversation seems perfectly normal. In my rather moderately sized home town of Indore when the municipality announced the introduction of free public WiFi zones, it came as a pleasant surprise. 3rd world nations are catching on to the revolution of continuous connectivity, because its cheap and highly rewarding to do so. Yet I am typing this very article out in the middle of a 2-3 hour power outage despite continued internet.
Since the last government decided in all its wisdom to create the separate state of Telangana, things have not looked well for the citizens of the city of Hyderabad. This city which a decade ago became synonymous with IT and the Software Industry now finds itself a victim of political manipulation and the product of collective human stupidity. Foreign investment had boomed once in this town famed otherwise only for its Biryani, now the allure of good infrastructure and a supportive local government is long since gone. The very hope and aspiration that had enamoured me and my friends when we came to work in this city of considerable culture has fizzled out. A lack of water, 4 to 6 hours without electricity every day, will do that to you. Such a period was what my parent state of Madhya Pradesh had gone through in the decade ruled by the infamous Diggi Raja. I remember dark evenings and candle lit dinners were very regular in my childhood. But things were different in those days. I did not have much to do and my attention span was not as limited as it is today.
A post about Things we loved doing in Power Cuts and Top games to play when there is No Electricity would draw a greater audience in this day and age. For this is an age of lists, graphic bullet points and short videos. I hardly know of anyone today who doesn’t treat his/her internet enabled device as a life support system. Looking at your mobile screen during conversations instead of the speaker’s face is acceptable and the expiry of one’s mobile data plan is to be equated to the temporary loss of one’s kidney, very seriously. But when there is no electricity and you choose not to employ the assistance of a generator or invertor to alleviate the suffering, you get time to reflect.
Without internet you realize how over exaggerated is the need for constant entertainment. The uninterrupted affliction with video streaming, that too those uploaded by people with a great deal of time on their hands bent on the destruction of that on your hands. The absence of connection from the world outside lets you think beyond the life of others and helps focus on yours. The photographic evidence of the apparent prosperity of mere acquaintances is no longer that disturbing, for you are deprived of access to it. The constant show of affection by equally non occupied individuals in hope for reciprocation on a medium unimaginable 20 years ago, is no longer a concern. The reliable transfer of voice over the telephone is what you have to depend on and it makes a pleasant change from the micro textual ticker of the life of everyone you know puked out by your phone. Also you can possibly get some work done in the mean while, clean your room, wash the dishes or cook something nice. Thoughts of great import strike you in the silence that you experience only when there is no sound of Music or TVs from the neighboring apartments. Ideas, action plans, life improvement strategies and the need to do something more than consume mediocre content and voice inconsequential opinions on it. You feel empowered, liberated that feeling of going out of your house and actually achieving something, anything that will make the idea of existence one of note.
Then just as suddenly as the tube-light had spluttered into darkness and the ceiling fan lazed into deceleration, things come back to life. The intentional, seemingly unpredictable power rationing is up and the lights are back on. You decide to put your plans into action, take out your laptop, open the browser to do whatever is required, for most things that need doing or are decided originate from the Internet. You have new mail, a Facebook notification and a new YouTube video from one of the n channels you subscribe to. You promise to just peek into all of this for one single tiny second and that’s that. The Medusa of completely avoidable, instant gratification strikes and you are turned to stone in front of a screen which you hoped to use as a means but becomes the end, possibly yours.