I was sitting with my manager one evening in Mumbai. We were discussing a difficult situation in the factory to find a suitable resolution. Mankame, my group leader, walked in for my signature on his leave form. On checking, I discovered that he was visiting his mother in Ratnagiri. We lived in the era of manual systems, and a superior had to sign the leave application before submission to the ‘time office.’ While signing the leave application, Mankame asked my manager how often he would meet his mother in a year. He promptly replied that he would visit her three times a year — his birthday, his mother’s birthday and Christmas. It shocked Mankame and me when my manager revealed that she lives eighteen kilometres away from him. This conduct is unthinkable in our culture. I learnt that this behaviour comes from providing private space between individuals. I hope this change will not happen in my society and country soon as we still find opportunities to visit the elders.
I visited my parents as often though the frequency dwindled with the years. I might have seen my parents ten times during my career. When I left home for my engineering studies, I visited my parents once a year. I met my siblings only on special occasions. After my marriage, I divided my vacation between my parents and my in-laws. As I moved on in life, the visits became small in number because of logistical challenges and the needs of the children. I loved to travel and meet my friends and relatives face to face as many times as possible. My grandfather was a role model here; he would plan and visit relatives yearly. He firmly believed that face-to-face meetings provided a better scope for sharing happiness and challenges.
The Sadahalli gang is at the other end of the spectrum. My mother hails from a village called Sadahalli near Bangalore. My cousins meet more often than necessary. They love to meet each other, even for an insignificant event. While I consider this as good behaviour, there is no value in meeting the exact individual three times in the day. Responding to and attendance to social functions is mandatory in my family circle. Fear lurks around that I would be labelled an ‘outcast’ if I did not show up.
I met my classmate Amarendra at Occulus after ten years. He was passing through New York and wanted to know whether I could meet him. We had coffee together and opened up and talked about our college days and other areas of mutual interest. Though the meeting was short, it was memorable. When we parted, we talked about the next meeting. Both of us were not sure whether we would meet again.
While technology has helped bring people faster together, it has separated the physical space between people. COVID has increased the physical distance between individuals by miles. I remember when I could walk into my neighbour’s house for a cup of coffee. I am no longer a guest now, and my neighbours and friends politely avoid me these days because of the fear of the virus. Physical meetings are past experiences, and living with ‘Zoom’, and ‘Google’ meets to become a reality.
I need to learn to live with the new change.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu a great Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism.