How do I know who am I and am I me? Usernames, passwords, passwords for passwords, and passwords for remembering passwords have usurped my identity. The OTPs—one time passwords—make me look like an all time fool. But I console myself that my enemy has a constantly constipated look, not finding any password even for passing the wind. As I can’t bypass, and pass out many a times living by the leave of passwords, I wonder whether I will need a password to pass away.
Negotiating the maze of passwords transports me to the secret world of deciphering complex codes—and I live my adolescent fantasy of Sherlock Holmes’ cloak and dagger life. Attired in his trademark hat and overcoat, and smoke oozing from the curvaceous pipe, I follow the fugitives in the foggy eerie nights in London’s dark slippery streets shrouded in sinister shadows. Life is spooky—Corona or no Corona.
The toll-free number too takes its toll—“Please wait, you are in the queue… Kripaya intezaar karen, aap katar main hain…”. After waiting for the Godot, when I get connected—I am coaxed into playing a numbers game. For a 3 years old seeking electronic adventure—pushing 1 till 9 and hearing humourless recording over n over again could be thrilling. For me—having pushed luck all my life—it is the endgame. “For English push 1, Hindi me jankaari ke liye 2 dabayen”—whispers a melodiously morbid and monotonous voice. Whatever number I push, I hear what I don’t want to. I go on fishing from 1 to 9 till eternity—only to get disconnected. I repeat the cycle with sadistic pleasure yearning to hear—“Ab aap apna aur saamne wali ka gala dabayen… Now strangulate yourself and the woman at the other end”(men always put women in the firing line). Customer delight or customer fright? It’s death—digit by digit. One resigns, reclines, n recites:
“उम्र ए दराज़ मांग कर लायी थी चार दिन,
दो आरजू में कट गए, दो इंतज़ार में…”*
(I begged four days from life,
Two I lost in longing, two in waiting…)
*Couplet by Seemab Akbarabadi
While Corona kills—the sinners and the saintly, the gadfly and the godly—all are perpetually online. Appropriate all the inappropriate Apps—these are abundant and free. Tweet taunts and tantrums or face-off on Facebook; be an instant hit on Insta by posting the latest pics in bikini with a bunny or do Zumba on Zoom; endlessly forward ‘gyaan’ on WhatsApp making friends n foes writhe, wince n weep or be a darling dude on YouTube—you never lack social media choices. First these ‘apes’ tempt n lure, then they coax n cajole. Coercion from the likes of ‘WhatsApe’ apart, we continue to fall and remain in their trap for FOMO—fear of missing out. We can’t shake these monkeys off our backs.
Even emotions are electronic. Emojis express it all—anger or anxiety, love or lie, smirk or smile. Forget the back-slapping bonhomie—one can go hug a pillar.
The unescapable World Wide Web, Goggle’s googlies, and the machines on our palms, laps and desks manipulate us to download miracles, mischiefs n miseries without measure. WWW answers all our Whats Whys n Whos whenever we plunge into this unfathomable ocean. We wish to find one tiny pearl of wisdom, and it places millions on our palms—we don’t know where to begin and where to end. The plethora of goodies so confuse n confound that one leaves the humongous store without robbing it.
Bored with your life on this earth and on the web? You can live it up in an online “Second Life”. Then there is the Dark Web, which offers you A to Z of the ugly and the illegal—from arms and drugs to thugs. You are a nut case to enter it, and a gone case once into it.
The email story is astounding. We don’t talk or walk, we email—children email parents sitting in the same room, colleagues email each other from adjacent cubicles. We are so scared of others and ourselves that we put everything on instant electronic record. Hail email—it won’t fail, has a trailing tail.
As Ambani urges us to “Karlo Duniya Muthhi Me”—hold the world in your palm, and we ‘rely’ upon him to “Jio” (live) a life of ‘mobile’ dreams, life for most remains a static nightmare.
The binary life—can we ever escape its tentacles? Can we live a life of our own ever again? Digital life is relentlessly marketed and sold to us where we must have it all, else we are nothing. A perfect 1 or 0—everything in-between is meaningless, mundane, and oh…so middle-class.
Caught between being a human and a humanoid, I ask myself—who am I and am I me?