Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friends in the times of facebook

In my early school years I was almost an outsider- watching other kids play. Having spent my first few formative years in Muscat, I was not aware of the games children played in India. I watched on most of the time while they played all the usual games of our childhood.
As times passed and I grew more comfortable with my surrounding I made friends more easily. In the '80s when there was not much T.V, no internet and hardly any contact with the rest of the world, my friends filled a part of me that I now know was void. They made me whole and enriched my life in so many different ways.

The world of a child in the '80s was like a dream. We played. We laughed. We ran barefoot in our neighbourhood and the parents never told us it was ill-mannered to barge into our friends' house at any given time. We played stupid games, watched the Sunday evening movies together and broke into meaningless laughter without any provocation or reason. Every morning we would eagerly wait for the school bus to take us to school so that we could meet our classmates. And we would be equally eager to go back home to we meet our friends in the neighbourhood. Life was a continuous cycle of fun and frolic. When the school broke for summer, we went to our home towns with our parents to visit our grandparents, to Kolkata, Lucknow, Bangalore... We would write letters to each other during the break and look forward to joining them again two months later.

College was different. We had learned to be more responsible. So life was no longer just a game. It was also going to the college canteen, (we responsibly split our expenses) bunking lectures, (one person was appointed to be the responsible one who would industriously take down notes for all of us) and going for movies. We would responsibly carry our ID cards so that we could sneak in to see an adults only movie even when we were below 18. Throughout my college years, my friends formed a support system . They helped when I missed lectures, accompanied me when I had to go to distant libraries or any other places for any work and gave me courage to face the world when my heart was broken. We would call each other at odd time and just talk for hours.

Every thing changed when we started working. Financial independence gave us that extra confidence but we also learned the key words that later helped us to navigate our lives better. Team work, deadlines and intercommunication skills. Coming from diverse backgrounds we slowly learned to depend on each other, have faith in each others abilities and give each other enough space to bloom. No more barging in unannounced. At work with my friends I learned to work hard and party harder. I had my first drinks with them, and learned for the first time to live my life away from my parents. Truly coming of age moments. There was still no internet and cell phones. At least not in India. My friends still communicated over phones.
Now, after so many years, when I started to track down my old friends, I discovered a totally new world. In the times of internet, friendship has taken a new status. So now I know every minute as I follow them on twitter or facebook what they are doing at that precise moment. I know when they have a showdown with their kids, when they feel overwhelmed at work and when they simply feel bored. My friends who are now in distant lands like Melbourne or Washington or Hongkong, know what my home looks like or what interest my children even without coming to my house. The social networking sites have completely changed my idea of a friendship. I love it and can not get enough of it. I comment on their photographs, join their fan clubs and take part in their quizzes. Though, sometimes, just sometimes, when I am a little sad and need a bit of encouragement, I miss the days I could just drop into my friend's house for a cup of tea and a little chat. I wish we were still living close to each other or meeting every day at work. No amount of status updates can ever replace a warm hug and a friendly laughter when you are down.

At least not for me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Worried Sick

I admit I am a certifiable hypochondriac.
Every ache, every discomfort, every sneeze to me is a symptom of a deadly disease. I spend endless hours surfing the net analysing my symptoms and trying to fit them to a horrific ailment.Despite the doctor's reassurances and other pathological tests, I genuinely believe at times that I am fatally ill.

In my defence I must say that there are reasons for these obsessive compulsive beliefs. Our family boasts of some really gruesome illnesses. Mind you, I am not talking of malaria, typhoid, jaundice or ordinary pneumonia.... kiddie stuff all of them. what we have is hard to pronounce and harder to acquire diseases. Between my mother's family and my father's I have every base covered. There have been cases of Myasthenia gravis, Alzheimer's, Guillain- Barre syndrome, Parkinsons, liver and pancreatic cancer, epilepsy... There also have been cancers of the brain, stomach, blood, and breasts. There has been a simple gall-bladder surgery gone horribly wrong where the patient had to put in a stent in the bile duct to rectify the situation. Needless to say there have also been standard stuff like paralytic strokes, heart failures and diabetes. There has also been one retinal detachment which has resulted in blindness. But who considers them serious these days !

So you see, there is a genuine cause for my concern here.Often I have found myself going to a hospital for various tests. Once I dragged my husband to the hospital emergency because I was convinced I had a grievous neurological issue. I could not swallow my food. My throat had refused to cooperate with my tongue and the food went the other way. My poor husband had to leave his food uneaten and escort my brainless self to the 24 hour emergency. The doctor there diagnosed a severe throat infection but I was not really convinced. Just an infection? Definitely it was more severe? Like throat cancer perhaps? The doctor had a glazed look in his eyes and I didn't think he trusted himself to speak.

So despite medical evidences to the contrary, I have had a brain tumour, blood sugar, kidney disease, stomach cancer and high blood pressure so far. When I went to my third sonogram in as many months to detect any abnormalities in my stomach, my doctor took me aside and asked me what exactly my problem was. "Cancer runs in my family you know and I keep thinking I am next" My doctor turned serious and held my hand. " I know exactly what you mean. You see death runs in mine. So far nobody has been able to defy it. I am sure one day I am going to die too..."

I came out of the clinic and a minute later started laughing outrageously. People perhaps thought that I was stark raving mad but who cared? You see self-deprecating humour also runs in the family. We can admit that we are morons and have a good laugh at our own expense. And I have been laughing since then. Though at times I am troubled by a potential problem. Has laughter killed anybody so far? There's always a first time, right? Can excessive laughter cause an abdominal tear that can turn into an inflammation of the intestine that in turn cancerous? I must google that one...

Meanwhile if any of you have any information on that one then please let me know. I am worried sick...