Saturday, September 23, 2006


I am very curious about a certain phenomenon that seems to have started these days. Apparently, when someone has an accident, or turns out to have some kind of serious illness, either an email service or a mobile network service comes forward and offers to give a certain amount of money every time a message about the individual concerned is forwarded. Now, here's my question: how does the mobile/email service in question know when the message is forwarded? Do they encrypt some kind of tracking code into the message (I wouldn't know if that's the correct terminology; I'm rather ignorant about these things)? Or they do have access to all our inboxes, and therefore know just how often we send/receive these messages (and therefore being a complete violation of privacy)?

Now, if it is one of these things, wouldn't it just be simpler to directly and openly hand over a huge some of money to the individual in need? At least, that way, they'd get a great deal of publicity. Oh, and they could even throw a huge bash and get their photos on Page 3 in the process!!!

Did I hear someone call me a cynic? Guilty as charged. I don't believe in altruism. At least, not when there's nothing in it for you in return. And definitely not for utter strangers. Sure, I help my friends and family if they need me to, because for some odd reason, I care about the bunch of them. I also help random classmates and colleagues, but if I was to examine my motives, it would probably be in the hope that when I need help from them, I'll get it (plus there's the fact that I'm not too good at saying no). And as far as strangers are concerned I don't think I've helped out more than one or two in my life!

So here's what I'm curious about (no, it wasn't the question at the beginning): what makes all these people so gullible to believe these forwards, and thereafter so willing and eager to send them on? They don't know these individuals, yet they will continue to send forward after forward to "help" them.

I mean, come on, I've been using the World Wide Web for seven to eight years now, and that girl Rachel who supposedly has cancer has been the same freaking age ever since! Sure, even I got taken in initially... Oui, even I have been nice enough to send out that mail a few times, but then you see, after a year or so, I wisened up. So why don't these people?

To quote a wise woman, "People are stupid".

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where have all the smiles gone?

If you don't like something, change it, If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.
- Maya Angelou

Rather ironic words coming from me, I know.

I visited Mumbai a while back and I was amazed at how helpful the people there are. There were individuals who actually went out of their way to give us directions or any other assistance that we needed at the time. Now to someone who has lived in the NCR for more than a decade, such attitudes came as a rather pleasant surprise. Yet, through it all, I noticed one thing: no one smiles in Mumbai. People are undoubtedly helpful there, but their expressions are constantly bland, if not outrightly grim.

Since coming back, however, I've realised this isn't just a phenomenon specific just to Mumbai. On my way to university in the mornings, I look around and I see nothing but grim or worried or stressed faces. Everyone on the road seems to have a furrowed brow. No one smiles any more!

Yes, we enjoy the occasional laugh with friends or family. By and large, however, we crib and we complain. We complain about anything and everything that we possibly can. I do it myself - I gripe about deadlines, class schedules from hell, chores to carry out, inconsiderate or annoying people, lechers on the road, hair loss, you name it. Everyone I know has something or the other to crib about. Maya Angelou's words of wisdom obviously have very little place in our lives today.

When did this happen? When did we start complaining about every little thing in life? When did we stop being grateful for what we have? When did we forget to appreciate the small pleasures in life? When did we forget how to smile?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The willing violation of privacy

It is a very "in" thing these days to be a member of as many online communities as possible. You join, fill up a profile about yourself, put up as many photos of yourself, and add everyone you know who's also a member of that website as your "friend". So within about a week of joining, the whole world knows you some 60-odd friends. The interesting thing about these websites is that people you had completely lost touch with suddenly reappear in your life and add you as their friends. So it's all very exciting and lots of messages going back and forth about how looooooooooooooooong it's been and how grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat it is to hear from you again and what is up with you these days and blah, blah, blah!!! After about four-five such messages, silence re-emerges, and you simply occasionally visit each other's profile, and pat yourselves on the back about how many people you're in touch with.

I have never seen the point of these websites. Yes, they occasionally lead to a real reconnection between long-lost friends, and yes they can be fun at times (and very amusing at others for some!!!), but for the most part, it seems to be a kind of security blanket (in a friend's words - copyrights must be respected) to say that you know what a 101 people are doing. I know what most of former classmates are doing today thanks to these websites, but I wouldn't say I'm in touch with any of them. Knowing where a person is does not amount to keeping in touch in my book.
The latest craze is a website called Orkut. This has gone one step forward. It has the concept of "scrapbooks" wherein you can leave messages for people in a way that the whole world can read them. Now, maybe I'm a neurotically private person, who doesn't really like the whole world to know what I'm upto, but I honestly do find the whole concept of scraps quite absurd.

I was talking to a friend on the phone the other night. Now he happens to be someone who is a hardcore fan of these websites. He mentioned how he met an school friend some days back, someone who he hasn't spoken to in years, yet someone who knows every detail of what's going on in his life and vice versa, simply because they've been reading up each other's scraps. I tried pointing out that such a thing isn't exactly something to be kicked about, but he thinks it's quite cool for whatever reason. Well, gee I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

How is it cool to have someone who you haven't spoken to in years know every little detail about your life?!? Some former schoolmates of mine added me as their "friends" on Orkut; I accepted out of politeness. These people are now scrapping me asking me about what's going on in my life, as well as sending me Friendship Day scraps. The best part about this? Not once in our eight years of being in the same school did we ever exchange words. I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

Something happened to me a couple of months back that was probably the best news I had received in a long, long time. Not wanting the whole freaking world to know about it, I emailed four-five people about it because I felt they deserved to know. Two replied very nicely, while the other two simply scrapped me back. I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

I don't get how you can let the whole world know what's happening in your life. I don't get how you can let everyone read your conversations with anyone. I don't get how you can scrap someone who has emailed you about something quite personal. I do realise that not everyone likes to keep things as private as I do, and I respect that. But this latest fad seems to be encouraging a complete lack of privacy for anyone and everyone, and I'm sorry, but I don't get how that can be considered so highly wonderful.