Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Mother of all Technologies

A revolution (to be henceforth known as the February Revolution) took place in our home this month. My mother-in-law discovered Short Messaging Service.

All of us blessed with parents, parents-in-law, and sundry aunts, uncles and neighbours of over 50 years of age must have gone through the ordeal of familiarising them with ‘gadgets’ and technology. I remember trying to teach my Mom the (what I thought) simple exercise of clearing up old messages from her cell phone. What ensued was an hour of struggle, during which I pulled out clumps of hair and gnashed my teeth almost continually. Finally, I gave up. And cleared all the messages myself – all 653 of them, over the next 3 hours.

At that moment I was even weak enough to excuse my teenage son for the ‘nostrils-flare fiery-glare rude-words-fare’ he treats me to when I ask him simple questions like ‘How do I copy songs from my laptop into my cell phone?’

It really is a mental block. The ‘Technology Block Syndrome’, which seems to develop once you cross a certain age, though the exact age at which it develops is a much debated issue. I think the onset age for TBS is 55 onwards. My son seems to disagree – he believes the age is closer to 35.

Anyway, empirical evidence shows TBS afflicts about 90% of people above 55. So, it really was a pleasant surprise when my mother-in-law first caught hold of my 10-year old daughter, Ananya to teach her to send text messages, and subsequently took to ‘sms-ing’ like fish to water.

There was much excitement – and commotion in the initial days. A few bewildered men and women got hit by stray bullets - Amma was unwittingly sending messages to wrong numbers! They got badgered with message after message from her. Sample this:

6 am. Amma to Mr. X: ‘Going for a walk’
6.30 am. Amma to Mr. X: ‘Who am I talking to’ 
6.45 am. Amma to Mr. X: ‘I am Amma.’

Poor hapless souls, who had no clue who Amma, aka Vijaya Srinivas was! Some of them, like Mr. X, actually called back, fascinated by the mysterious Amma - probably wondering if these were some kind of coded messages...

More mirth was to follow – what with the fervent texting spree to friends and family. It gave a whole new meaning to ‘hypertext’... ;)

At about this time, she embarked on a trip to Dindigul, on her own. And thus started a persistent stream of messages! She even started using sms lingo like a pro. ‘R u in for lunch?’ and ‘Call before kma goes to school’... kma here being Kannamma, the pet name by which she calls Ananya.

Here is a string of texts that started with the train journey:

12.05 pm. Amma to Sudarshan: 'Train moving'
12.06 pm. Amma to Madhusudan: 'Train moving'
12.30 pm. Amma to Sudarshan: 'So far so good'
12.37 pm. Amma to Madhusudan: 'Had soup good company'
1.00 pm. Amma to Madhusudan: 'Had lunch'
1.01 pm. Amma to Sudarshan: 'Had lunch'
1.02 pm. Amma to Suchi: 'Had lunch'
4 pm. Amma to Madhusudan: 'In Pune'
5.30 pm. Amma to Sudarshan: 'In Daund

and so on, till the next day, when she reached her destination.

Well, I must say – at least one need not worry about the well being of one’s dear ones with this kind of minute-by-minute status updates.... I have to say, most people today (including me) need to learn from this – they just seem to vanish into thin air when on an out-of-town trip!

She even made an attempt to strike a conversation with Amartya... 

4 pm. Amma to Amartya: 'whatsup? answer by sms'
4.15 pm. Amma to Amartya: 'Did you get the sms'
5 pm. Amma to Amartya: 'ANSWER'

As you can see, it started off rather amicably, and ended ... well...! Amartya, of course, is quite immune to all attempts from immediate family to make conversation. You could even say he was the only one who dared violate the hypertext transfer protocol... :)

Initially, the inadvertent typos that crept in while she was struggling to master the keyboard made the messages all the more fun to read – ‘Did kma go to pchool today?’... But now she is pretty adept at it, and has serious conversations with friends and relatives of all shapes, sizes and ages. Yesterday, a reverent ex-student smsed her, ‘Who do you think will win today’s match?’

We were quite surprised. And impressed!

Well, maybe, in telling this story I have taken a few artistic liberties, gone a wee bit beyond the truth – but by and large I have NOT deviated much. So, you see, it really is nothing less than a revolution. And now I have a technologically empowered ma-in-law!

Truly, hats off, Amma!

Here’s looking forward to many more February Revolutions... in every household...


  1. Wow! - the drawing actually resembles Amma!! :)
    And your humour streak too is getting better and better.

    Shiver shiver - I am keeping fingers crossed hoping my turn will not come, now that Ananya done, Amartya Done, Amma done!

  2. Done!

    1 Sudarshan, sauted and grilled coming up soon.... :D

  3. Hi Suchi,

    I got to read this only now.....but better late than never. It's a hilarious piece and the nuances of the texting familiarisation and experential process is so well captured. SInce I had the opportrunity to meet Amma, I enjoyed it all the more. At my end, its my own Amma who took it upon herself to take up a computer course and then hit upon the Internet with a vengeance! she made up for all the years she went without this medium by ensuring that she forwarded every single of those mushy, soppy, informative, scary, cute, forward chain mails that we have all been through since we can remember....she flooded mail boxes and refused to budge from the computer. So now, there is a fight to get hold of the mouse just as there used to be one to get hold of the television remote earlier....ofcourse of late she simply is hooked to solitare and stays for hours together at the PC.

    Don't remember the exact year when this revolution hit us.....but it changed cyberspace`;)))

  4. The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol that mougli decided to challenge needs to be praised and treated with a large bown of ice-cream... your Dhoodh wala ice-cream!