I was at home over the Vesak weekend and it was one of those rare times that everyone was together, relaxing and pretty much doing nothing. I presumed it would be a good time for the entire family to have some 'us' time, talking about what was going on in each of our lives, recollecting old times and making it a fulfilling family experience. But I couldn't have been more wrong because I soon realised how difficult it is to really sit down and talk to people you see day in and day out and whose presence in our lives we take for granted.
I had figured the perfect 'talk time' would be in the afternoon, after lunch, where we would all be just lazing around. But the rest of the family obviously had better ideas on how they would spend the afternoon. They were all hooked onto more modern modes of technology and talking was definitely not on their agenda.
My husband was with his laptop doing some work, my older son was downstairs glued to the computer and the other one was with his Nintendo in hand, concentrating so hard he wouldn't know if the roof came down on him. I decided I could not possibly talk to myself so I decided to read a book.
I had always pictured myself as a mother who would take great pride in watching her kids read Enid Blyton's and Hardy Boys and sharing all the excitement I felt when I used to be immersed in them. But thanks to the communication revolution that has taken place since 'my' time and 'their' time, it seems impossible to get a kid to read any of these books. My son insists he will 'listen' to his history lesson which he has downloaded in the form of an e-book, instead of 'reading' his lesson. The other day when one of them saw someone using a telephone on a TV programme in which you turn the dial to make a call, he turned around and asked me "Amma, were there telephones like that those days?"
I am eternally grateful for all the advances in the field of communication and information technology but I also feel it has invaded our privacy to such an extent that you can be home all alone but still not be really alone. It's wonderful to be able to talk to relatives and friends living thousands of miles away and see them at the same time, but again I feel that the excitement I felt when there was an “overseas” call many years ago, has long disappeared. There was a time when ours was the only telephone in the neighbourhood and many would come to our place at a designated time to await an overseas call. At least people these days don't get disturbed by such neighbours, at all odd times, wanting to use the telephone.
The other day driving to work, I observed how many fellow drivers had wires running from their ears to their phone and were talking while driving. It almost seems impossible to be left alone anymore. I know it's nice to be able to contact people whenever you want, wherever they may be, but doesn't it also get annoying at times when you just don't want to be contactable, and people call you.
The communications revolution is one from which no one can escape, young or old. My mother who is nearing 70 is now being introduced to talk to her daughter living in cooler climes via Skype. She was given an introductory lesson the other day by my computer savvy sister and has vowed to master the art of using the system with a little help from her grandson. I guess modern technology can bridge generation gaps as well despite my scepticism associated with such advance technology.
I know I am going to come across as really old fashioned but can any of these things really replace a good talk with a person, sitting across you, face to face? My answer is definitely 'no'. I don't think anything can stimulate us intellectually other than good, face to face conversation. And I sure hope that technology will never get so advanced that people would only be talking to machines and not to another human being.