I'm sitting in front of my PC now - talking with my mother on the couch behind me. Chatting with my friend 300 kilometres away through the internet. Looking at my sister's face from halfway around the world. I feel a closeness as if we were all at the same place. How is this possible? Man's hunger for socializing and some people who chose to do something to sate the hunger.
What would life be like if all this didn't exist? What if it took two weeks to exchange pleasantries? Though this sounds like a situation from a typical doomsday movie, it isn't so outlandish. Matter of fact, my parents lived like that. Even I did, until a certain age (an age at which I didn't talk to anyone anyway, so didn't make a difference. My sister was within punching distance, though).
Amma (mother, in Tamil) speaks fondly of the letters she wrote. I have a whole collection of letters from my sis (another one). Reading those letters always feels like a dose of Nostalgin (that's a drug for producing instant nostalgia).
All fine for halcyon remembrances. But what about crunch situations? Kishore's met with an accident. Come as soon as you can. Yeah. Fat lot of good that would do three days later when it finally reaches the guy. The alternatives: Telegrams - Accident. Come immediately (what in the world does that mean? Are you inviting the guy to have an accident?); Trunk Calls: Call operator. Give him the number and city. Stare at the phone and bite until you have no nails left. Finally, your phone is connected and you have to scream at 50 dB to get through (telegram's much better. atleast the sender stays out of hospital).
Why would I say all this? Because this span of time always comes up - when Amma talks about my elder brother (amma's nephew, but only for details' sake). My mother has fed me bits of information about him - How she loved him dearly and vice versa. He had her all to himself until my sister was born. How he became jealous of all the attention the baby got (quite natural for a five-year old). How he always impressed everyone with his acuity. How he could identify unlabelled cassettes. How he loved his lily plant.
Why am I learning all this from Amma? Can't my brother tell me? No, he can't. Because Achalesh Srikanth is no longer here. I'll never learn how to identify unlabelled cassettes. I'm talking about something as banal as communication in my picture of my brother for a very important reason - no quite so banal.
We Indians are quite spiritual - we are always looking for "signs" to show us the existence of a higher power (atleast, I always look). We end up being more right than wrong. About six months before I was born, Amma was in Bombay, three states away from her nephew in Madras, sleeping soundly when she had the strangest dream: It was Achalesh saying "Naan Achal vandhirukken, Chitti" (It is me Achal. I have come). Why would he say that?
A day later, she got a trunk call from Madras that her nephew had been hospitalized. Soon after, he passed away. While the physical communication took such a long time, the metaphysical one reached her much in advance. She thought about her dream a lot after that. According to our shastras, a soul usually spends around 5 months in limbo before being reborn as someone else. And I was born 4 months after that. Was the dream a sign? Am I me? Or the brother I almost had?
I believe such signs are there to guide us in our lives. We shouldn't be so arrogant as to ignore them. Not all the stuff in this world need proving. Maybe, the proof is beyond us. We should start taking more notice of the metaphysical - which is the fastest means of communication; and always will be.