Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chhod aaye hum wo galiyan

They looked at me in disbelief.
The boys and me were at the breakfast table. I had waited in anxious anticipation all night, was sure they would congratulate me enthusiastically at having won over the only addiction to which I had ever succumbed. But I had not expected this shocked silence in response.
Here I was... feeling like a victorious soldier just come home after a long and difficult war. And there across the table were two faces looking at me dejectedly.
This was surely not the kind of welcome that awaited my likes.

I took a sip of tea from my cup and waited a little more. The boys were now looking at each other.
"Oh! Come on...I've only deactivated my Facebook account last night...nothing so shocking ..." I said as they still stared hard at me. Were they trying to convince themselves?
Enjoying the dumb-founded look on their sweet faces I went on:
"Is there something so very astonishing about it...something that I'm missing...???" I asked.
"Amma! Have you really done it?!!! Why on earth did you take this extreme step??? How are you going to live without your Facebook family?"
This was my elder one's string of queries.

The younger one, the quieter of the two, was I think still absorbing the facts of the situation because he sat silently, thoughtful eyes apparently watching the omelette in his plate, but mind certainly away elsewhere.

Honestly I was wondering if my children did not know how much time I was spending on this addiction called Facebook. I was into so many groups, quite a few tags, inbox messages, many of which I still had not read. A whole lot of my FB friends were people who I had never met, and would never meet, yet we were sharing so much. Songs, writeups, photos, jokes...
And as if this was not enough, we were actually sharing lives...joys and concerns, views and opinions...
It was like one big friendly neighbourhood. Eventually some of us had become as dear and as near as one's family. I knew exactly when there were guests at A's place or when B was going on a family holiday...a marriage at C's place or an anniversary celebration in D's clan, E attending a conference abroad, F mourning the loss of a girlfriend, or XYZ conducting a public interest rally/meeting.

Interestingly at times when a nice film or television programme was on the air, the entire group would be watching and commenting on it on Facebook!!!
That was the kind of closeness that had developed.

When I think of it now I find it impossible to believe that I actually did shed my inherent aloofness and privacy and did open up to so many strangers at a place where more and more strangers were getting an insight into those aspects of my life where only the closest had ventured thus far.

I had no idea who all could be watching my activities on this networking site till a friend pointed out to my near-24x7 presence on Facebook.
I felt as if I had been caught having an illicit affair!!!
My well wishers had now started admonishing me and my mother was worried for my health. My doctor was telling me to take the morning walks a bit seriously. But I was interested only in Facebooking, so much so that at times my back and fingers ached and I felt nauseated!!!
Slept late at night, got up late in the morning. All wrong life style and yet the guilt was ephemeral.

Going back in time I remember vividly the unexpected invitation from a dear nephew to join Facebook.
Till then I had only vaguely heard of it (and other networking sites) where apparently people from across the globe could interact, become friends and share so much that was, for an uninitiated person like me impossible to imagine.
Also I had thought that these sites were for young boys and girls to have fun and also benefit through exchange of information on topics that are of mutual interest professionally and academically.
What could a middle-aged home maker be doing on Facebook? The thought that I would be the oddest creature out there made me go pale in the face of Facebook :))

In the days to come I would go on to prove myself thoroughly wrong though. Discovering the magic of having the world at my finger tips was intoxicating. I found many long-lost friends as if ready and waiting to meet me. Also met up with half of my extended family on Facebook. The plight and pain of the North Indian Muslim of my generation, often the existence of half of whose family has become virtual due to the Partition of India, had lessened considerably as Facebook brought those hitherto-unseen-faces on a common platform. For me, my relatives across the border and abroad now existed a little more in reality...I could see (and at times even feel them)through pictures on their profile and interact with them through comments and messages on Facebook.

Facebook had thus become a lifeline for me. And anyone who heard of my dissociation with it could not help feeling amazed. I must admit here that I still have not stopped loving Facebook. It has blessed me with some of the most wonderful people I could have ever known. It has enriched my life and made me a much better person in more ways than one. It has been that legendary "friend, philosopher and guide" to me when I needed one the most.
So it is my fault entirely if I let go of all controls. It is my weakness that when I did realise of my fault I only half-heartedly tried to redeem myself.
But what is an addiction after all?
An obsession of sorts that devours all else. My innocent love affair was becoming a sinful obsession.
It was, without any doubt, becoming really illicit!!!
And in my own interest I had to stop here and now.

Well then, should I not be proud of myself for what I have achieved?
Indeed I have accomplished the impossible!!!
But ridiculous as it may sound I hate myself for having won over my addiction.
I have moved on.
There is going to be no looking back. But it will be surely some more time before I forgive myself for having "chhod aaye wo galiyan..."

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