We keep hearing the term global village and how the world has shrunk into one with the advent of technological marvels. What I am saying is that the term has stopped being figurative and become literal. And I don’t mean the fact that we can reach from one corner of the globe to another in a matter of hours or that we can keep in touch even with those in space. No. What I mean is that we are really living in a village, albeit a global one.
Want to know how?
Let me tell you about our village.
My parents lived in one when villages were still villages. I mean, the trappings of a town like telephones, means of transport like autoriskshaws and buses had still not touched them. Only the post office had a telephone which did not work most of the time and the only means of transport to the outside world were the two passenger trains that stopped at that station. It was a small village with just three or four streets, with probably a population of 2000-3000.
Everyone knew everyone else, well almost; if not directly, then through someone they knew. That meant they not only knew each other by name and sight, but also knew about the whereabouts and activities of each. There was a sort of ‘village telegraph.’
There were only two passenger trains stopping at the village from either side, which meant that some one would be out in the veranda of almost every house before and after the said train passed. One could step outside to accost anyone taking the said train to the town and ask them to run some errand for one!
When I went visiting my parents with my first son (my parents left the village before the second one was born), the entire street knew about it and two dozen heads popped out and stayed there till I waved a general hello to everyone! I could almost hear the wireless message that got transmitted: “Youngest daughter of the second house has come with her son by morning train!”
The motive was not gossip, but curiosity and often concern. When the old lady who lived alone in the street sprained her ankle, the entire street rose to the occasion to help her out. Someone cooked her meals, someone else washed her clothes, and another one got her medicines and applied ointment on the ankle. It was like the members of a big family looking out for each other. Marriages and death likewise were a village affair instead of just a family one.
My husband once came on an unscheduled visit when I was there with my son. It was past dinner time when he came. I started making preparations to cook something, when my mother held up her hand.
“Don’t worry. Give him some tea and make some rice, and I will organize the rest.” I noticed she said ‘organised’ and not ‘cook’. Curious to know how she did it, I quickly prepared the tea and put the rice to boil. She had vanished.
“When can I eat?” asked my husband sotto voce. “Uh uh, soon. I have set the cooker…” I said lamely, trying to see where my mother was.
I went into the kitchen when the cooker whistled and saw her there. She had a veritable feast: sambar, rasam, bhindi subzi, palak kootu….Mouth hanging open I stared. Was there a genie in one of her bottles? She laughed. “That’s the advantage of a village!” she said proudly. The said wireless had doubtless sent out the word, “So-and-so has a late night visitor; do you have any food to spare?”
Since many households had late dinners, a complete meal could be organized in no time, especially since the houses all had a back door on the lane behind the houses — subzi from one house, rasam from another…and the visitor none the wiser! No wonder my mother said she would organize the food! Needless to say, it was hugely enjoyed by my husband who thought that we too had had the spread earlier in the evening!
Coming to the present, we live in this semi-rural place which reminds me of the village of my parents. I can’t sneeze without half-a-dozen people enquiring solicitously after my health and when we have visitors we are asked peremptorily as to who they are and how long they would stay etc. I can’t cook anything without the whole street knowing what I made for lunch! When someone is ill or has had a major surgery, everyone visits them to see if any help is needed. This is in sharp contrast to the cities where flat neighbours sometimes don’t even know each other’s faces!
I am digressing dreadfully. So what was I saying? That we are living in a village — a virtual village no less. You’d have got the general drift by now. No? Well, here you go then:
A lady in Boston has a cousin in Bathinda who has had an accident and urgently needs two units of a rare blood group. Those on the spot are distraught being unable to arrange for it. So what does this lady do? Just tweets the SOS! This is picked up by her followers who then tweet it to theirs and so on. Soon cyberspace is echoing with all the tweets and lo and behold! Two good natured sardars appear at the hospital, their sleeves rolled up, offering the lifesaving fluid!
Sounds like the village rising up as one to help the old lady in distress? You bet.
Sunita has just got word that four of her friends are coming home for dinner and she needs the recipe for dal makhani, which one of them loves. So she rushes to the laptop and tweets her friends. Soon she has the perfect recipe for it. Well, cyberspace might not actually conjure up a spread like a real village, but it comes pretty close, doesn’t it?
All I need to do is log on to one of the social networking sites and I get to know what the Big B did over the weekend, what time Tendulkar turned in the previous night, what Priyanka Chopra had for lunch and so on.
Everyone who is anyone is on Facebook, Twitter and what-have-you. We go to town tweeting our whereabouts, our activities and gossip about what so-and-so did or is going to do! Is this any different from life in a village? Isn’t it even better, since you don’t have to crane your neck trying to see what is going on in the neighbourhood and the ‘neighbourhood’ is the whole world? A click of the mouse sitting in front of your PC and you have it all!
What I find strange is that we talk of ‘space’ and ‘privacy’ and then tweet it all to the world at large! Does that mean that the veneer of reserve is thin enough to expose the villager in each of us? Is it gossip, concern, one-upmanship, ego trip?
All you tweeters, enlighten me please!