Friday, July 29, 2016

Virtual Reality

A veteran Tamil actress/comedian in one of her movies desires to eat some chicken biriyani, and true to her portrayal of being miserly in that movie, she hangs a picture of a chicken in front of her and relishes plain white rice with immense satisfaction. Virtual reality, I must say, this is. I don't know why this scene from an old movie flashed in my head as I read articles of Pokemon Go becoming a rage among youngsters and  this made me think more. 

Long gone are the times when people of a family clung together while visiting fairs and exhibitions, now there is no fear of getting lost in huge, milling crowds. The mobile phone comes to our rescue almost all the time; we dare not step out of our home without it. I would have got scolded more often for leaving my phone in silent mode than for all other mistakes summed up. Long geographical distances pose no impediment in communication with phones, chat/messaging apps, video conferencing techniques becoming popular in full blaze, we virtually stay connected all the time with loved, known and unknown ones. This definitely is a great advantage without which we cannot imagine getting strewn around across the globe. However, we become owl-like to beat the disconnect in time zones, crave for eating one meal at peace without having to answer the phone midway, earnestly hope faces do not glare at us when we leave our phones ringing inside a temple/hospital/library. We are expected to talk even when we drive, with a phone neatly tucked into our helmet; we talk hands free and look quite like a lunatic. In name of working from home, we try hard to juggle between personal and professional spheres of life having allowed them to mingle too much.  

Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms ensure we stay connected with dear ones. Admittedly, we've got complacent maintaining virtual friendship links and sharing a slice of our everyday life with others through 'likes', 'follow' and 'share'. We express our opinions like never before to run into trouble at times with some governmental and non-governmental agencies checking if we committed an act of sedition in name of free speech and expression. The Internet provides information of all kinds and suits all tastes, one does not really need a dadi maa to know ' dadi ka nuska'. However, plagiarism, piracy and breach of someone's privacy make things shoddy, that thin line which demarcates right from wrong is fast disappearing. 

While on one hand we boast about access to a million songs from different genres across all languages in the world at just a finger touch, we silently adore one who possesses a collection of old LP records, few recorded TDK cassettes and a bunch of HMV ones. We deem him/her to be a 'real' and fine connoisseur of music. 

Pages of old photo albums from trips during our childhood times show us how carefully we spent 34-36 snaps on a camera film roll on only precious shots. Now, we virtually have thousands of snaps clicked without a second thought for every single trip, all cached in sectors in hard disks or memory cards, to see them with a quick click or a swipe, we do not have time at hand. 

When my aunt showed me letters written to her by my grandfather from inside a torn envelope with postage stamp clinging to it, I could not refrain from thinking if I should take a print out of some recent emails written by my dad before I accidentally deleted them or my mail account got hacked. 

e-books and Kindle allow us to carry our bookshelves everywhere; being light weight and travel friendly, any time-anywhere access provides a big boon for book lovers. But a bibliophile will never shy away from accepting that the smell of mold from old books, towering racks stashed with many titles in shops, sight of a silverfish wriggling inside an old copy and the crackling sound of actually turning the pages give unparalleled joy. 

This 'virtually' real aspect which technology has provided us with has overtaken all realms of life. The convenience it imparts, the ease of use, a sense of appeal creates dependence. It gets menacing only when the dependence grows into an addiction. Our parents had only one idiot box named TeleVision to deal with but parenting in today's times is no less than a Herculean task with idiot box type 1 version 1, idiot box type 2 and 3 with multiple versions for every hardware/software fix/release. Many youngsters do not want to swap the comfort of playing games on a console inside defined precincts with actually sweating it out and playing real games with team mates. And, if Pokemon Go answers the sedentary aspect of computer games, it carries untold hazards with it. 

The quality of 'virtually real' is erasing all fine lines. No doubt, there are benefits with each invention that technology puts forth for a lot of thought and innovation goes into making them. However, to exercise restraint in use and keep check/control is a painstakingly difficult job. It is the need of the hour for when the reverie breaks it should not be hard for one to accept that what was on the plate all through was just plain rice and not biriyani.