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Dear kids (PS - anyone younger than me qualifies), did you know when we were growing up, the only forwards we got on Diwali were Milton jugs and casseroles? If we prayed hard enough, the set of 6 melamine cups in cream and pink that Mom had gifted Mrs Ahuja 4 years back would land at our doorstep, just like a long lost forward. But Mom far from weeping like Nirupa Roy while hugging the cups close to her chest would get an eye twitch like Lalita Pawar (if you are unfamiliar with these names, just ask Siri).
As a reciprocal gesture, Mrs Ahuja was gifted a box of kaju katli that was only a month old.
In case you did not know, casseroles, thermos, tea-sets of yesteryears were the Soan Papdi of gifting. Nobody wanted them yet everybody gifted them. But those were simpler times. We would start bursting crackers weeks before Diwali without feeling guilty for fouling up the air. If we were chased by a jhadoo wielding Pammi Aunty for disturbing her afternoon siesta, we extracted revenge by bursting our stash of bombs in front of her house till Christmas. Festivities were more about stuffing our faces with sweets more colourful than Govinda’s wardrobe, and less about ‘OMG, I have put on weight! Now I will punish myself and have only lauki soup for a month.’ Phones were actually used to make calls. And one had to visit friends and family to exchange festive greetings. On the eve of Diwali, I was religiously sent off to our neighbours with a thali full of mithais, covered with a cloth napkin. And the celebrations would conclude with coughing all night from all that smoke.
You kids are lucky. You’re growing up in an age where you get more forwards than gifts on Diwali, unless you’re the son of the baap who owns the road you drive on. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than a forwarded forward that goes round and round like unclaimed baggage on the luggage carousel. In the age of HBD and thnx, only a moron will bother typing festive wishes. Since the flavour of the season is animated gifs, by the end of Diwali week I had collected enough to fill the Milky Way with flickering Diyas and animated Lakshmi jees showering me with blessings and teen patti winnings.
And I don’t even play cards!
Anyway, this Diwali, gripped with nostalgia of bygone days, I decided to visit our neighbours to wish them personally. When I rang their bell, they took such a long time to open the door, I was convinced they’ve mistaken me for one of the staff asking for baksheesh. They looked more stunned than pleasantly surprised when they realised their neighbour was so jobless that she had decided to drop in with her husband for a visit. The silence was so awkward that I finished an entire bowl of cashews to put them at ease. When that didn’t help, I asked the lady of the house for her number and promptly sent her a glittery Diwali forwarded forward. As expected, it worked like magic. Her face lit up like a made in China electrical diya. The ice between us melted so fast, we actually thought we were responsible for global warming.
We are now besties. We keep in touch by spamming each other with recycled jokes and only communicate using emojis. The other day when I met her in the lift and tried sticking my tongue out and winking at the same time, just like my favourite emoji, the kid from the 9th floor started crying and wouldn’t let go of his Mom.
Pfft…He’s obviously not part of any WhatsApp group!
I’m telling you, these forwards and morning motivational quotes help us upgrade to a sleeker, better version of ourselves. If it weren’t for them, we’d end up with too much time to make real conversations and pretend to be interested in each other’s lives. Plus, it’s so much easier to express our caring and sharing sentiments through lolz, super-like and too good, yaar! There’s nothing more heartening than opening WhatsApp and discovering 855 unread messages in your school group, all of them forwards. The smart lady I am, I save all of them, following my Ma’s philosophy on hoarding junk. God knows, when I might need them? What if in the future the only way we communicate is through forwards and emojis? Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a library suited for any occasion and emotion! Since I am such a lovely person, I’ll happily share them all so that you aren’t tongue-tied.
Of course, there’s a section, most of them snarky and a blot on humanity, that thinks forwards are a mindless waste of time. Idiots. Do they know, besides keeping us informed about new style robberies on highways and airports, UNESCO awards for our national flag, anthem and PM, Amma’s deteriorating health, they are like wonder-bras for our moods. All you need to read is yet another misogynistic joke created by the ‘distressed husbands society’ that has been denied sex for years by their heartless wives, and you are rolling on the floor with laughter! Plus it’s a wonderful platform to hone your rumour spreading skills. If you do your job really well, you get to boost your spirit by spending time behind bars.
WhatsApp forwards are like friends we never had. They motivate us with quotes, make us feel proud to be Indians (especially around Independence and Republic Day), share health advisories and how diseases can be prevented by drinking dewdrops from grass. We can claim to be well-read without even picking up a book and feel productive without even lifting our butt from the chair.
It unites us in agony, nationalistic pride, laughter and keeps us happily occupied and content. Hey UNESCO, where’s the forward announcing WhatsApp forwards as the most influential non-person of the year?