Thursday, 14 August 2014

One Coffee Without Sugar

She was still in the kitchen making coffee. I'd just finished sending a couple of emails and realized I hadn't said a word to her since fifteen minutes. As I tried to get a peek into the kitchen my attention was drawn to the view from the balcony.
The air outside was cool and breezy. The road looked clean and washed. Some kids were splashing about in the shallow puddles. The trees were glowing bright green and the hill in the background was looking up at the dark clouds. At some distance along the side of the hill, a shepherd was carrying his lamb hurriedly to a nearby shed. 
"Such a laidback and tranquil place away from the bustling city", I thought to myself, "...atleast for now...", as I looked over at the two construction sites down the road. Soon the city would engulf this neighbourhood too. Soon that hill would disappear.
The weather was perfect for some hot tea and biscuits.  But not today. This time I said yes to coffee 'cause I didn't want her spending longer making tea. And I'm very particular about tea. She knew that. She could do without my tea tantrums just this once.
I heard the familiar sound of the steel strainer tapping thrice over a cup. I got off my chair and walked into the kitchen to help her bring the cups into the living room. She gave me that familiar smile like when she always would after coffee was ready!
I was the first one to sit. I quickly downed one biscuit and sipped some coffee. She was still settling into her chair, looking for her pair of glasses. Soon, we would be ready to discuss the events of the last few months.

"So how’s it going? How are you spending your time these days?” I said, jumping straight to the topic.
I knew the answer, yet I preferred she explain in her own words. Besides, this was something very new in her life.

She nodded and sipped her coffee. Satisfied with how the coffee turned out, she carefully placed the cup on the table and looked at me. “Well”, she began, "I guess I'm a source of entertainment to you these past few days, huh? You must be having a laugh behind my back."

"Laughing? No way. But entertaining? Yes, you certainly are."

"Good I guess. Atleast you kids will think of me every time you get those messages."

"You mean updates."

"Yes, messages." 

"Ok, messages. Yes, we see your messages a lot. I know I don’t reply right away, but I do read them. That's why I'm here and curious to know how it happened."

"I'm learning all that new technology you kids seem to be constantly poring over. And last week, I’ve learned how to upload photos. Did you see....?” she asked looking at me earnestly. “Yes, I did”, I responded quickly. “Very nice. I even liked them and commented.”

She reached for her coffee again, seemingly happy with my reply.

“You uploaded some nice photos of clouds, forests and birds. How do you get those?” I asked innocently.

“On that googer of course”

“Google, you mean”

“Yes googer"

“Hmm”, I nodded while making a mental note to check her Safesearch filter settings later!

“But grandma”, I continued, “you upload way too many photos every day. What’s that all about?”

“Well, it’s good to help pass time at my age. And I’m making that face album for you and your cousins."

“Face album? ... You mean, facebook album”

“Same thing. Soon, I’ll learn to use that phone’s camera and click all the photos in those albums I have of yours since you were a baby!”

“Ok. Just make sure you upload only the ones in which I’m wearing my diapers or pants. I don’t want my friends to see anything else.”

She chuckled at that thought. We both reached for our coffee cups. I had a sip, the temperature was just right. So was the weather outside. The breeze had turned and it was raining directly over the potted plants in the balcony. 

“So this is quite an activity for you then?” I said, coming back to the topic.

“Yes. Its good for me to be mentally occupied. Every morning I look forward to starting the laptop. I see your status, your cousin’s updates, I send you messages and upload pictures. It gives me purpose. It’s better than watching some stupid dramas on TV. At my age the mind grows weak. Doing this everyday is like training the brain to stay alert. I remember where to click, how to upload, I get more familiar with the keypad..." 

"That's impressive", I said with a sense of pride.

"Besides, I'm bored meeting with the other old ladies at the library", she continued. "All they talk about is how their children and grandchildren don't call them and don't care about them. I told them if you want your kids to call you, learn this googer and face thing and you'll know what's happening with their lives. But I'm yet to see anyone do anything about that. So I quit going there and just keep learning more of this. Best use of my time I think."

She looked away at the window in the direction of the library building. It was a small building next to the nice green lawn. The residents had contributed to the collection of books to benefit everyone in the community. Also, it was a good hangout for the seniors. It helped keep each other good company than sit alone in their apartments. 

She was quite serious saying that about the other ladies, but I couldn't help smiling. I guess that's where we get our non-conformist attitude from.

She was sipping her coffee and I could see there was something new on her mind now. I looked eagerly and braced myself for some funny question.

"What’s that candy candy something I keep getting messages on?"

"Oh", I had to nip this in the bud, "that....that is something my friends told me not to click on. You shouldn’t either, grandma. Its the most annoying thing in the world."

"Ok”, she nodded, much to my relief. Saved.

"So, you learned all this in 4 months? Not bad, not bad at all", bringing the topic back to Facebook. 

"Not bad for an eighty two year old, huh?”, she couldn't help laughing. "I hired a tutor to give me a crash course on this. Every Saturday Sunday 10am to 11am."

"Who is this guy?"

"He's a good kid. Stays near here. My maid's nephew. He volunteers at a school to teach kids about computer."

"That's nice of him."

"Yes. I told him about you. So he kept my password which is your name and the year you ......."

"Haha. Grandma, that's nice but you're not supposed to keep such an easy password."

"Whatever. Important thing is I remember the password", she snapped, surely a bit annoyed.

"Ok grandma. That's good. I'm honoured to be your password."

I can't be sure but it sounded like she mumbled the equivalent of "smartass" in Marathi under her breath.

"Anyways, I like that you're keeping yourself busy. Sorry I wasn't around to teach you all this computer stuff. But you're doing great on your own."

"Its ok. You kids have your own lives. I understand. I only want to keep in touch. This works for me. I don't feel lonely. Whenever I do, I go see your photos, your cousin's photos, I read your status and it makes me happy knowing where you are and knowing you are safe and happy.

"And I hope you realize that its never too late to learn anything. Just takes longer to learn as you age maybe, but you can learn new things. And you must. Else your brain will rot."

"Yes grandma. That I think you've made quite clear to us. We have no excuses."


"So what next?"

"That candy thing of course. You can't fool me. I know there's something interesting there", she laughed while I choked on my biscuit. The skies went dark. The monsoon had officially arrived.


Few months passed since that last visit. I was back to the daily grind of work and routine. My initial resolve of quitting Facebook had gone weaker. I decided to stay on just 'cause I knew there was that one friend who truly visited my profile every other day to read and “like” my posts. Including the pointless, impulsive and silly ones. She did not judge. If at all, she only showed concern and love with a certain childlike innocence, as she would if she were there in person.

Then one day I realized she’d figured out a way to use the phone camera. She uploaded one pic from when I was four years old. In the pic, I had no pants on. I spent 2hrs that day hiding the pic from my timeline and friends.

I fear the day a candy candy something invite ends up in the inbox. Apart from that, I have no real tensions in life!

-- The End --

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