Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Head over hashtag

Reading Time: 4 minutesHallmark cards and the thrill of the chase vs Facebook relationship statuses and online stalking, writes Sanam Sharma
Ind_link June-1
Social media has been a game changer at a lot of levels. Reading the tweets and Facebook updates of youngsters these days, it seems that cupid has gone digital as well. Falling in love these days, and expressing it to the other person, is convenient, discreet, and “online,” thanks to smartphones and a galaxy of social media platforms.
If your heart skips a beat for someone then all you have to do is find (or shall I say “search”) his or her online avatar. A click of a button and you are “friends” with that person. A few online chats and a bunch of “pointed” comments on status updates of the other person, and you are officially in love – or as Facebook would prefer to call it “in a committed relationship”.
Not much extra effort is needed to call off this “committed relationship” or more casually known as a “break-up”. Just “unfriend” (or “block” for serious hurts or infidelities) and reset your social media status to “single” and you are ready to “mingle”, yet again. Love via the social media thrives on “pings,” “pokes,” “emoticons,” “tags,” and “hashtags”. Like everything else that has gone online, love, falling in love, and expressing love these days must therefore seem quite effortless, risk-free, discreet, and from my perspective “extremely boring”.
So youngsters, romans, countrymen, allow me to re-introduce you to the thrill and adventure of being in love, as we did it in the 1990s. No smartphones, no social media, and no internet (for most part of that decade). Just good old emotions fuelled with a healthy dose of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (aka DDLJ).
I say thrill because in the last decade of the previous millennium it used to take people a good two to three months (on average) to fall for someone. I reserve the definition of “people” for the purposes of this write-up specifically to the nation of India (and perhaps our neighboring nation towards the west). This time frame had nothing to do with any sort of “cupid complacency” on the part of the people involved. You see, in the absence of online profiles, you had to cross paths on city streets, college corridors, adjacent terraces, and even places of worship, and prayer to get a decent glimpse of each other.
Once you got past the initial pleasantries between two interested people through random glances, disguised smiles, and high-speed chases on scooters (you would be booked for stalking these days), the next challenge was to express the “love” in some tangible way. Archies gallery came in quite handy at this juncture.
Dish out a Hallmark card dripped in over the top romantic poetry and you could not have gone wrong (well, most of the time). However, it was not as easy as attaching the card to an email and sending it through ether. This is the precise moment when (in the case of guys) the best friend of the ladylove came in ultra handy. Pamper her, get her on side and you had a “mediator” acting as a pigeon delivering your love notes (usually tucked inside school books), for the rest of the romance.
As the “in a committed relationship” equivalent phase of those pre-social media times commenced, catch-ups between the love stuck souls were few and far between. Landline phones were the most sophisticated medium for communication, however, not the most discreet.
The entire household had one phone at their disposal and often sat in the bedroom of the parents. If by any luck there was another extension of the phone line stretched out to a relatively remote and private location within the house, you always ran the risk of someone else dropping in on your “love talk” from the other room. So when you young lot of today take for granted the luxury of calling each other in exquisite privacy of your very own smartphones, spare a thought for us who struggled our way through getting busted every so often.
A lot was said with ink on paper. The moon and the stars featured a lot in love notes hidden amongst notebooks. Accurately timed and frequent drive-bys by a guy through the girl’s street on his scooter helped fetch glimpses of each other through the day (something that has been made ridiculously easy by “face time”).
Love and romance in my days may have been slow, tedious, and “Bollywoodish,” but it was the way it ought to be, intense, over-powering, enduring, and at times dramatic. Lovebirds longed to be with each other (in person and not online with a green dot next to their names), wrote to each other, and stole secret moments out of their days to be with each other.
So my young friends, next time you are in love, do not lock yourself in a room and make it a  social media experience. Get on a rooftop and let the world know about it. Stand next to the person who makes you go weak in the knees, look into their eyes and tell them how you feel. Write a letter to them, a hand written one and not an email. Charm the girl’s mother. Tell the girl that “bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain, Senorita,” (watch DDLJ if you do not know what I am saying). Go watch a rom-com together (Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani will do perfectly fine). Hold hands. Go for a long drive.
Take love and romance “offline” for a while and leave Facebook for the oldies to hook-up with their old flames so that they get through their mid-life crises.

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Sanam Sharma
A typical middle class guy who is abundantly opinionated, moderately flawed, and adequately grounded

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