Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Skype Life

Just a few generations back, traveling abroad was the equivalent of disappearing from the face of the earth for the people that you leave behind. For the period away from home, it was quite literally as though you left your 'old' life behind and were being born into a new one. That is still true in many ways, except that technology has made it possible for us to live two lives at the same time. And as technology progresses, the lines separating those lives continue to blur.

This weekend was one such demonstration for me. As with every Saturday, I had my Skype chat with family at home. With better Internet in India and better service in the US (whenever +Comcast feels like it), it was much smoother than usual. The biggest hurdle is that Skype does not allow me to hold conferences without paying for it and Google Hangouts is just not as good as Skype. Nonetheless, I do manage.

What was unique about the weekend was my conversations with some old friends from Roorkee. As I have said previously, I'm not accustomed to keeping old friendships alive because of the way I have grown up across India. Perhaps I am not very open to friendship as such any longer, which explains my limited engagement with people of other countries despite having ample opportunities to do so. Nonetheless, at least in some cases, I am making an exception.

And the conversations themselves had some deep meaning. In one case, it was about the life of another PhD candidate, the stories that we share in different parts of America and how we react to events back home from a pseudo-NRI perspective. In another, it was about starting a new, post-Roorkee life in India. Suddenly, I have a large number of friends in Bangalore, giving me a huge incentive to visit the one state in the region that I have never been to (I have otherwise lived or visited Goa, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu!). Certainly, without Skype, it would have been impossible to relive old tales.

So, is this what the future looks like? Living in one continent and connected to another via Skype? It doesn;t sound very appealing but it is certainly going to be true for the next few years. And given my long-term plans to travel, it might just become the new normal! 

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