Were they ever enemies?

This was the first phrase that popped into my head when I saw this now ubiquitous message proclaiming to the world on facebook that ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are now friends. Chances are most of you reading this have a facebook account (who doesn’t these days … huh?) and seen this super-friendly message a trillion times. So why is there a need to write about it? Since the question is purely rhetorical, we will let it pass for now.

I cannot help but wonder that thanks to facebook, before they became ‘friends’, were they ever enemies? And why is this important for me to know that someone whose existence I am only reminded of when I read of his/her latest exploits like ‘just had 3 tequila shots straight up…yohooo!‘ and I see a grainy, barely recognizable picture taken in a dimly lit bar and uploaded from his/her uber-cool mobile gadget, has now become friends with another person, whose existence i was blissfully unaware of before now and of whom I will probably never hear again? … and to top it all what is there to ‘like’ about it? (I wish some of these sites have an ‘unlike’ button)

Now don’t get me wrong and report me to Mark Zuckerberg. I do love this modern day invention from the bottom of my heart (okay this was a little over the top). I have been able to find some folks with whom I had been out of touch for a long time, and I have even been guilty of sharing some photos occasionally. As with all of these modern day social media inventions, this one also comes with it’s own set of ironies. The best one I have heard of recently is about someone who ‘tricked’ her friends into wishing her a happy birthday on FB second time in 3 months, by just changing her birthday in her profile. The same people who had wished her 3 months back, got a reminder and robotically went to her wall (what a cool name for something that does not even exist in real life) and promptly posted a heartfelt birthday greetings message.

I wonder sometimes if we are pushing the envelope a bit too far at times? Why is it so important for us to be perennially socially-connected with a tool whose name, even my dumb Microsoft word processor does not recognize and shows as spelling mistake? Is there anyone readying this who does not have a facebook account and still has real friends?…. and why am I bothered about this, its late and I should be in bed!

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There are strange rivers

It is truly one of life’s great mysteries how things pop out of the blue and connect with each other. Call it serendipity, randomness, luck, fortune .. whatever, but there are forces that are continuously at work, unknown to you. Joan Baez, the great folk singer of 60’s, put it so well in her song ‘Strange rivers’

“Have You Ever Turned the Corner and wondered Why You Did?
You Haven’t Been That Way Since You Were Just a Kid

Oh, There Are Strange Rivers, Rivers That We Cannot See
There Are Strange Rivers Who Know Our Destiny”

I am sitting here in Switzerland tapping away. 5 yrs ago, it started with one call from a friend on an autumn evening in Budapest – while we were getting ready to move back to India after a brief stint of 1.5 yrs –  mentioning an opening here, another follow-up call, and bang one lands up in Switzerland!

I just finished the mercurial Kafka on the shore by Murakami, and it

Kafka on the shore Haruki Murakami. Image courtesy Amazon.com

captures the essence of how things/people are connected by invisible strings. The central character in that book is a Mr Nakata, a shy old man, short statured, short cropped graying hair, always wears a gray coat and carries a black umbrella in his hand. He avoids talking to people as he finds it too complicated, cannot read and is always lost in his own world. A few days back coming back home on the train at around 9 in the evening, i see this man standing in the middle of the almost empty train compartment and i could have sworn he is Mr Nakata who has materialized out that book. As i got up from my seat and started towards the door, you could see the same  spaced out feeling on his face that Murakami describes, clutching his black umbrella tightly and wrapping his gray overcoat even more snugly around him, he starts to move back, his eyes scanning the scene around him, moving into a corner where he can be alone. He quickly crossed over into the other compartment, but still all the time watching me and the other people with a questioning, shy look on his face through the mirrored partition. Was he really the Mr Nakata (Or the Swiss version of him?), one will never know.

Today afternoon, while stacking that book back on the bookshelf, I remembered that i have a book written by the original Franz Kafka somewhere, but had no recollection of when or where i had bought it. A quick search and the book is unearthed. As i open the first page, a handwritten note stares back at me. It was a gift from 13 yrs back by a friend. Whom I have not been in touch with ever since we parted ways back in Chennai India, where we had spent a fantastic 3 months, getting to terms with a (then) strange city that seemed to fight back resolutely for the first couple of weeks to let us in. It started from the first day where we were mobbed by the taxi driver, the house where we were staying in was almost broken into, struggling to find a decent place to eat where we could get something recognizable and edible …. the list is endless. But suddenly one day it all snapped in together, perhaps thanks to that steward at the restaurant next door, whom we used to tip generously everyday as he served us copious amounts of our favorite curries. The city seemed to have dropped it’s guard, welcomed us in and we got to know it  like the back of our hands. So this friend – we recently got in touch again this year, thanks to a mis-spelt Google search that led me to his blog. And there it was today afternoon again, his writing starting back to me on the inner cover from a book that I haven’t touched in nearly 13 yrs.

Maybe there’s a message in here somewhere that I cannot decipher yet. The inimitable Joan did put it correctly … there are strange rivers.