Between friends

NET GAINS

Between friends

Graphics : KrishnakumarNineteen-year-old Arpit Shandilya has just finished scribbling a naughty message on his best buddy Shekhar’s wall. He knows Shekhar will not have to wash it off when he sees it. Instead, he will just grin and write a reply, right below.

The world of the internet – all those millions of computers connected to each other like an endless  universe – is actually breaking walls that time and distance build between friends. There may no longer be time to meet for gol gappas at the chaat shop, or gossip over the hedge with the girl next door but we can still write messages on her wall and send her a smile over chat.

No one’s swapping books with best friends anymore, but we still recommend titles on virtual book clubs like Shelfari, create virtual book racks to show off our books and see what friends are reading. There’s YouTube to share music and news, Skype to check out if the friends we left 10 years ago look and sound the same, and numerous sites to send birthday cards, hugs, smiles and even a poke once in a while. The internet has breathed new life into old friendships.

Connected...always

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE! Arpit Shandilya (extreme left) and his buddies.  Take Arpit for instance. The 19-year-old media technology student from Manipal Institute of Technology says all 80 classmates whom he left four years ago, after passing class ten, are on the social networking site, Facebook.

“Physically, we  are far from each other — some in the National Defence Academy, some in college, some working at call centres — and, needless to say, we miss each other. But, thanks to the internet, I still laugh my heart out when Aman posts a status message, saying he hasn’t bathed in  a week. I feel a lump in my throat when Anil, who was once the best athlete of our class, says he got operated for kidney stones. I smile when Sahil sends me a smiley, and I get new strength when Sharad says, “If you don’t do it, who will?”

Arpit hasn’t met his friends for a long time, but they do meet on group chat in the virtual world, hoping to plan a real-life reunion sometime in the future. After all, nothing can substitute the joy of a hearty hand shake or the warm hug of a pal! Apart from that, Arpit’s friends haven’t missed much of what is happening in his life. They’ve even gasped over the nasty stitches he got for an injury recently when he showed them off on Skype video call.

In good times and bad

LOG ON & RECONNECT Jyoti Mishra’s bonds with friends have got stronger.Jyoti Mishra (34) is a stay-home mom and wife. Married to an army officer, she has spent a decade plus of her life leading a gypsy’s life, packing her household in crates and boxes and moving from one part of the country to another every few years. Yet, she says she is never lonely. After she finishes her household chores, she makes it a point to sit down  at her computer and log on to the social networking sites she is a member of.

“I have accounts in Orkut and Facebook and thanks to them I am always surrounded by friends,” she says. The sites have helped her stay in touch with school mates over all these years.

“I would  say that we have come closer. Students who were just “classmates” have now become good friends because of the internet. I know them even better now. We even know now who had a crush on whom during college,” she laughs.

On a more serious note, she adds that this exposure has also led to her intellectual growth. “I am immersed in a sea of knowledge and information. No longer am I a lonely housewife whose life is getting stagnated. I am growing each day. I have a life beyond my family, which is my own”.

She recounts how three years ago her friend Afshan Hussain’s husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was a  difficult time for Afshan, but the internet ensured that Jyoti was around all the time, commenting on Afshan’s blog and helping her derive strength from their friendship. “Although I was not there with her physically, virtually I was holding her hand all the time. It has created between us a deeper bond for life. And, with God’s grace her husband is absolutely fine now.”

Turning back time

 HOUSTON CALLING Jyoti Patil is delighted to have her old pals back.Houston-based Jyoti Patil or Jo, as her friends call her, is a chef and editor of an online food magazine. The 35-year-old who left India a long time ago, has got all her old friends back because of the internet. “It was only a matter of typing their names on Google, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut or LinkedIn. Eighty per cent of the time I could locate them in one of these places. I have even connected to friends whose  faces I had forgotten. But, now, not only do I know what they look like but also where they are located,” she says.

Jyoti fondly recounts how she has kept in touch with her classmate Poonam Srivastava for the past 13 years only through the net. “We parted ways after Poonam got married soon after college to a government forest officer. It was hard to keep in touch via postal mail. Initially, we were in touch only via email, but Facebook has made things so much simpler. Sharing daily updates made us feel connected once again. We haven’t met each other for the past 13 years; she is now located in Japan and I’m in the United States, but the net has closed this huge gap of thousands of miles.”

While Jo and Poonam get all misty-eyed, rediscovering each other, Jyoti has been warning her college mates about the lousy paranthas she had to suffer at Delhi’s famous Gali Paranthewali, and Arpit is basking in the warmth of the hug his friend Surbhi just sent him. “I’m not so worried about my exam anymore,”  he says.

We log out here, leaving them with their precious friends, convinced that if there is internet at hand and a good friend to find anywhere in the world, it’s not really winter anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 











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