There used to be a time when everyone gathered for tea in the morning and discussed the day’s plans
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Aggghh!! You were in the middle of an important conversation. ‘How can this happen?’ And you thought your service provider was reliable!
You yell at your service provider, provided they have a support mechanism. They politely tell you that they are experiencing slow connection and that your service will be restored as soon as the problem is solved. You wait, staring at the screen. Soon enough your internet service is restored. Unfortunately the other person is offline by now. So you send an email and wait for the person to come online. This wait feels like ages. After a couple of ‘hellos’, ‘kebhayos’ and ‘are you there?’ you finish your conversation. If only the person was right there with you, you could have had a face-to-face conversation. You could talk to him/her right away and save so much time! Then again, do we do that? Communication is a tricky thing, despite it being just a spoken word away.
Communication is a very interesting term. Much importance is given to it but do we practice it at home? Let’s start with our daily morning activity. It is early morning and everyone is having their tea, but in their own workplace. No one is talking. There used to be a time when everyone gathered for tea in the morning and discussed the day’s plans and shared their thoughts; or even talked about the news that was aired on the radio.
This reminds me of the time spent with BP Koirala. I called it ‘morning tea ceremony’. It was special. As BP poured tea for everyone, he led intelligent, thought-provoking discussions that refreshed our thinking; he even shared his thoughts and experiences with us. Those were wonderful times that helped us connect with each other. This particular habit has become extinct. Now all communication and connecting is done via social media.
Not the same
Social media has to some extent helped bring people together, to make new connections and reconnect with old friends and family. It still has its limitations. Talking to a screen with the person on the other side is not the same thing as being face-to-face having a lively and sometimes animated conversation. You don’t get the feel! But, sadly, with most of the family members away in different parts of the world, that is the only way to reconnect. I know I sound nostalgic,
Festivities always have that effect on me. I think of festivals as occasions to reconnect with relations whom you have not been in touch for most of the year; wish them well and get their blessing. It is not like the past when time literally stood still and everyone gathered to celebrate the festivities together at home. It’s not the same any more. I remember, 20 years ago, when dasain-tika at our house took hours to finish; now, 15 minutes, and we are done!
In all this I am thinking more of the happiness that one feels sharing activities, light banter of ashirbaads, laughter and then finally delicious food: masubhaat, kauli ko tarkari, kaalo daal, tomato achaar and other stuff that go with it. There was a time when a whole khashi would be finished by the end of the day; now one kilo is more than enough for the entire festival. This is an indication that houses are becoming empty nests.
I am tempted to make you all a bit nostalgic. Remember the time you had two three groups of people playing cards at home and enjoying the never-finishing bhutuwa with chiura and aloo ko achaar; and little children running around yelling, shouting and chasing each other for sel roti? Now those children have all grown up and left to study abroad. Come dashain you sit with no enthusiasm to celebrate, just reconnecting with the old memories! Celebrating dashain, tihar and holi has become more ritual than fun.
Still just the thought of those days makes one happy. Happiness to me is reconnecting with pleasant thoughts, even if it is just memories. Research suggests that remembering happy events boosts present level of happiness. Despite all the amenities available these days to connect with others in one form or another, there are other factors that come into play while reconnecting with families and friends.
Due to the difference in time, even modern amenities are not of much help. Reconnecting with families abroad has become more like a business meeting, only after scheduling. Not just that. Even staying connected with those who are near has become problematic. People have time for everything except their family.
Time of change
I remember a time when visiting relatives was a spontaneous act in the absence of internet and cell phones. We personally visited people and spent time with them and also wrote letters. Although letter-writing is now a lost art in Nepal, people still do it in other parts of the world. People still mail things to each other and the postal service still works there. At a time when people are becoming more and more isolated, it is of utmost importance to keep relations strong.
One of the keys to happiness is cultivating strong ties with other people. People need to feel a sense of belonging, to give and receive support. It turns out that giving support is just as important to happiness as getting support from others. Now with the availability of cell phones with excellent cameras, pictures are just a click away. Those saved memories are wonderful ways of filling the gaps felt by loved ones.
Finally, reconnecting provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the advances science has made in communication. Still I think the old-fashioned way of reconnecting is the best: in person. I can understand your logic. You simply don’t have the time! One day of the weekend is spent cleaning and other chores. Under such circumstances, it sure is challenging to maintain those connections over time. Yes, new friends reflect our present, but old friends matter too!
Current friends keep us connected but the old friends help us reconnect with the past. Parents can take the lead in this by increasing the frequency of interaction with extended and older family members. Their life’s rich experiences can be a good source of nourishment for children of all ages. You don’t want your children to miss out on this opportunity to reconnect, right parents?
The author is an educationist and author of several children’s books