My Saturday morning was ruined by a notification from Google – my Gmail account was a couple of megabytes away from exhausting its 15 GB limit.
Back in the day when yahoo chat was cool and people wanted to help out Nigerian princes, I survived on a 6 MB mail limit, but that was more than a decade and a half back, and I, the man behind critically acclaimed email IDs such as devil_ethan_hunt / superbatman007 & of course kanishka_cool_stud, had grown accustomed to not deleting e-mails, all thanks to Gmail's seemingly infinite storage.
But my luck and inbox space had finally run out, and I knew that I had to re-visit a ritual that I hated, deleting e-mails.
As far as I could tell, there were two options I had, delete the locust-like irrelevant e-mails that were small sized but came in such numbers that they couldn’t be ignored, or, delete the heavy emails that were less frequent but took up way too much space.
I opted for the latter, figuring that it would take less time, and accordingly searched for old emails that were more than 2 MB in size.
An hour later, I had to admit that I had made the wrong choice.
THIS was a gold mine.
This was a trip to a time and place that I had grown out of. This was a revealing account of who I was at one point of time, and while many of the mails were cringe-worthy, it wasn’t always just me.
A batchmate who is quite respected in law-firm circles had an email ID that probably could be used to blackmail him now. If you thought kanishka_cool_stud was bad this was closer to, say, tanhaboy_16.
And there were the emails and chats.
References to Orkut, email forwards (when was the last time you received one, the non-work kind?), and GIF files touted as the latest tech, it was all there. So were popular songs of the year mailed to and received from friends.
Obama’s Cadillac and George W. Bush jokes found their place alongside conspiracy theories about Saddam and Osama. Stephen King and RL Stine books co-existed in peace, and surprise of surprises, I found out that I had actually sought out the twilight series.
I also found some of my projects and dissertations from college; my wonderful choice of topics ranged from the concerned ‘Energy Laws in Ethiopia’ to the sublime ‘Politics, Technology, and Corporate Governance’.
My faith in the education system restored (let’s just say the projects got the marks they deserved and not what I needed), my search through 14.995 GB of culturally, historically or aesthetically significant emails resumed.
The deeper I delved, the more I realised that I had little in common with who I was a decade or so back, it seemed as if I was a different individual altogether, not just the superficial things such as taste in music, movies and books, I was actually a different person entirely. Things which seemed crucial at one point of time didn't matter anymore, and the past me would have scoffed at some of the things which now hold importance.
Not just 10 years back, I seemed to have
evolved changed even from who I was 5 years ago.
Some things, of course, stayed the same. The sarcasm, the impossible sleep cycle which would have driven lesser mortals insane, the ability to incorporate filmy dialogues in routine conversations, and last but not the least, my never-ending quest towards achieving excellence in the field of awesomeness.
Okay. These emails couldn’t possibly be deleted. They were artefacts from more innocent times. So what if they contained humiliating details such as the time I almost threw up on a friend after having one too many, and more disturbing details like the other time a friend looked like he would throw up on me and proceeded to do exactly that.
Needless to say, good times.
I got thinking about the time before Gmail, before kanishka_cool_stud and indya.com; way back to the golden period that was the early 90s.
I am sure you have received/forwarded that popular WhatsApp message that glorifies the 1990s, and maybe you have seen those click bait articles as well:- “Top 20 things that every 90s kid will get....we bet you still miss #3!”
Ahh, to speak of the days when the Indian cricket team was known as the Wills Indian cricket team, a time when it wasn’t beneath the middle class to travel by train in non-AC sleeper class, a period when the Khans were actually young enough to play college kids - a time when arithmetic problems involving distribution of mangoes (or apples) amongst Ram, Rahim, and John usually led to the foregone conclusion that they would each end up with the same number.
A time when life moved at an easier pace.
Ironically, even in those days, the present always seemed tense, and the past, whatever little of it that did exist, seemed magnificent.
So do we actually visit the past through rose tinted glasses, or were the past days actually better?
Or is life getting progressively worse?
And there’s the fourth alternative that made me panic during exams:- ‘all of the above’.
Studies tell that we are living in the most peaceful period of history, and contrary to what you may believe, crime and violence are at an all time low (even in Delhi, yes), life expectancy and literacy rates have never been better.
So why in Manoj Kumar’s name do we feel that ‘the times they are a-changing’, for the worse? In spite of the statistics and the conveniences associated with modern technology, why has it only become harder to find genuine moments of peace and happiness?
The obvious answer seems to be that life tends to get more and more complicated as we age.
As a kid, my only priority was not pooping in my pants, and in the unlikely event of that occurring, successfully hiding the fact; my measure of success was based on and equalled to not shitting in my pants. Literally.
I was a successful kid.
On most days anyway.
Education starts assuming more and more significance as the years roll on, along with friends come peer pressure, and before you know it, life loses its simplicity. With increasing number of things that matter, our success rate is bound to come down.
I remember immediately after my Geography paper in class 10th finals, I picked the textbook up and flung it as far away as I could, ecstatic that I would never have to study the subject again. Problem solved.
Geography was gone, but Calculus & Trigonometry had taken its place. No Ram, Rahim or John to give away clues this time. In comparison, Geography now seemed meek.
Life was so much easier five years back, we think, and we think that every time a new criterion that is supposed to be important is thrown into the mix.
Our careers, our personal lives, our health, our hobbies, our duties as citizens, the compulsory requirement to have an opinion on topics ranging from same-sex marriages to Open internet ....the list goes on and on.
No wonder going through my old emails made me nostalgic, life was far from perfect those days, but at least we had lesser number of things to worry about then.
Well, if there’s any consolation, it’s not always going to be like this. In 45 years or so, just as suddenly as things had once become important, the same things will start to lose their meaning - we will be too old to be concerned with our general appearance, our annual bonuses will stop being important, what others think of us will start counting for less and less.
Until one day, when the definition of success reverts to our ability to not soil ourselves.
Image from here.