February 21, 2020
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A Telegram From 009

Ten years is a long time to ponder upon the best and worst life has thrown at us and grow wiser for the next ten

A Telegram From 009
Illustration by Manjul
A Telegram From 009

I was in the middle of a desert ten years ago. Not exactly stranded. Pampered by tax-free Gulf pay, together with occasional bonuses thrown in by a magnanimous monarch as his token of appreciation for the work we did in the TV channel I worked for, life was good with little or no room for complaint. If I rued anything, it was the predictability of a cushy existence minus any major challenges. My life was too good to be true, bordering on being somewhat surreal.

Back in India, I am a lot poorer. I make far less than what I used to in West Asia. Yet, my current life is a lot richer and far more meaningful. As I mull over the past ten years—insp­ired by a viral #10YearChallenge onli­­ne craze—I see in the exercise a rare opportunity for some soul-sea­rching. Occasional self-appraisals are good. They prod us to look inwards, analyse our strengths and weaknesses, take stock of our successes and follies, and help us stay rooted.

Agreed that the #10YearChallenge is only skin-deep, requiring participants, including celebrities, to uplo­­ad a pair of their photographs—one current, the other from a decade ago. But, hopefully, it allows people to pause and ponder what has changed more substantively in their lives than their looks. Seen that way, a lot has changed. India as a republic has survived but the nation is perhaps more divided. The way we conduct ourselves has drastically changed. We are more impatient with contrarian views even as we embrace universal brotherhood in a globally wired economy.

The changes we have witnessed in the past decade have been profound. Who could have thought 10 years ago that we can have hot, sumptuous meals delivered to our homes and desktops at a click of a button on our smart phones? Phones were not as smart then and onli­­ne services such as Zomato were toddling upstarts a decade ago. It was unthinkable then that we can replenish our wallets with the ease with which we do now, courtesy platforms such as PayTm, or that you would type your destination on an app and a cab—Uber, Ola and who knows what’s next—picks or drops you from and at any corner you wish to travel.

“Appraisals of the self are good. They prod us to look inwards and take stock of our successes and failures.”

There has been a lot to rejoice over in the past decade. Powered by technology, many of our experiences—from online shopping to GPS-enabled travel—have changed for the better, provided we have the means to afford them. It is bad news for some: standalone stores, mom-and-pop businesses are on the threshold of being annihilated by an expanding phalanx of malls and e-tailers. The way we communicate is being revolutionised too. Postcards are getting obsolete and telegram—the erstwhile bearer of urgent news, delivered in staccato words—has been phased out in the past decade. The Telegram we know now is an instant messaging service.

This issue of Outlook invites you to join us in remin­iscing about how our own lives and that of our surr­oundings have changed since 2009. Our list of changes—good, bad and ugly—may not be entirely exhaustive, but is good enough presumably to turn each one of you a bit nostalgic. You may exhilarate over some and brood over others. Happiness and disappointments march alongside after all.

The bigger challenge, for me, is not to be daunted by the disappointments that invariably come along the way. My prominent grey streak appeared as a faint line about 10 years ago, threatening now to populate the top storey. Dismayed initially, I soon got over it. So should you beca­use the past decade tells us we are no less good, desp­ite growing older. Here’s wishing you well for the next 10 years.

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