Engineering student studying on a computer Image Credit: Agency

When I talk to my son, Sid, about my love affair with technology, all he has is a big loud laugh with a look of incredulity. Sid’s bewildered look always makes me wonder if it really did happen to me. Also, I cannot dismiss the nagging feeling that I was perhaps plain stupid.

When I was a little girl, computers were those boxes that I read about in newspapers or those gadgets used by the people in Star Trek. The technology seemed so far fetched that I never thought I would encounter them in any near future. But, I did.

When I was in college, only a handful of them had seen a computer. They spoke about the glow on the screen and how, a keyboard with a wire could spring the alphabets on display. “And, you have to be careful”, a tall girl who claimed to have worked on the machine told me once, “no footwear in the computer lab!” “No footwear?”, I was confused but it felt too stupid a question to ask her why.

The computer lab itself was tucked away in a corner of the building. Every day, after class, I would walk past it, too scared to even take a peek through the glass door.

A year later, I mustered enough courage to enrol myself in a computer course. I was so anxious about my first rendezvous with the desktop that I stood outside the lab for five full minutes before entering the room.

A neat foot rug with a ‘welcome’ written on it was laid outside. Next to the rug were a few pairs of footwear in every colour and style. I swallowed my anxiety, aligned my sandals along with the rest, put my hand on the door handle and pushed open the glass door. A blast of cold air greeted me. My feet felt cold and my anxiety got worse. Three monitors that looked like little TV screens sat on small tables in a row.

I was shown to a table where I sat staring at the screen. Next to me sat a girl who was busy punching on the keyboard.

“Hi. Why can’t we wear footwear inside?”, I whispered eagerly to know the answer.

“Maybe the virus!”, she replied with conviction.

“A Virus?”, I had not seen that coming.

“You mean, the computer has a virus?”, I asked just to be sure.

“No”, the girl looked at me with raised eyebrows, “we may give the computer a virus. They say, the computer could be in danger if attacked by a virus. Cant you see how the place is so clean?”

Glad I told him this tale

I looked around. She was right. The place was spotless and very cold. Every one spoke in whispers and I could hear nothing except the whirring sound of the machine.

It took me many months to figure out that the virus and the air-conditioning were not what I thought they were for.

Over time, I learnt a thing or two more about computers, and I also found out the machine was a lot more than just a prop in Star Trek.

Fast forward to present day, Sid is holding his stomach as he laughs: “You really thought the micro-organism virus could infect computers?”

I have no answer. In fact, I also laugh with him, thinking of the days when life was simple and innocent.

As I watch Sid, I ruffle his hair. I am glad I told him this tale. Perhaps Sid thinks that his mum is plain naive. But, I guess, there will come a time, when he will recall this heart-warming tale. Perhaps then, he will also wonder how the same naive mum also taught him many a things he can be proud of.

Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman.