Ma sent me a WhatsApp message, “if you are unable to send me the video by whatsApp”, the message said, “upload it on google drive and share”. I read the message several times just to check if I had read it correctly.
Ma is 69 years old. She had successfully stayed away from the digital lure. Then, two years ago, I handed her a smartphone. The intention was simple. I wanted her on WhatsApp so that I could reach her anytime. But Ma had never used a smartphone before except to make some calls. Naturally, I began my teaching sessions. I started with the basics — switching the phone on, taking pictures, using messaging apps, charging the phone and so on. “I know most of what you just said”, she told me in plain words, “tell me what more can I do with this phone?” I was stumped. But, I didn’t let that bother me. I wanted to cajole her without overwhelming her because, at the back of my mind, I worried she would walk away from the digital life. “Well”, I said, “you can store music, make shopping lists, and you can also use the pedometer that will count your steps and measure the calories you burnt”, I added because, something told me that she would certainly like the last bit of information. After all, she loved going for long walks.
That evening when Ma and Pa went for their evening walk, she carried her latest digital accessory. I was happy that, she had taken to the style of our present times when our hands feel practically empty without a phone. Who knew then, that, it was just the beginning. A quiet beginning to her revolutionary understanding of our digital lives.
Mother turned out to be a quick learner. In the next couple of days, I found, she had her own mail ID, and had a watch list on YouTube, playlist on her phone and she absolutely loved showing off to me how well she had taken to her phone. I was pleased.
When Ma and Pa, went back to their place, they messaged me saying they reached. This time, the message came from Ma. And, lo, she had connected with me digitally without a hitch. Soon, she began to message me. She even sent me pictures and I smiled every time she forwarded a message or she sent me a link to some YouTube video.
When I met her again after a couple of months during summer break, I noticed that she spent a considerable amount of time on the phone. “Do you like it?”, I asked her. ‘Yes, I do”, she beamed, “see what I have done,” she said handing me the phone. She not only had changed her wall paper, she had neat folders for pictures, audio files and as I navigated through the myriad of icons, I noticed that she even had new apps installed that paid their bills. I looked at Ma, shocked. “That’s a giant leap for you Ma”, I said handing her the phone back. “Well, now that, I have my own phone, I can do what I like”, she smiled. Well, the possibilities are endless. Ma now sends me links on Google Drive. She has an Instagram account, welcomes me on Snapchat, uses a calendar to save dates and reminders and reads many magazines online.
If that is not all, she helps other women navigate their life around with their phones. She is one of the few women I have seen embracing technology. Who says age is a bar? My Ma is the most tech savvy person I have seen and she showed me that, all you need is a bit of curiosity and you can master anything you like. And, the latest? She now wants to host a YouTube channel of her own! Who knew!
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman