Sunday, October 24, 2010

Skype-ing In The Hood

Cathleen came calling this afternoon. There she is, sitting inside my laptop, moving and talking just as if she were right next to me.

When I moved away from my parents, I was the same age she is now, but while the distance in miles was also the same (she moved from India to the US, I moved from the US to India) the true distance was vast and insurmountable.

We had no phone, to begin with. When we first arrived, we lived in Delhi "temporarily," always planning to move out to a smaller city the following month, so we didn't bother to put our names on the waiting list for a phone. One month stretched to seven years and it wasn't until we had been in Dehradun for five years that we finally got one. Twelve Years Incommunicado!

When I wanted to call my parents, I would have to find friends willing to have me camp out in their home for what could sometimes be days. I would book a "Trunk Call" for what was always an inconvenient time (2 AM, for example) and then wait and wait and wait for it to go through.

Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. When it did, the voice transmission was always delayed, so I would be in the middle of saying something when suddenly what Mom had said seconds earlier would come through. There was always an echo, too, so we got to hear our little inanities and apologies twice, as if they were so profound they needed to be repeated.

We all hated the calls, but felt somehow obligated to make them at least on birthdays and Christmas. They ruined the day because of the need to leave home to receive them and left us feeling unsatisfied, bereft and even further away.

Now, communication is so easy I have no sense that the children are any distance at all. We speak on the phone several times a week, IM daily, email every little thing that occurs to us and NOW, we Skype too.

Our connection used to be too slow to allow good Skype-ing, but with my new Mac and a fast broadband, we are all set.

And today, the whole family got into the act.

Ravi and Cathleen argued just as they always did:

C: I miss everyone so much!

R: Who asked you to go? Why don't you come back and do your studies here?

C: Baba, you know I can't - there's no one in my field there.

R: Change your field. You're in the wrong place.

But we all know his true feelings, as shown in this fond gaze:

We had meant to astonish Vikram with this new technology and had instructed her to remain absolutely still while we called him to see the beautiful "photo" of Cathleen. But he had heard her voice from the kitchen and was astonished (and disappointed) to find that she wasn't there in the flesh!

Mummy and our niece Aishwarya joined in too - the two cousins hadn't seen each other for several years and Cathleen had never even met A's husband (off camera, unfortunately, as is Moy, whose response was recognition and delight):

Skype is truly a gift. We've had a tour of Cathleen's apartment in Jerusalem and we know what she can see from out her bedroom window. She's seen our house all freshly painted, knows how my new short hair looks and can tell if I've not made the bed. The number of times I have wanted her advice on which outfit to wear! Now I can just model them for her and await her considered opinion. I'm thinking of other possibilities as I write. LOVE IT!


Kanica... said...

I can imagine what it used to be like in 'those' days...My family will be able to relate to it so well...happy skypiinnnggg Jo!

chicu said...

Skype IS a gift..and the best part? we don't need to just talk..we can cook together, get a loved one's instant opinion on whether the dough has risen, and yes, model clothes and argue. such a privilege, no?