It’s 3 AM and I’ve just returned home from a late Saturday night party where we drank and made hypothetical travel plans to Goa (Thailand was a drink away). I check my WhatsApp — 388 unread messages, it’s Guddu aunty’s birthday. Humara Parivaar, Sukhi Parivaar (Our family, Happy family — which has been renamed to HBD Guddu Aunty, We loveee u for the day) group is buzzing with birthday wishes. After hundreds of pictures of cakes (that you can’t eat), bouquets (that you can’t smell) and party request (that will never happen) messages, I decide to sleep.
I wake up at 5 AM with a new message. My eyes refuse to open up and the pain in the entire body makes it difficult to even lift the phone. I summon demonic energy to get to the charging point and open the app. “Good morning, wish you a great day,” the message read. “Thank you, wish you a great death,” my mind replied. People kept sending morning wishes for the next 2 hours and I was wondering if doing so helps with their potty routines. Patient: “Doctor, I’ve trouble with bowel movements.” Doctor: “Did you try sending morning messages to 10 groups?” Patient: “I did”. Doctor: “This time include pictures of flowers, sunrise and you’ll be fine.”
Around 11 AM, the family group is buzzing again. Board exam results are out and my cousin Chunnu (real name unknown) has topped the district. Guddu aunty’s spotlight has shifted to Chunnu and in a separate group all the cousins are busy bitching about the nerd (some are even suggesting that he was adopted). I receive a direct message from my dad reminding me about my academic failures (it’s been 10 years since school ended). Now I’m worried that if Chunnu makes it to IIT, I will have to hear about it every day. I secretly pray that Chunnu discovers drugs and its benefits early.
It’s noon and the school alumni group is sad. Rajiv has lost his father in an accident and other members are doing their part by posting RIP and Om Shanti messages. Rajiv tells the group that his father loved Sunny and the entire group starts sending videos, photos. Rajiv again tells the group that his father liked Sunny Deol and not Sunny Leone. Too late, the group has gone from mourning to moaning mode.
At 2 PM, I feel hungry. I make an omelette. I check WhatsApp again but avoid family groups because at this hour, all masterchefs in my family put up their artwork on display (rasam with a twist, rainbow biryani, bang bang dhokla etc.). It’s an unspoken competition between maternal, paternal side of the family and while they fight, diabetes is the winner.
4 PM is me time. I message my close friends and share memes in bulk. I hear all the pending voice notes (I call them avoided phone calls) and watch funny videos. While I’m having fun, my boss sends a joke in the workgroup, everybody laughs, every variety of laughing emoticons. He then sends out our task lists for the next day, nobody laughs, zero emoticons. 2D emoticons are insufficient to express the angst that all five senses go through. Where is the option to report WhatsApp groups to HR? Also, do HRs have their own WhatsApp group where they discuss rangoli designs?
It’s 5 pm and I’ve neither wished Guddu aunty nor congratulated Chunnu yet. My Mom is angry with me and has threatened to remove me from the family group (the modern day version of public shaming). Little does she know that this is what I want but I’m aware that she is not the admin. That honour still lies with my grandfather because according to the Indian culture, he is still the head of the family. Digital patriarchy!
I’m bored and open my college group for some entertainment. They are busy fighting about who should be the Prime Minister of country in 2019 and trying to one up the other by posting random, unverified, sensational posts. Things start getting religious and people start leaving the group in protest (welcome to 2018!). I take control and forward some of the videos from the alumni group to calm things down. Peace is restored, members added back and now people want Sunny Leone for PM.
It’s evening and WhatsApp has lit up again. “You are online all day and still can’t wish people on family group” - Mom. “Why have you not replied to the video I sent?” - Dad. “Vote for my baby in the cute baby competition” - Friend. “Let’s see who can solve this puzzle” - Alumni stranger. “Look at this sexiest joke” - Friend. “Blessings to all” - Guddu aunty. “I will join IIT and make the family proud” - Chunnu. “Please kill me” - Me.
I sleep, I dream about past where I’m sending letters to relatives once a month and there’s hardly any pressure to look happy or better every day. People are in touch by choice and not by convenience. Friends are closer, cousins distant. I’m starting to feel happy but suddenly my dream is interrupted by a new message.
“Good morning, wish you a great day.”
(The writer is a stand-up comedian)