Don’t get me wrong - I love old people. They are adorable. As long as they do age-appropriate stuff like praying, taking long walks, and eating mashed vegetables. I can even live with the early morning throat clearing, which sounds like a bugle call made entirely of phlegm.
I like talking to them, ruing the loss of values in current times and criticising the young people. I love taking walks with them. I even do Kapalbhati with them sometimes. In fact, I get into the character so much that I attempt removing my teeth after dinner only to realise that they are real teeth, not dentures.
But where I draw the line is social media. I am petrified of ‘adding’ seniors as friends on Facebook. Of late, there has been a flurry of the superannuated entering the online garden to smell the flowers. The problem is — sometimes they don’t even know where to enter from. A friend’s father, for instance, mistook her facebook page for his and sent out a bunch of friend requests from it. The next morning, much to her shock, her computer screen looked like a brochure from a senior citizen’s club.
Once in the garden, the trigger-happy elders are quite footloose. They are ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ with the abandonment of a bee drunk on nectar. They prefer commenting using capital letters. So the next time you go on your nautical-themed ladies brunch on a yacht, don’t post a photo, will you? ‘Coz the photo with your mini-skirt-clad, champagne-glass-clinking fashionable girlfriends might get a comment like - JAI MATA DI. GOOD COLOUR SUITING YOU. MY BLESSINGS AND BLESSINGS OF BABA SANKATNATH.
Not only have they have learnt to type, they also know that the little bar below the photographs is where they can do it and leave a compliment, a query, an instruction, and just about anything. A photograph of yours with your spouse at a candlelit anniversary dinner may get a comment like -
PLEASE GIVE PINTU CHACHA’S TELEPHONE NUMBER TO GUDDAN MAMA. IT IS REGARDING BITTU’S ADMISSION EXAM IN DELHI. CHACHI SUFFERING WITH ULCER PROBLEM.
Now, God forbid if you’ve left your facebook wall settings open allowing anyone to post on it. One fine day you will have a series of posts that you’ve seen five years back. Some will be hoax messages like the photo of the tourist on observation deck of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, or a message telling you that your toothpaste has phenyl in it. A picture of a cloud in the shape of a god. And, to sign off, a message sharing the benefits of lemon water and honey for easing constipation.
Blocking is not the answer. I tried it once. Only to send uncle ji calling my husband during a meeting to ask him if all was well: a WhatsApp video call which he struggled to disconnect. He did disconnect, but not before uncle had asked, with the speaker turned on, whether he wanted a pumpkin.
You ask around on how to find a solution. Any best practices? Anyone has succeeded in avoiding this situation or remedying it? There isn’t any, my friend. Not even with the blessings of Baba Sankatnath.
(Bestselling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down commedienne)