It was a rainy evening when I met Tom Alter at a cafe in the city for an interview. I asked him my questions, but before I started, he was courteous enough to offer me a hot beverage. While the cafe owner offered to get me a cup of coffee, Tom insisted that the weather called for tea.
As a youngster, if I may call myself so, if you’d ask me to describe the actor in a single adjective, I’d say ‘old school’. After I asked him all the questions I wanted to, we sat sipping our tea waiting for the rain to stop.
Out of curiosity, I asked him why he didn’t carry a cellphone and how he managed getting in touch with people. He said that if he really wanted to talk to someone, he did it face-to-face, the way a conversation is meant to be carried out. He made me think about the importance of a face-to-face conversation, just like the one we were having at that time.
And what irked him most about ‘digital conversations’ was the insincerity involved in it. Explaining this further, he told me about a time he was in a village, and due to a power cut, couldn’t watch the India-Pakistan match on television. An avid cricket fan, he was terribly disappointed. So the youngsters around managed to live stream the match online with comments by viewers around the world showing up on the sides. On the right, there were India supporters and on the left, those of Pakistan. Tom was appalled by the profanity the supporters of the two teams threw at each other. I thought it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, until he explained to me that people made those filthy comments only because they were sitting safely in their homes and they knew it would not have any consequences. He said that these people would never have said the things they did if they were with people, face-to-face, because then there would be consequences.
He spoke of how this generation — my generation — had lost the will to take responsibility for what we say, because we have the internet, and various social media, to type out anything we want, without giving our thoughts much thought. He presumed it is because we know that we can hide behind a fake profile, we have an easy way out and will not be held responsible for our words. What is true, what is a rumour, how can you find out? There is so much noise created by social media that you cannot get a clear picture. It is cowardly, he said, and asked me if the people who were cussing the other team would come out in public and say the stuff they were typing in isolation?
I didn’t think so.