We Love to Communicate
I shot this image during my last months in Bombay. The photograph is old but tells a tale. She sat on the road outside the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay, next to the Gateway of India. When I say ‘she,’ I refer to the woman talking on the phone. A friend, I assume, sat next to her. Her son must have felt excluded from the adult’s conversation. The curious crow looking on wondered what these humans were doing. Imagine the thoughts going on in the crow’s head. “All of us crows love to communicate with each other, but no machine enslaves us. These humans are crazy.”
It’s Not Just Humans
Humans, animals, and plants love to communicate. Many years back, humans believed that our communication skills set us apart from all other beings sharing this planet with us. I’ve come across. This much is true. However, while I have come across expressions like “dumb animals” and people who deny plants have life, our conceit has blocked us from understanding how plants and animals communicate.
When I read Merlin Sheldrake’s “Entangled Life,” it surprised me to learn that trees communicate through an intricate mycorrhizal network. Suzanne Simard’s book, “Finding the Mother Tree” just reinforced this message. Of course, you may wonder why I digressed into a brief tree discussion! Everything and everyone loves to communicate. Period.
In The Villages
In the past, village men and women gathered to talk at the melting pots in their village areas. They didn’t have watches or phones, so they were free of the chains of modern gadgets. Until twenty years ago, it was almost impossible to get a phone line. When I lived in Bombay at the turn of the century, I had to wait almost a year before I got a landline in my apartment. It became to buy a mobile phone with a connection, and India was never the same.
Many poor people migrate to the cities to work. They use cheap phones and prepaid cards. Until a decade back, the more affordable phones were only good for talking. So, the poorer sections of society bought phones and spoke to each other. This practice contrasts with the middle and upper classes, who gave themselves to social media. Most of us have willingly entered the panopticon of digital media. It has become worse over the last few years.
The Now. The Future
Large corporations want to sell “smartwatches,” “smart glasses,” and embed chips in clothes and medicines. Many of us will soon forget the experience of authentic communication and the freedom it brings. We may love to communicate, but we won’t know what the word means.
My mother uses a cheap phone because a touch phone confuses her. A few years back, Mark Zuckerberg came to India. He took back many cheap phones to America and charged his team with making them internet friendly. It is now possible to use WhatsApp or access Facebook with a low-end phone. Covid sped up the demand for internet-friendly phones. Many children in small colonies need such phones to attend class.
I cannot predict how communication will change over the next few decades. The woman in the photograph may continue using her phone to talk to friends and relatives. Her son may sneer at such a primitive form of communication. Can anyone wager a guess?
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I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to edit the second image, and create a monochrome version of the color one.
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