(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 28th June, 2008)
"It's one of those things that make you wish you wish you were living in the Stone Age. What I mean is, if a fellow in those days wanted to give anyone a letter of introduction, he had to spend a month or so carving it on a large-sized boulder, and the chances were that the other chappie got so sick of lugging the thing around in the hot sun that he dropped it after the first mile," Wodehouse once wrote. If he had lived to see the Orkut and Facebook days, he might have gone on to say, "But these days, e-mailing is so easy a chappie might think it a right rummy thing to do, to dash off the old propos that way."
Not equipped with Wodehouse's literary panache, or a rescuer like Jeeves (although I do have a mother who is beginning to show dangerous signs of bordering on Aunt Agatha-esque behaviour), let me tell you what these musings are all about. So I opened my email one day, expecting offers to buy tickets to exotic locales at half the price, mobile bills, forwards my father has a propensity for sending on a regular basis, reminders to come watch my favourite play at the Royal Opera House four thousand miles away and even assurances that I could enlarge organs I did not possess. But the last thing I was prepared for was this:
Hope u r fine.
Let me Introduce myself.....
I am (name) working in (company name) as a s/w engineer at (city).
about my parents...My parents are in (city). my father was a sales manager in (franchisee name, company name)...and now he is leading a retired life....and my mother is a house wife.....and have one and only one elder sister , she is married and residing in (city).
then my likes and dislike...to be frank i am very much adjustable to any environment...i think thats y i dont have any dislikes...but l like to make friendship and to enjoy life with them.....
I like animals...especially dog and fish...
i have to be in office from 2.00pm to 10.00pm
then i believe through chat and mails we can understand each other....
nothing more now
if you want anything more...pls feel free to ask me....this is my email id.
and i believe relations are built up through good communication.
I blinked, of course, and then re-read it. This outdid my most bizarre dreams…even the one where I discovered I had given birth to a hen. I had just received a proposal of marriage through a networking site. And, it was complete with a tagline: "Relations are built up through good communication". So now frandship had moved into the territory of voifeship? Why stop with frandship when you can get yourself a marriage and have children who can play with their retired grandfather, housewife grandmother and one and only one aunt? And you can have a dog and fish for pets in your happy family home where you live from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.?
A few months ago, I was pondering how easy it was to figure out everything about a person thanks to blogs and networking sites. But until now, it had never occurred to me that matrimonial websites could be rendered redundant thanks to these. We seem to have already seen the day when you could ask someone, "so what are you up to?" and that person would reply, "oh, I'm just a little bored. Think I'll do some spouse-shopping." "Hey, I've been thinking of doing that myself!" you'd shout, "so, which sites are the best?" "Well, some have these annoying pop-ups that keep pestering you to take up a lifetime membership and asking if you need any help. But some allow you to just browse and then cut to the chase and shoot off a mail when you find something you like."
What I find most disturbing, though, is this: when I showed the email to a friend, he scratched his chin and surmised, "hmmm…but be a little careful when you say yes to a software engineer. Many people who work at call centres call themselves that."