Talk Time

All through school and college, one of the best parts was the ‘night-spend’ (before it was called ‘sleep-over’!) at a friend’s place. The high point of this was staying awake till very late, sometimes even till dawn, simply nattering the hours away. Though well past our school and college days, for myself and my friends, this continues to be so, even today!

We never seemed to run out of conversation. Conversation was comfort, it was catharsis, it was heart-to-heart and tête-à-tête, and more. Conversation was face-to-face communication.

It was not just with friends–face-to-face communication was a way of life. Families caught up with doings and happenings/news over daily meals, and at family get-togethers; colleagues exchanged views over a cup of tea; housewives met at the corner for a chinwag to exchange neighbourhood gossip, and senior citizens bemoaned the state of the world as they took their constitutional in the park. We communicated daily with the shopkeepers, the domestic help, the essential service providers like the milkman, the presswalla, the newspaper supplier, and the auto drivers.

Today we are told that the world is “connected” like never before. We are in constant communication, as it were…Through the press of a button we can order our groceries and daily requirements; we can book tickets for movies or order in food; we can upload pictures of our latest travels; we can stream live the family wedding from the exotic destination; we can open our hearts to the BFF through Twitter and Instagram…and we can even text our children in their bedroom to say that dinner is ready!

The world is “connected” 24/7. Time saving, effort saving, technological marvels we say.  But somewhere in all this, have we not lost something precious? Something that is a basic human need–Face-to-face communication, an ancient and abiding human gift? Are we losing a vital connection?

“When you speak a word to a listener, the speaking is an act. …Listening is not a reaction, it is a connection. …And it is a mutual act: the listener’s listening enables the speaker’s speaking. It is a shared event, intersubjective: the listener and speaker entrain with each other.  …When you can and do entrain, you are synchronising with the people you’re talking with, physically getting in time and tune with them. No wonder speech is so strong a bond, so powerful in forming community.” (Ursula K. Le Guin in a piece titled Telling Is Listening.)

Perhaps the next time, before we sign up for “Unlimited Talk Time” offers, let us see if we can make real Time for Talk.

–Mamata

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