You can read the old post under this series here.
As I have said earlier there was no dearth of interesting characters in Computer Park Cafe. The browsing center was located in a leisurely neighborhood. That place is where the retired people live, most of their sons/daughters abroad. By the end of the morning walk, they would be visiting the browsing center with all sweats. A visit or two to their son/daughter place, would have suddenly made this all health conscious and they wouldn’t miss a day’s walk.
When sitting in front of the computer, they wouldn’t stop bragging about what they saw in the foreign land. Some people had very poor imagination, telling all sorts of sci-fi things which most of us know is not possible. But it made a great tea time conversation for them. The stories usually cover how they went for a morning walk to the efficiency of electrical man who fixed the washing machine. Sadly their kids would have been busy with work and wouldn’t have taken them anywhere.
And also most of them didn’t have a computer at home then. It was too technical for them. But the kids insist them to send emails rather than snail mails. So I was frequented with four or five such men every week. It was difficult to educate them about how email works. Once a elderly person gave his email address and six stars as password, No kidding. They would bring in four to five pages letters to type in an email with different handwriting.
“Their mother misses them so much. She insisted on writing herself” some would say with a smile in their face. The father to son letters were quite simple, giving the kids advice about how to be a righteous man, tackle senior managers, saving money and be true to their job. But this father to daughter or mother to daughter emails are so tough to handle. Most of the time it is mixed with Tamil words, to which I do not know the translation (Unicode fonts were not introduced by then).
One can see literally all the emotions in those letters which are typed and sent as email. Anger about next door neighbor, wishes to the newborn, advice on how to handle in-laws, anxiety about their first air travel, sadness about how their relatives are only coming to them for money, loneliness of how sending their husbands for even small chores and so on. Some will be literally moving. I used to type in all those.
Then I started seeing a sturdy increase in these senior citizen crowd. After few days I came to know that these guys frequent a different browsing center. The owner, because of greed or ignorance, would scan the whole thing and send the files to kids as images and charge a bomb for that. In that era of limited storage, the kids didn’t reply or the emails didn’t reach them because of large attachments. But my emails being plain texts got them reply as well it cost only two teas’ money.
But having these gentlemen near you when you type an email is very difficult I say. They are probably diocese educated and want everything to be in place. They would dictate it like “Dear Sridhar comma next line How are you Question mark We are fine here period next line” If I have missed a simple comma, period or used SMS lingo, I am a goner. The next 45 minutes will be a pure torture of grammar lessons. But I have always wondered inside like how can people be so eloquent in a foreign language and respect it so much as it pains to commit a mistake. That was the discipline instilled then.
Most of their kids in abroad would reply. Enthusiastically. They will be in cloud nine about their Dad being super cool and sending email and all. They will give so much of idea to how to be online. As they are good in sending email, its OK to buy a computer at home. Not only these dads here but the kids there also miss their parents so much. A simple visit to the temple near their home will bring like 3 pages of email about each and every detail about the temple. Most of the time Dads will come to pick up the email. And they would happily take print out, which will also make me and our owner happy. They would read it, re read it, mark the grammar mistakes with pencil and ask me to remind them to send corrections while sending the email next time. All this with a little hint of moisture in their eyes.
And then there were some other kids. Their dads claim that they work for big computer company and how it is america’s best. But they wont reply an email for long. Each morning, their fathers would visit the browsing center and give me their user name and password. When I tell them, there was no emails from their kids, they will chase me away from the chair and sit and check all the folders including the spam, which promises them a lottery or penis enlargement pills. After half an hour, they will look up to me and say, “He is in very responsible job. He wont get time at all” I just smile. I don’t know to talk to such people.
And then there was this first generation degree holders who are in UAE. Their fathers dont mingle in the other crowd. There was no discrimination but they were aloof. And they will give me the email address in small bits of paper usually stained because of over usage. Their emails are always flooded with emails from their kids. Once, there was this father who wanted to talk to me after paying me for checking emails.
“I need a system with web camera”
“All our systems are equipped with web camera sir” I gulped before finishing the sentence. There are web cameras in all the systems but even Tom Cruise will look jet black because of the image quality.
“Thank you. I will come by evening 4. Please block it from three. I will give you money for the time you block”
I didn’t understand. But I didn’t have to make an effort. Because afternoons are usually dull. And I will be the only one sitting in the browsing center contemplating a quick 40 winks.
The next day, by 3.45 a vehicle arrived as I was watching from our Balcony. The elderly gentleman got down, with a newly wed bride and groom. They even had garlands. They rushed to our center.
“Saat! Saat” the old man was telling me. It took me few minutes to understand he was saying Chat. I logged him in Yahoo messenger with the user name and password in stained paper. The elder son who was in UAE was waiting there. The worst pixel quality in the web cam didn’t matter to them. The other guy was crying in UAE seeing his newly wed sister and brother in law through webcam hours after their marriage. The whole family was in tears and every relative took turn to talk with the guy in UAE. It went solidly for 2 hours, with sweat playing spoil sport for both bride and groom.
After the emotional sequence, when they walked out the elderly gentleman, took my hands and was silent for two mins. Then his wife walked up and gave the money for browsing and a tamboola bag for me.
I didnt mind sweeping the rose petals out that day. The fragrance remained there for long time.