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MEMORIES LIVE ON Some light candles, while others pay tribute through 'scraps'
MEMORIES LIVE ON Some light candles, while others pay tribute through 'scraps'

Networking sites Orkut, Hi-5 and Facebook help keep alive memories of the dead in the virtual world

Orkut today houses over 74 lakh users from India.No surprise then that over 20,000 online mourners, out of the four crore Internet users in India, logged on to Minal Panchal's profile on Orkut to pay their tributes through "scraps". Today, even after Minal's profile has been deleted there are communities named after her to mourn the tragedy. In Chennai, friends, acquaintances and fans of late rock star Leon Ireland continue to pay their respects to the 34-year-old talented vocalist, who died over four months ago. Psychiatrist Dr. Vijay Nagaswami believes virtual spaces, profiles and personal webpages of the dead have become easily accessible places of remembrance. "It's the cemetery effect. In the absence of cemeteries, the profiles become a virtual cemetery and a visit to the profile serves like a trip down memory lane. A token of remembrance."Given the instant accessibility of an online profile, the visits to the person's page continue even months after his/her death and frequently too.When Praveen (name changed to protect privacy), a student, died in a bike accident late September, many of his friends realised they had so much to tell him. Praveen's scrapbook is full of emotional entries made by friends. "You are one ghost I wouldn't mind. Seriously," a friend writes in his scrapbook."It was so abrupt. I had lost touch with him and felt so bad that I hadn't taken his calls because of my busy schedule. I now wish I had been a nicer person," she laments. Praveen never got to change the message on his profile and it continues to read: "I love to walk in the rain because no one can see me cry."In college circles especially, the dead are remembered fondly. Like in the case of Ganesh (name changed to protect privacy), who died over a year ago. Ganesh had given his GRE exam twice, had not been happy with his performance and was planning to write it the third time. But he died in a bike accident in March last year. His friends continue to give him soccer updates amidst tons of "Miss You Machaan" and "Love you Maaplai" every other day. Ironically, his profile continues to read: "Born to be a star." "It is natural to miss a person. If the objective of mourning is to come to terms with the loss, it is understandable. But an ongoing relationship is going to be bothersome in the long run," warns Dr. Vijay. "When they feel the need to maintain continuity to feel complete about themselves, it's not necessarily a healthy process," he adds.There are many who do not like the idea of visiting profiles of the dead or having communities in their memory. "Grief is a personal thing and the privacy of the dead should be respected," says Swapna, a communication student. "Though it is a public online network, it is a network of trusted friends. Friends would've shared inside jokes and intimate details in a scrapbook, hoping that the people they discuss wouldn't chance upon their conversation online. When that person dies, there is no one to clarify the context of such entries or to moderate scraps in his or her scrapbook. At least for that sake, inactive accounts should be deleted."The profiles of the dead should not be deleted, feels Ganesh's friend Gautham. "I miss him like everybody does but I don't scrap him. But, I want to be able to go to his page and visit him when I want to. Friends are listeners. I don't want to be denied an ear when I want it. Bad enough I lost him in the real world. I don't want to lose him virtually too."SUDISH KAMATH

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