Who’s the star on Skype?


Online video-calling – via Skype, FaceTime, etc. – is a boon to citizens of a globalised world. And a source of particular delight to its toddler denizens.

My generation of greybeards was first introduced to video calling on the Internet when we were in college (to any Generation Z-ers who accidentally read this, yes, we’re that old). My daughter, on the other hand, has been keeping in touch with family scattered around the world via Skype since she was a year old. She loves it so much that I’m lucky if I get in a word edgewise these days.

It all began innocently enough. Grandparents and aunts and uncles who lived abroad would cheer and clap for her when she performed online – ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ or the endless ‘Wheels on the Bus’. Even just a ‘hi’ and a grin would have them cooing in delight. Sometimes, she’d ignore them altogether, and they’d still watch her entranced as she went about her business, toddling around and wreaking havoc on my sitting room, while I ran behind her, holding the laptop in one hand and preventing her from attempting impossible stunts with the other (the resulting crazy camera work would make avant-garde filmmakers coo with delight).

The problem is that, as she’s grown older, an understandable sense of ownership has developed. After all, she’s the star performer, isn’t she? She’s the one everyone’s coming (online) to see. So, she has (quite reasonably) concluded, she has exclusive rights to this whole Skyping business. Recently, when daddy was travelling on business, she quite simply refused to hand over the laptop to me at all, sitting on the sofa with it perched on her little legs, and holding forth as only a toddler can:

“Daddy, why are you wearing a T-shirt?”

“Daddy, where are your legs?”

“Daddy, show me your legs!”

“Daddy, where are your toes?”

“Show me your toes, daddy!”

And so forth.

As you can probably tell from the above conversation, fond as she is of the technology, she has certain concerns about not being able to see the ‘whole picture’, as it were. Why, she seems to feel, are daddy’s toes or paati’s footwear not immediately visible? This is clearly a situation that needs to be rectified – my mother, who lives in Dubai, regularly has to raise her chappals to the laptop screen before the Skype session can continue as scheduled.

Slight confusions also arise over the whole “geographically scattered” aspect of the thing. After a recent chat with her big cousins, she was inconsolable because she wanted to play with them then and there. And after a Skype with a couple of baby cousins, she was determined to carry them around like they were dollies. Explanations about them all being far away in the U.S. made absolutely no sense to her; she could see them, couldn’t she? They were RIGHT THERE.

She also just couldn’t figure out why daddy was Skyping from a room she didn’t recognise during his recent travels. Attempts to explain the concept of a hotel room were less than successful; we finally compromised by agreeing that he was “in the airport” (which is obviously where he’d be while travelling rather than this silly, made-up thing called a ‘hotel’).

She has got wise to some aspects of online video-calling, though. Nowadays, playful attempts to ask her for hugs and kisses or share her food or toys via Skype are met with a brisk, “But you’re in the computer!” (the “duh!” is implied). Still, she does unbend occasionally and humour us long enough to give the laptop a quick huggie. After all, she’s the star of the Skype show, and she has to give her adoring audience what it wants. Plus, this way, she’s more likely to get to see those pesky missing legs, knees and toes, not to mention sandals, shoes and shorts...

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 4:41:54 PM |

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