One of the spin-offs of the pandemic is the countless WhatsApp groups that sprang up like mushrooms, more prolific than the coronavirus! Without the ubiquitous smartphone, you are absolutely lost. First thing in the morning the hand reaches out is the mobile resting by your bedside.
If you are not part of one WhatsApp group or the other, one would think you are a blot on society. The nuisance value of the groups varies, making you pull your hair and scream that WhatsApp should impose charges on more than five forwards a day. One can’t exit — it is your mother’s family, or your father’s, or your husband’s (‘No family values, these days!’). And then there are old schoolmates, current friends, neighbours, (‘What a misanthrope!’ ), cultural bodies. What on earth is WhatApp going to gain by making the world an oyster in your hands still remains a mystery despite lectures on the importance of advertisement and data possession...!
There are groups and groups... casual, formal, organisational, and so on. But the ones formed to nurture common interests are the ones which command our loyalty and time the most. Yours truly is part of one such literary conglomerate where good mornings and birthday wishes are strictly off-limits. If a novice happens to transgress, there you have the admin, a strict disciplinarian, a former Army man, wielding his baton menacingly, shooing them away. Only your own writings on a prescribed topic can be shared. No Hyde Park this, please.
Each day of the week is earmarked for a specific literary activity. Spilling over the next day is a strict no-no. If it is a weekly column on a particular subject by so and so member, others have no business posting a totally unconnected piece, even if it’s their own. They can respond to the column, applauding or disagreeing or adding to it. Wednesday is the photo caption day. An interesting picture or pictures are put up and the members can come out with fitting captions in limericks, prose, rhyme or no rhyme, but all with reason. Fridays are devoted to the goddesses — Soundarya Lahari is sung by a member and the Sanskrit scholar gives word to word meaning making it intelligible to all.
The most awaited day is Saturday, the photo poem day. If caption writing is a Twenty20 match, this one is a true Test match. The previous day itself an evocative picture is posted with enough notice to summon one’s long forgotten muse. The next day, the creative cup (pun intended) brims over. Positive responses from all buoys one up. Jokes apart, the past two years the group was instrumental in the emergence of many closet poets amid us, a revelation mainly to oneself !
Sunday is the day when your mobile virtually catches fire. It is the Antakshari day ! Varied fare every week: film songs, patriotic songs, lyrics, proverbs, riddles, you name it, we have it!
The members recite/sing, record and hoist it on the group. No time to breathe until the first flurry of excitement wanes! The ones producing the already done stuff are told off in no uncertain terms. The battle that ensues is not among sari- and dhothi-clad adults but with schoolchildren with two tightly woven pig-tails, at each other’s throats. The admin intervenes and calls a truce. In a huff, the soldiers retreat. In no time, they kiss and make up and are back in action. The nostalgia trip continues even after the set limit of 9 p.m. till the admin, exhausted after calling the house to order the whole day, sings the National Anthem .
Now you know why apart from the prospect of your morning cup of coffee, beaded bubbles winking at the brim, it is the beeping Tom who makes you get up and face the day!