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To learn and to teach

Illus. for TH

Illus. for TH  

For all computer-users, help is at hand for the asking

It wasn’t a lack of effort. I was trying really hard but still couldn’t see it. A small text box on the top right corner of my screen. I was on the phone with my son and he was helping me fill in a code which would get me a 30% ‘first-timer’ discount on a purchase. It was my first time, which was precisely why I qualified for the discount. The frustrating part was that it was my first time of online shopping ever, not just on this particular website.

It’s not that I haven’t tasted the convenience and the competitive pricing of home shopping. It’s just that I never did it myself. I would send my wish list to my daughter/ son who would do the rest. I, thus reaped the benefits without the bother. With my fifty fifth birthday edging close I had set some targets for myself, cyber shopping being one of them. I was determined to be self-reliant, at least for my shopping needs when I went over the hill...

As my son’s exasperation grew, I debated doing what I usually do. Post him a screenshot in which he encircles the deceptive ‘character’ lurking in some corner and sends it back with an eye-roll emoticon and some snide comment about my tunnel vision. Before I could make this offer he said he would order the merchandise and hung up. As always, I worried that someday I might make him roll his eyes so far back in his sockets that the blacks will disappear altogether.

For a person who has been using a computer for a quarter of a century, my knowledge of it is painfully inadequate. Mostly because I use it as a typewriter that allows mistakes, a readily available encyclopaedia and a handy video player. After the call ended I decided to look more carefully. How difficult could it be? So I scanned the 9.7-inch screen pixel by pixel and came upon a ‘support’ option.

Now, my training from the days of Wordstar 4.0 have taught me to stay away from help and support offers. It’s like getting stuck in the marsh. The more you try to climb out, the deeper you sink into the muck.

Going against all that I had learnt on those sleepy summer afternoons more than two decades back I gingerly pressed the support option and a dialog box appeared. I was asked to type my query as clearly as possible. I half-heartedly wrote out my question to no one in particular. I wasn’t expecting a response but Swati appeared almost instantaneously.

She asked which email ID I had used to place the order. Flustered, I typed it wrong. Without blowing a fuse she nudged me in the right direction, asking me to confirm it and I realised my mistake.

That sorted, she tried to help me spot the elusive text box, and when I couldn’t, she offered to call. As she courteously ‘madam-ed’ me we discovered that I was on the wrong page. Then she respectfully and patiently walked me through the process, reassuring me that what had happened wasn’t unusual...a nice way of saying I wasn’t unusually dumb!

Rid of the fear of ridicule, I got it right. The process felt easy and intuitive as my son had always claimed. Transaction completed, I told Swati how kind and courteous she was vis-à-vis my own progeny. She graciously shrugged it off saying she was just doing her job.

So it all seems perfect. Readily available, round-the- clock support without derision and sarcasm.

A niggling thought has been bothering me, though. Will that be one reason less to call my children and hear their voice?

dr_manjugupta@icloud.com

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:41:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/to-learn-and-to-teach/article22919385.ece

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