My WhatsApp nightmare

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When waylaid by WhatsApp warfare, the only way to restore your sanity is to quit as many ‘groups’ as you can.

It’s just good sense to have an exit strategy. You need it. | WikiHow

Many moons ago, when the smartphone revolution was still in its infancy, an app was born. Like an avatar, it promised redemption from the clunkiness of the SMS and the heaviness of the email. It promised instant message gratification at my chubby fingertips, stylishly done and snazzily packaged. All I had to do was to download it and a few clicks later, I was in business. It was streets ahead of the SMS what with its oh-so-cool picture and audio transmission capabilities and consigned the SMS to the obscurity of advertising and promotional messaging. As for the email, it pushed it up the value chain as a tool to be used only for ‘serious’ communication. For casual cyber-bonding and cyber-com, it was WhatsApp all the way.

The lines began to buzz almost immediately and messages started to pour in. The graphics, the smileys, the sound bites — the heady amalgam gave me the feeling of being in cyber-com heaven. And then, heaven got an add-on. Some wise guy discovered WhatsApp groups. It was a decisive moment, the stuff of legend.

A whole bunch of new people entered my cyber life. The smartphone was now my personal history machine. It was the vessel in which all the various groups and cliques that I had belonged to now dwelt in. A veritable modern-day Noah’s Ark! The spectrum of WhatsApp groups that were suddenly created and I was added to were like an Indian spice shop and saree shop combined. Many, many colours, hues, patterns, sizes, layers and layers of them, with all sorts of flavours — chatpata, ẗeekha and what-have-you!

A myriad groups screamed for my attention. I was now talking to the people I went to pre-school with as well as the guys who sat in the cubicles next to me, only via a screen. Even as I sought out the appropriate smiley for my suddenly-public story of diaper-malfunction in our Pre-school Chuddy Buddies group, a reminder just popped up on Work Group about a project submission due as of yesterday. I smiled, shrugged and carried on tapping.

By then, in the Papa Family group, Aunty Chaupat Chappali had finished tapping her story of my spectacular tantrums at Cousin Babli’s shaadi to Jijaji Bunty, of how I had insisted on sitting on the ghoda at the baaraat and reduced my poor Mummy to anxious ‘Log kya kahenge [what will people say]’ tears. On the Mummy Family group, Phatichar Uncle offered me advice on how to lead a happy life. It was noon, he was downing whiskeys in a bar, all by himself, but he had discovered the key to happiness and we all deserved to know it, he tapped.

Meanwhile, Rocky and Happy were updating the High-School Buddies – Friends for Life group about my crush on Rashmi and how I had run my love-letter past them. Rocky even claimed to have preserved the undelivered letter and was going to show it to all, at the upcoming reunion, organised through the WhatsApp group. This reunion is going to be epic, Happy tapped, adding a zillion smileys for good measure. Thumbs up galore followed. I then learnt a overdue lesson — don’t trust Rocky and Happy with personal stuff. But, wait a minute. it had been years since I’d seen them. And yet there I was — a victim of blind faith.

It was exhilarating. The WhatsApp group was the best thing since sliced bread. Long-forgotten memories were revived, long-forgotten jokes came back into circulation and long-forgotten people were now connected after eons. It couldn’t have been better.

And then the slide began.

At first, there was merely a hint of trouble in paradise. It was all very well for Aunty Chaupat Chappali to diss me in public. But, for Cousin Babli to do that too was a bit much. Especially, after the tantrums she had thrown at the wedding because her make-up wasn’t up to scratch, which I had witnessed as a six-year old and still remembered (so epic were those tantrums), her gasps at my tantrums were, well, not quite on. When I said as much, things went a wee bit south. Respect your elders, admonished Cousin Babli. Aunty Chappli gave a thumbs up and I piped down.

Then, others descended on the scene. You were quite the crybaby, I was reminded many times over. Your mum was Mother Teresa and that’s why you made it to adulthood was the theme of many a discussion. I sighed deeply and turned up the volume on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

Yonder, Phatichar Uncle took to singing and sending audio files of his off-tune croaks, seeking feedback over and over again and naming and shaming those who didn’t oblige. My politeness, the WhatsApp smiley morphed into encouragement, and the carpet-bombing began. Phatichar was quite the wannabe Kishore Kumar, it turned out. Somehow, my earlier ignorance had been blissful, I reminisced.

Rocky and Happy didn’t stop at reviving Rashmi’s long-suppressed memories. They seemed to have many dozen stories about my fabulously inept high-school days and decided that each one of those tales needed a telling, embellished many times over. I was now reliving my high-school days. After many, many years, I was the laughing stock once again.

And then, the politics. Some wise guy — Goebbels reborn, no doubt — decided that if the aam aadmi was living it up on WhatsApp, the netas couldn’t be left behind. Political propaganda recast as informed opinion went, as they said, viral on WhatsApp. I was subject to relentless ‘truth-telling’ about independent India’s early history and how a long-dead PM had been the one thing that had prevented India from becoming the best thing since sliced bread. As for the Janardhan (Joe) at the helm of affairs today, he was the best thing since round chappatis, I was told many times over.

Surely, this wasn’t that promised-dawn, that much-sought-after paradise. These groups were meant to act as stress-busters, not muster up stress. When we stepped into these groups, we had visualised them as a bunch of people all sprawled out on easy-chairs at the beach, taking in the sun, listening to the waves and looking up occasionally to sip a cocktail and make lazy conversation with nobody in general that one was welcome to ignore. When and how did things become like the trading floor of the Bombay Stock Exchange?

Even as I had been musing, Rocky had narrated one more tale. And I was being roasted, yet again. Incensed, I quit.

Later that evening, indignant Phatichar Uncle berated me for not praising his latest rendering. Enough is enough, I decided, and headed towards the egress. As for Cousin Babli and Aunty Chappali, why wait to be humiliated once again? Quit while I was ahead, I told myself. Bingo. Deed done.

| Quora / u/heard10cker

Chuddy buddies, too, I had outgrown since Jockey had come into my life. Off with them.

As for the Work group, oh well, I could live with that! I am not an anti-social, merely a seeker of bliss. One blip does not a heart-attack make.

So, here I am, calm and contained in my WhatsApp loneliness, having exited most groups. Ignorant perhaps, but blissful. See you on the beach some time.

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