The Pursuit of 'Appiness

A world where there’s an app for almost anything you might want is bound to leave you giddy with satisfaction and delight. But does it really?

Madhumita Gupta Updated: Oct 5, 2020 17:57:58 IST
The Pursuit of 'Appiness Picture used for representative purposes only

I peer critically at the playlists thrown up by one of those magical smartphone apps that seems to read my mind. I tap in a few letters and ... Bang! Every S. D. Burman song or the entire discography of Gulzar appears at my fingertips. Did even Aladdin ever feel that empowered?

Our palm-sized genies offer apps that conjure anything you can think of, and some you can’t. Chat with a loved one on a different continent? Sure. A quick hello to Deepika P or Amitabh B? Yup. Lose a few kilos? Of course. Don’t know where you are, where you’re going, how to get there and what you owe your cabbie? An app has got you covered. And—the absolute blessing during the pandemic—apps that bring everything you need to your doorstep, including entertainment and instructions, saving us from sheer boredom and shabby dinners on more than one occasion.

With the genie at my service, most of my adventures had happy endings—‘crystal-free’ mango ice cream, masala vada, and a ton of other successful firsts during the lockdown, even as I made time for the thaali and taalis—except for one random fiasco involving rock-hard baati (a Rajasthani delicacy).

I watched (and then regretted) videos of my old favourite songs, discovered miraculous workout routines that helped me lose about six pounds in a month, followed by cooking videos, that were far more appealing and attentively-viewed, but that’s a story for another day.

Not all learning was trauma-free, though. Cutting hair seemed easy—a flick here, a quick snip there. Within minutes, however, I realized not everything is as easy as it looks. My ‘bitter-half’ has now forbidden me to ever approach anything remotely resembling scissors and comb. Apart from these unintentional mishaps, these apps made quick work of the time, which could have otherwise dragged during these unprecedented times.

But while I have learnt to embrace the app-y days, why is it that very often I find myself getting nostalgic about Chitrahaar or Binaca Geetmala—the popular countdown of Bollywood hits that used to air once a week? Why do many of us miss watching those classic black-and-white movies that played at the mercy of our one-and-only, dull-as-dust Doordarshan channel, punctuated by jingles every 15 minutes? Or, hopping over to the next-door aunties’ homes, eager to sample whatever scrumptious evening fare was on offer and learn their secret recipes for aloo paratha and chhole? Why is it that today’s witty podcasts pale in comparison with the memory of sitting next to Dadu listening to stories? And why locating Saptarishi and North Star in the inky-blue sky is so much more thrilling than watching the most informative nature video?

We are a generation that saw stationary radios get replaced by handy transistors, followed by the swift birth and demise of tape recorders, cassette players, Walkmans, VCRs and CD players. Gargantuan TV sets gave way to sleek HD screens … and eventually shrinking to this magical device in our hands. And yet for all the power the genie provides and the desires it fulfills, there is something about the not-knowing, the anticipation of wonderful things that could happen—but not yet—that once offered us a high that has practically vanished in these times of ‘seek and ye shall find’ (and home-delivered!). Our autonomy doesn’t quite match up to serendipity.

Do we need to dial back a little and maybe leave some things to chance? The question is—can we now?


Madhumita Gupta is a teacher-trainer and freelance writer.
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