Alice in Virtual Wonderland
“Umm…what exactly is this?” asked my husband looking at the dinner plate with great suspicion (I suspect it was more of a disdain). “Quinoa. Organic. Good for you.” I could only speak in short sentences because moving my lips was very difficult with the face mask of egg whites and honey on. I did hear an audible sigh and chose to ignore it. Hah, he will know when he passes his next medical checkup with flying colors!
“What’s wrong with eating good old whole wheat roti? And I don’t mind jowar bajra roti either. What is the need for all this fancy imported expensive stuff?” he grumbled. “Read. Internet.” My face mask was becoming tighter. “Yeah, of course” he scoffed. Let him scoff all he wants, but I was not about to give up on my quest to be the new age literate.
To think I was completely ignorant of this new fountain of knowledge for so long! I had recently taken to being active on social media since the second LO (loved one : refer mommy forums online) was finally in school. I was amazed at the vast amount of knowledge that seemed to have sprouted all over the net in my brief absence on account of running after an extremely active toddler 24/7. I took to it with gusto — I think my brain was anyway starved for some language that went beyond No, a louder No and a very loud STOP! So I read, read and read — all kinds of articles that popped up in my social media feed — right from a 2-minute cupcake, losing weight, recycling T-shirts, cancer prevention and power of chanting to startup stories, conspiracy theories of all hues, petitions for all kinds of social change and of course tutorials on every conceivable thing from improving my hair and nails to attitude and memory. I felt like a tiny Alice in this new vast wonderland.
I started following people, blogs, stories, Twitter handles, Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, Instagram celebs, Whatsapp communities, LinkedIn influencers, news aggregators and anything else that asked to be followed. It was exhausting in the beginning and I strained my eyes well past midnight to finish reading the stories of the day. There was just so much to learn!
10 places in India that served unique versions of pani-puri, 10 mountain peaks that had peculiar shapes, 10 trains to travel on, 5 places to visit for a Harry Potter fan, 5 things I should never do to my hair, 3 things to ensure perpetually happy kids, 25 tips to get my kitchen clutter under control (which was actually multiplying due to my new hobby), 8 signs of a great leader, 7 habits of an effective housewife, 12 tips for earning 25X returns in stock market, 3 things I should stop eating for a flat tummy and 1 thing that promised a healthy heart forever.
I realized that there were ways to tighten and whiten every part of my body, ways to keep all kinds of assets from drooping down and ways to cut every fruit in a totally different manner from what I knew. I was appalled at the depth of my ignorance and set about remedying the situation with immediate effect.
It took some effort to plan it out. Just not to miss out on any benefits, I decided to combine dates, dry fruits, warm lemon water, cooked plain millets, unsweetened herbal tea, unsalted poached eggs, a special blend of cereal (nutri-blogger mum swears by it) and wheatgrass juice for good measure — all for breakfast. Surprisingly there was a rebellion by the family — they wanted their paranthas with curd, steaming hot upma, fresh poha and idli for breakfast. It was a task to make them read through all the articles. My daughter (oh the precocious tweens!) pointed out that a few of the articles said ‘Sponsored’ in tiny print and I might want to reevaluate the information. So I had to relent a little on breakfast for her, but I did it only because I wanted to apply curry leaved-oil and curry-leaved yogurt to her hair, apart from of course bathing her in milk and feeding her organic greens with every meal to far-sightedly cover my future grandchildren’s well-being while I could. There were battles that were won from my side with wisdom gained from 37 mommy blogs that I read every day, and some from her side by sighing every 5 minutes — although I did suspect that her father sneaked her out for ice-creams every now and then and probably a trip to Disneyland was being planned behind my back.
With my preschooler son, I intended to start with soothing music in the morning eventually leading to him meditating too. Afternoons were to be packed with reading stories aloud and writing in a journal. Mommy bloggers had children penning stories at the ripe old age of 3 and I felt like I was being a horribly uncreative mother by not making my child express enough. There were of course a ton of Pinterest craft activities I had planned and a few other DIY activities for rainy evenings. There were ancient learning practices I was planning to learn myself and then implement. Hundreds of people swore by what it did to their memory and I looked forward to having children who never forgot times tables, where they left their water bottles and who took the last cookie.
Well, to cut a long story short, I decided to take the advice of a mommy blogger on strong-willed children after about a dozen broken CDs, crayon drawings on every wall when I fell asleep exhausted in the afternoon, and assorted specimens of horribly mangled craft projects. Some children take time to develop you know and maybe mine was one of them.
I quickly realized where my little one’s stubbornness genes came from when I started strategically sending certain articles to my other loved one (although on mommy blogs they never call their hubby a loved one). I found the lists of 10 most romantic places in town, 5 ways to cherish a Valentine’s day , 3 ways to sharp corporate dressing and 10 things to do before you turn bald, quite fascinating. But it was like sending mails to a stone wall, although he did point out politely that our own system of him watching his Tarantino movies and soccer matches in peace while I enjoyed watching Federer in action and my reruns of ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, was far more conducive to long life of our marriage than mixing them together. He also steadfastly refused to try oil steamed towels on head and a sensible diet of no-carb, no-salt, no-sugar, no-fat millets and greens. I found out that he was single handedly responsible for keeping some food tech startups alive and baffling the venture capitalists. I did appreciate him doing his bit for the new age economy like he said, but I could also do with a little more funding being diverted towards my kitchen that I was planning to remodel and equip with all the nifty gadgets I read about. Boiled egg slicer, apple corer, hands free grater and self-clean juicer were the stuff my dreams were made of these days. And not to forget all the Vastu principles that meant a major redo of the whole house — but well, peace and prosperity are important, and I suspected that the remodeling plan was going to threaten both.
As for myself, I became a walking lab. I admit that it was difficult to fit in all the meditation, chanting, yoga poses, stretches, massages, masks for different part of body, various additives to bath water, hair treatments, healthy foods, motivational reading, managing investments, must-read books, newly efficient household chores as well as deals on online shopping in a span of 24 hours. So I tried various ways of managing and became more and more overwhelmed every day. I started looking like a ghost and felt distinctly unhappy and lonely. There must be a cure for this I thought and searched for answers frantically.
The answer arrived in form of Laila — my best buddy from college. She arrived for a visit looking as carefree as ever. She was on a work trip but definitely we had to meet for a relaxed dinner someplace. So we did. Clearly Laila did not bother reading about form-fitted work-wear now easily available online and how makeup could transform the look. She seemed to crack jokes that were not on Whatsapp yet! She also spoke about her last trip to a totally touristy (not offbeat!) place with great fondness. She said all her son cared about was playing cricket all day long and so he did. She did not seem to be bothered about his all-round development, nutrition, eventual college application and how-to-talk-to-him. She couldn’t care less about her birthing experience or vaccine controversies she said. She said she had survived through the waves of avocado, chia seeds, kale and quinoa. She ate all that she liked, in moderation but enough to feel happy, she said. She watched crappy sappy movies if she wanted to and gave a miss to the Oscar winners. She bought what she liked and trends be damned. She went to a doctor if she felt unwell and never bothered with a Google search on her symptoms. She looked well and she was happy. She laughed. I was mesmerized. She lived in the real world. She did not check her phone once in those 3 hours that we spent together. She was not concerned with the best deals and coupon codes always. She said it was all right to pay a little more at times for convenience and happiness. It was all right to look a little plump and like a mother who has nurtured life with her own life. Dressing was a personal expression of creativity, not to be dictated by others. Reading was a pleasure, not to be measured by the politically correct yardstick. It was ok to eat ice cream and dessert at times, and greens and millets at other times. It is not necessary to be perfect at all times. Don’t go falling through the rabbit hole of internet wisdom Alice, she said, you will only hit the rock bottom!
When we learnt to read pre-internet, we read printed word with respect. Writing and getting published were no mean achievements and success came to those who wrote with some credibility. Who checks the writing on the net? Anyone who knows how to press a key on the keyboard can publish a blog — you don’t even need to know how to spell a word. How could I follow all the advice that was thrown at me by social media? My sense and sensibility need to be my censors now.
I hugged Laila. She could not figure out why.