In 2015, I lived very near to a university called KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology) in Bhubaneswar. I joined my first corporate office (which happens to a telecom firm. More on this here) in July when undergraduate college admissions take place too so one of the initial corporate activities was to sell SIMs in the KIIT campus.
Back to an undergraduate college after 6 years, I felt terribly old! The kids were of my brother’s age and the gap suddenly felt difficult to navigate and connect with them. Such well groomed undergraduate students with branded bags and swanky smartphones, I smiled to myself. Back in 2009, Nokia Music Xpress series were cool and smartphones were costly. And anyone with a laptop in their first semester was a big deal! I remember sheepishly asking a neighbour of mine to lend me her laptop for five minutes to check Gmail. Now, you have a mini laptop in the form of your smartphone. Instant connectivity on the go! Ice breaking with batchmates is as long as it takes to exchange numbers… the rest of the bonding happens on the social media. No one writes down time tables or important notices anymore; they just take a snap and share it on WhatsApp. The campus xerox shop used to be a usual meeting place right before the exams where we thanked God for creating the Xerox guy and laughed at our misfortune of being engineers! :-P. The Xerox guy is no longer a celebrated savior anymore as class notes are just a ping away.
SMS pack was such an in thing during my time and even that was limited to 100 SMSes per day. Much of the bonding happened during the entire ‘going to mess-eating in mess-coming back from mess’ from door slamming to call your wingmates to taking a walk around the campus after dinner. I once went to an on-campus eatery for dinner with a classmate. We didn’t speak a word to each other during the entire dinner for reasons best known to us! After dinner, we took a walk around our campus and stopped by another campus canteen to have cold drinks. And then we started speaking and we went on non-stop for two hours without any interruption from phone or people alike! And now, the precise time of dinner meet is decided on a WhatsApp group, few meet up and they individually chat away during the entire ‘going to mess-eating in mess-coming back from mess’. They probably don’t even need company for meals for their phones more than make up for the physical presence. After all, they are virtually connected to more than 5,000 odd friends/followers and that is obviously better than 1 physical friend sitting across the table and doing exactly the same thing!
I went around the campus and felt a pang of jealousy… I stood staring at an era gone by to which I can never go back; I saw carefree souls laughing and roaming, experiencing their first unbridled form of freedom, some in groups but most of them with their faithful phones, oblivious to the exciting time which is slipping out very, very fast… I just wish that they spend less time in sharing selfies on WhatsApp and more in creating memories offline so that they have something to write about even after 7 years…