Thumbtips & Digital Solipsis 

I’ve been told that writing facilitates, if not create, a strange shade of companionship when travelling alone, hence this diary was an effort of me trying to venture the same, but not one with a book and a pen, but just my phone.

The other day while crossing the road to catch a taxi that I had booked via an app, the reduced labour in hiring a taxi bothered me for a more uncommon reason. While the taxi apps may have successfully tried to marry supply & demand, the earlier process of “hailing for a taxi” has been compromised. Yes that moment of furiously waving at a taxi from afar only to realize that someone’s been seated at the back is rarer now as you have a taxi for sure to yourself. Has the variation in the act of doing things affected/related to the intention? A lot of taxies do get cancelled. I thought I’d type this out. This in turn took me to screen-writing. Nope, not the movie thing. But writing directly into the digital space invited by the ever-blinking cursor. Zadie’s critique on the intention behind the word (in her book Occasional Essays) might be related to the way one has been writing for ages. From the cave scribble to the velvet brush to the swift pen, our minds have been directed, herded or in general play, disciplined to write what we experience be communicated as colourfully and as painfully true as possible. However in spite of all the help that language can provide, we still find its instruments hollow. We use catalytic phrases “To put it correctly”, like as if we admit that the preceding effort was incorrect or in cases of extreme catharsis “I have no words..”, as now, I really don’t. These self-doubts are part of the process of writing. They are, aren’t they?

However the latest shift of the medium to the screen needs a desperate enquiry as to how this transition is made while we digitally help each other contour our communicative landscapes. The typewriters clink-clunk that was a rhythmic audible punctuation and the brass nib’s urgency on the paper that were small scratches of accomplishment are now replaced by our thumbtips whispering to the captive screen, better yet with a swype feature enabled by predictive text, this fearless, dabs of empowerment of the mind to the hand to the fingers to the fingertips to the screen has become a silent spectrum of powerful activity. From sport, to mirrors, to professional work and personal rooms, large matrices of social and personal spaces have become possible to create in tight places be it in a rickety bus, in the loo or a crowded airport. This modality of secret solitude has been easily promised to the screen generation. If your battery is low, you just need a charger. And with respect to writing, the earlier mentioned companionship has become an easily accessible one and an easier one to conjure.

But wisdom pleads that an easy companionship is a matter of convenient acquaintance, similar to the ready-made kindness mustered when asking directions to a stranger in a strange new town and not one that’s nourished with purposeful labour like that of the positioning of a writing table at the right corner in your study or the time taken to buy a new refill ink bottle at the right shop or the clip used for the canvas or grooming the pigeons that used to carry your messages or to put it bluntly sometimes even cursing yourself for forgetting to sharpen your pencils at an important a sentence. Almost all the effort has been transferred to our thumbs and an algorithm.

But to balance this dramatis ridicule, we must know there is a touch of failed seriousness to all this. We do cancel our taxies lightly. We must take what we put out there lightly because if treated otherwise we may be entering our own thriving digital solipsism.

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