September 5 to 9, 2021: The End in a Dual World

September 5 to 9, 2021: The End in a Dual World. It is impossible now to figure out where I am. The time zones across the World coalesce into my hole, or on the metal chairs and tables outside the brick building, or on the WhatsApp screen of my computer. This is a recurrent theme – the cybernetic World – person and machine collapsed into a point of simulcasting every moment. It is always available. Students like it. Miss class because was doing homework for the next class. We all remember those frenetic moments. In class. In the seat. Masked. But distanced. The current time passes by away from the classroom.  Embedded in a virtual World. But time does not matter. It can be turned back. I can return to the missed moment. Time travel is a paradox, but time shifting is real. Up at 1 am because someone is time shifted, deep in sleep at 2 pm for the same reason. The connected world that I have seen since those crazy days in Delhi, when the work started at 11 pm and I would be responding to WA messages after class at noon. COVID-19 made this lifestyle mainstream, the news is filled with endless debates about working from home. That is a mere space shift. The real fun is in time and space shift. And the fake background that can be technologically blurred takes space out of the equation. Students in Beijing, teacher in Calcutta, teaching assistant in Coral Gables. All backgrounds blurred. This is also a scary World. Bizarre to some who did not live it far before the pandemic. The opportunities existed all the time, for the past several years, and some of us were doing the video chats and group meetings far before the pandemic – just as a fun thing to do. That should have been a sign. Those who believe in signs. But that was a luxury, a lark, something to experiment with. Not something that would define the World. The World was weirded out because everything happened from one spot for nearly a year – the comfort of a hole. That became the subterranean personal control center. No one dare enter. It is alive with mold, evidently, and it smells bad. It has no windows, no air conditioning, no heating, one permanently shut door leading to the outside, one smelly old fridge, an old record player, lots of electronic memorabilia that belongs to museums and a sense of peace and control that fortified bunkers provide. This was the place, packed with electronics. I could be anywhere I wanted. I could tell the people I was with, wherever they wanted me to be. From that cocoon we are now emerging. People at a backyard barbecue, coming out like ants do on those benign days that are special for ants. They crawl all over the little crumbs of Parle biscuit that would fall on the floor. In a similar away, the holes are emptying out as people hover around the burgers at the barbecue. In the meantime the jets are warming up somewhere, the distant thunder will turn to the reassuring hum of the engines – sipping gas like a thirsty drunk and doing the place shift. That metal sausage will transport me to the other place. But nothing will change. I will miss my bunker. I will miss the touch. I will find another peace, another comfort. There is always comfort, there is always bondhus. Some make everything special. Always. In this duality we live – all of us – some explicitly like me, others unknowingly. Because as a bondhu said, “Duality is the spice of life ..” Indeed it is, and one such fundamental duality is what another bondhu wisely reminded through a quote from Alfred Adler, “Follow your heart but take your brain with you.” Wisdom. And relevant, what happens when the heart takes over and the brain disappears, or the other way around. As the solitary noisy fan in the basement offers the background noise, I wonder what determines our peaceful departure in this duality – the brain or the heart. I would choose the heart any time when the end comes. As said by the Doors, “this is the end.”

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