When I was about 16, and the internet was just taking root properly in India (and a friend and i would email each other photos of hot actors we likes ahem), I had this email address on hotmail*, that was easily confusable with another one. My uncle sent me an email about the SAT that went to this other person, who turned out to be a 3-4 year older guy in Bombay. He realised the email was important to replied saying I think you’ve got the wrong id (who does that anymore??), and so I wrote to say thank you. We wrote back and forth, moved to chat and then one day, he called me! On the phone! I remember it as being really late at night, but I imagine it was about 9pm. It all fizzled out in the end, but I remember how supportive my mum was about it–after all it was before teh interwebs became widespread enough to be evil.

Several years later, when I was 22 or so, I was on a poetry emailing list called minstrels, that would send you a poem a day (ah I wish someone would revive it), and often readers would send in poems they liked. I did that once, with Michael Ondaatje and once with Derek Walcott. One of those times, a guy wrote to me to tell me it was a great poem, and we began to write back and forth, and there began a very enduring friendship with one of the nicest people I have ever know. I went to Bombay to see him. It was also my first visit to Bombay and he took me to dinner somewhere nice and was very kind and big brotherly to me for three years or so. We even wrote each other GINORMOUS letters at one time. We’re not terribly in touch anymore, though there is still the random sms.

This was also the time I reconnected with Oldest Friend, and we’d spend hours chatting. Then I got onto xanga, and met this group of amazing people. It was a lonely time for me, and I felt like they kept me alive. I went to Bombay and met them all. I spent HOURS chatting with them. Today, I don’t really see or talk to most of them much, OF included, but they’re there in the background, and they really made a difference in my life at the time.

That time around though, people thought I was weird. My family was suspicious and my friends downright mocked me. ‘How can you meet people online? How can you be assured of a person until you’ve met them?’ etc. My mother always said, if you have interests and go out you’ll meet people.

Right now, the most important and interesting people in my life I have met online. CB, and through him MW (you remember them from yesterday). Also Lithium (who I am ashamed to say I was thoughtless enough to leave out, though he has been a transformative person in the past three months of my life). And today, I met a guy who is as randomly latindio as I am latindia, is in love with Colombia, and works on wildlife conservation–specifically tigers. We spent an hour and a half on the 5th floor terrace of a cafe in Hauz Khas Village tumbling over our words, leaping between languages, in our need to agree and share and just talk about all these things we have in common, parts of ourselves that we can never really share with the majority of people we know in India. It was a magical feeling**: someone in INDIA, FROM India, actually GOT it. 

My point is, CB, Lithium, Latindio, they’re all people I would never have met otherwise. CB and I have a lot of friends in common, but it’s only because we know each other. Lithium and I had actually met in the past but I had no idea, and I never would have expected this friend out of that meeting. And of course, Latindio. For all the gym, salsa classes, mad socializing both for work and just cos I like it, for all the effort I have put in to meet people I can connect with, it’s only teh interwebs that has given them to me. I think of it as a sign of how everything is changing–the ways we keep in touch, the meaning of keeping in touch, the ways we find community and belonging; they’re all changing.

 *Remember hotmail? When it was all we had? Thank the lord for progress!
**Pipe down he’s clearly gay and far too young

Advertisements