Last weekend, I went down to my local cyber cafe to have some of the digital pictures I had taken on my Himachal trip at the end of January this year printed out. Ram Singh (of Kasol 'bhoot' bungalow fame) had requested me to send him a photo that we took of him, his grandson and his dog when we had left his place on the 27th of January, and as usual I had slacked off on this until now. I had his address, all I needed was to make the effort to take the print. Handing over the pen-drive to the cyber-cafe's owner, I watched him go to work on his system and within a minute, I had a clear, crisp photograph in my hands. Both Ram Singh and his grandson are prominently visible (see pic above), so they were definitely not ghosts! I was relieved (OK, just kidding about this part) but some other thoughts were on my mind.
The photograph in its physical form felt weird, a blast from the past, when people actually had almirahs full of albums which were flipped through with great enthusiasm by us when we were kids. Albums filled with smiling people, familiar and unfamiliar, in this world or the one beyond; faraway landscapes; totally different looking vistas of a well frequented place from a different era - stories surrounding them enthusiastically being retold for the 100th time with the same practiced set of actions, yet always listened to with a put-on sense of wonder. Now all the space all our recent memories take up are a little laptop the size of one wedding album, and the sharing need not be done in a single, hot, crowded room with the constant threat of kids spilling over to the floor from the overcrowded bed thanks to the blazing fast postman we call the Internet.
Times have changed drastically over the past 10 years and in the age of virtual 'everything' (and I mean EVERY-damn-THING), will people ever miss what it felt like to be talking about their experiences face to face - about that wonderful trip through the forest or that crazy wedding that almost everyone in the known universe attended? Will the people of the future lose out on the feel of leafing through the pages of carefully selected images laughing and pointing fingers, thumb marks all over the place on the more popular pages to be replaced by the plastic feel of keyboard typed comments and the clickety-click of the mouse as they scroll way more photos that anyone really wanted to see? Yes, they will and even more sadly never even realize what they missed out on. For better (at least for our rapidly diminishing trees and over-strained planet) or for worse (At the risk of being labelled an old fogey), the transition is inevitable but still if given a choice between them, I'd pick a hard copy and all its associated mustiness... any day.