The Missing Soul
Year of the Lord 2005. Our younger son had just joined a local school during our posting abroad. We were a little amused that one of the compulsory subjects allocated to him was ‘Cooking’, although in retrospection today, it makes absolute sense as a life-skill. During one of the classes, he was taught the basics of baking.
One day, coming back home with his newly acquired skill, he set about crafting a cake with full diligence and enthusiasm. The wonderful smell of a freshly-baked cake wafted across our home as we were looking forward to seeing the results of his maiden efforts.
Called it beginner’s luck if you wish, but the cake turned out to be absolutely amazing. Before we could claim our piece each, our youngster had already cut half of it and was already on the way to share it with our elderly neighbour Joyce who really adored him. Joyce was pleasantly surprised and in fact delighted with the gesture.
With every small bite of the cake that she took, she was overwhelmed by the very thought that she was in the thoughts of the small child experimenting first time with a handful of dough. Being an excellent cook herself, she must have baked dozens of cakes in her lifetime not counting the ones she might have purchased from the superstore. But this time, the cake had a soul in it.
Flash forward to happenings in the recently concluded Olympics. Our Golden hero, Neeraj Chopra being quizzed non-stop by Indian journalists on every aspect of his life. Replying to one of the questions, he mentioned that the one thing that was beckoning him to India was the ‘Choorma’ made by his mother in his native village. Once again, mixed with motherly love, it obviously had a soul which he could not find anywhere in the world.
Not long ago, I happened to meet a couple in their mid-eighties whose five-year old great granddaughter had just gone back abroad after spending a couple of weeks of holidays with them. With immense pride, they held aloft a soul-stirring drawing made by the little kid prior to her departure, depicting her sitting in their midst. I can tell you, Leonardo da Vinci would not have been more proud in displaying his Monalisa to the world.
Another old couple have discovered that a dog forcefully left at home by their children has been more therapeutic than a weekly visit to the doctor. Notwithstanding the effort which has gone in looking after their pet, he has transformed their lives by touching their inner core like nothing else could. And that is what I find slowly but surely disappearing from our lives.
Hand-written letters from loved ones with their inherent worth have been replaced by quick ‘forwards’ without a soul. Cut-copy-paste digital birthday and anniversary wishes from virtual friends have taken over from an impromptu bouncing for coffee or dinner.
Sharing images of celebrations are preferred to participating in the festival or the event itself. Even the end-game of a fight between friends is not a make-up drink but signing off from a social media group. But can an online class or a zoom meeting ever be a substitute by a rebuke by the class teacher or a face-off with a boss in physical presence? Do all these somewhat soul-less less interactions really add heartfelt bliss to my life?
Condolence calls and visits have been replaced by a concise, “Om Shanti” on a WhatsApp group. Do they alleviate my grief or comfort me in any which way? Will these well-wishers be around to be a part of my ups and downs when I need them, I wonder?
Even before Covid hit us, the ‘touch and hugs’ and the associated warmth started disappearing from our lives. We are connected through multiple social media groups but seldom felt more disconnected. Helping today means sending an information link to someone or contributing online to a charity and seldom beyond.
And come to think of it, this transformation has happened in a quarter of a century.
Virtual can at times be beautiful and efficient but is often temporal and without soul. Watch out, the metaphorical devil is out to possess with seduction and convenience. After all, social distancing does not mean that our hearts have to be alienated as well.
There are times when ‘being there’ in person just cannot be replaced. Those moments should not be lost. Let us therefore not be swayed and get carried away by the flow of the digital river, lest we find something priceless missing one day.
It’s a clarion call to revert. After all, connected souls are impossible to steal.
First published at seek mediation.com on 20/08/21
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