Oh Velim, where’s all the fun of yore?

(This column was first published in The Goan on Saturday on January 14, 2013)

11 days into the New Year and how many resolutions have already suffered a breakdown? I’m sure, not many. Surprisingly, (unlike every year that has passed by) I’ve made only one solid resolution this year. And I didn’t think of it until I visited Velim, a village in Salcete, where I was born and partially raised.

On January 2, 2014, I went to visit my grandmother and other relatives in Velim to offer my good wishes for the New Year. As I walked through the empty lanes I felt as if I was strolling through a graveyard. My brother Luke accompanied me, and didn’t seem to be as flabbergasted as I was while we ambled through the streets. Luke was only a year old when we relocated to Cuncolim, which in turn has resulted to a limited memory about the calm village.

If anyone walked through these lanes some 15 years ago, they would have been welcomed by children running around playing a game or cycling and some simply watching their friends play. Parents would be sitting in their veranda, sipping tea and passing a comment or a chain of comments while they still had their eyes on their little ones. But this is not what I saw during my last visit. All I saw was tall houses, coconut tress swaying to a tune the breeze was playing, rustle of leaves, and cars and bikes parked in front of houses. No cycles.

As my eyes observed, my ears didn’t have to strain to grasp any kind of noise. Behind closed doors, I could hear televisions sets screech something coupled with mild laughter of women. Birds chirruped as though they had been commissioned to cover up for the kids who weren’t playing outdoors.

After walking past a dozen houses, I arrived at a distant relative’s house. Once upon a time, this particular balcony used to create the most amount of noise in the locality. For many years, Aunty Mercy would take tuitions and you can imagine the noise! As soon as we got permission to leave, we would go home; gulp down the cuppa tea and off we went to create brouhaha!

On this day, Aunty Mercy sat with a neighbour discussing the days that went by. Gradually, even I got roped into the conversation. And I couldn’t stop myself from expressing how much I am repelled by technology that’s breeding such consequences. Taking turns, these elderly women began complaining about how kids don’t play football anymore because they are glued to those little gadgets and how no kids go around wishing the elders on important feasts. I couldn’t help, but believe every word they said.

As they talked, thoughts about my generation and the younger generations started cycling in my head. I imagined what would happen if there were no mobile phones, tablets, laptops or desktops. And my imagination concluded that life would be tougher, but nicer if gadgets didn’t do a dance around us. Everyone would perhaps be more concerned about their neighbour and kids would be doing what I did when I was a kid.

This 25-minute conversation convinced me to make a resolution – to be grateful for technology, without blurring the lines between the digital world and real world.

On this note, I wish you a happy, prosperous and fun-filled 2014.

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