It was supposed to be a five day trip on some official business to a city near by, just a few driving hours away. I looked forward to it as a nice get away from the routine of the regular work day life that was made up of the same office, the same people, the same work, and (pretty much) the same talk about weather, weekends, sports and the stimulus package; and also from the all too familiar home setup that comprised of the same people, same chores, same issues, and (almost) the same topics during dinner table conversations. This was meant to be a break from all that, and I already warned the office folk well in advance to not bother me with anything (except with the news that I am also another statistic in the growing epidemic of (f)ailing economy's casualties). Same went with the home crowd too as I laid down specific definitions on what constituted 'emergency'. I packed my bags, along with a couple of books (that I had bought long back at the local bookstore but never gotten around to opening them, leave alone reading them; you know, the impulse buys), and was all set to unplug from the regular setting and plug into a new domain, with new people, fresh conversations and new surroundings. Just as the door closed behind me as I got out of the house, I heard the faint voice of the female form telling me something about letting her know about my safe arrival at the new place, the moment I got there. And before I pulled away from the drive way, I made sure that the cell phone was charged to the full, the phone charger was in place in the car. I plugged in the iPod and tuned to my favorite playlist (that I otherwise never get to play, following the family's iPod's code of conduct laws, where only universally agreeable items could be played, and that every member has the right to veto) and was already on the way, in mind, body and spirit, to lands far away from the daily beaten paths. It was only an hour into the journey when the cell phone woke up from its slumber and cried crankily. The caller id on the display glowed "Home". What could had happened in just an hour - the plumbing broke? the garbage disposer (which was acting up lately) finally called it quits? the internet service was down? or the power was out? The maintenance mode in me kicked in with a flurry of possibilities and as I answered the phone, the soft voice on the other side chimed in - 'hi, how are you, so, how's the journey so far?'
I hadn't even crossed the city limits yet, I was in the same postal code still and it was the still same album playing in the iPod since I left. The weather was gloomy, overcast and still the same. I wondered what changed. I communicated the same and the voice on the other side comforted me with a 'that's ok, just checking'. Ok, so, I wouldn't be caught dead in a ditch on some highway somewhere with the police writing up the accident as an unidentified motorist, after all. It looked like the phone was going to ring in equally spaced intervals inquiring about my well being, and any deviation from that would be escalated to the highest levels possible. And just as I thought, before I reached the place and checked into the hotel, I received a few more calls of well being just to make sure that a boy in his thirti..(er.. high 20s) was able to drive safely on straight unblemished roads and reach the destination without any untoward incident. I was thrilled with that great vote of confidence. And just as instructed, I promptly placed my call to the home base informing that all was well, and nothing had changed in the last 15 minutes since we talked. Though the new place was a good 4 hours from the home, I didn't quite feel that much removed mentally. After settling in, I kicked back and relaxed on the ultra-comfortable bed propped up by the soft cloud-like pillows against the headboard, opened up the lid of the laptop and basked in its warm glow for a while. As I was busy preparing for the meeting for the next day, in came the invitation for a video chat session from my lady love, replete with cute smileys and other cuddly emoticons. I had but to accept, otherwise, I felt Bill Gates would be woken up from his sleep at some ungodly hour and somehow would be held responsible for my refusal to chat. And so it started - 'Hi', 'hi', 'what are you doing', 'preparing for tomorrow', 'oh! how's the hotel', 'good', 'is it like the same fancy one we had at that other place', 'no', 'oh, how's the weather', 'good', 'eating out or ordering in?', 'probably, out', 'oh, yeah! where to? chinese, italian or indian?', 'haven't decided yet', 'by the way, the package came in the mail in the evening', 'oh, good', 'when is the meeting tomorrow', '9:30 am', 'till?', 'about 6 pm', 'ok', 'ok', 'ok, good night, love ya, miss ya', 'ok, love ya too, miss....' WHAT!!! It was her last statement that didn't ring right with me (not the 'love ya' part. Having been married long enough, I knew some phrases become instinctive and reflexive that people seldom mean them literally, very much like the word 'WOW'. 'Yesterday, I bought a pair of jeans at the mall', 'WOW', 'It didn't rain at all yesterday', 'WOW', 'My kid's front tooth has fallen off finally', 'WOW'. After the 'F...' word, 'WOW' might probably be the most misused word in English language). It was the 'miss ya' part that bothered me somehow.
How was I missed? In what shape, form or kind was I missed? In a span of 4-6 hours, I was paged, called, chatted, and webcam-ed. If science had indeed caught up with science-fiction, I would had even been hologrammed. I was there at my home, in mind and spirit, and present in body, through bits, all in spite of my physical presence 4 hours away from it. My ideas were shared, my thoughts were communicated and my plans, let known. I wondered, how could I ever be missed? Has 'miss ya' joined the other knee-jerk sweet nothings (like 'love ya') that simply have lost their literal meanings forever? For all the benefits the revolutionary advancements in modern technology have handed down to the mankind, it certainly has robbed of the same, the simple and great benefit of 'missing'. This is not about waxing nostalgic about the great golden olden times, nor is it a luddite's war cry on the dazzling accompaniments of the modern man. This is about that the rare gift bestowed upon the mankind to simply miss things, miss people...miss memories, in general. When do we miss something - when we can no longer recollect it, have access to it or summon it at will. The same goes with missing people - haven't talked to them in a while, haven't seen them in a long while, having only a vague remembrance of how they looked. Like, the dear friend in the fifth grade with whom we had a 'never ever part' pact, the favorite science teacher who made quite an impression at the young age etc. The thought of missing had to involve the act of missing. But thanks to the rapid strides made on the digital roads, it is tough ask nowadays to remain missed. Cell phones, web cams, websites, twitters, chatters, social networking, digital photographs, and the recent addition, VOIP (that gives (away) the ability to talk to anyone in the world at a fraction of the cost) have made the job of falling off the face of the earth that much harder. There used to be a time when the reason to not have contact with someone was as simple as having no access to a telephone. Now, there is just no reason why one wouldn't have a phone, and even in those rare cases, when someone says he doesn't own a telephone, it is certain that it is going to be misconstrued as reluctance of the asked to part with the number on one level, personal dislike towards the requested on another level. Anonymity is no longer an option. If one is to function as an active (or, inactive for that matter) member of the society, an email address and a phone number are the barest minimum standards by which he is judged. And once the two are out there in the free world, forget about missing. The world has got you! But what's all the fuss about 'missing'? Why should you miss something or be missed?
Quick, which ones do you keep thinking about more - the ones you got or the ones you missed? Quick, attend a party without your spouse, and the first statement directed at you is about your missing partner, not a hearty welcome to you. Quick, score a 99/100 in Maths and take the report to your parent, the first question is, why was that single mark missing? It is a natural law that space holds a direct proportionality to affection/attraction. All the eloquent poets' exquisite poetry stand testament to that unassailable fact. Perhaps this is what the philosopher meant when he said, 'if you truly love something, let it go'. So in not so many statements, separation anxiety is good for the soul. Just like necessity propels invention, separation fosters curiosity. Would you rather talk to someone whom you haven't seen in a long while or talk with somebody whom you deal with on a daily basis, all things being equal? Now that it is established that 'missing', along with low cholesterol, is good for the heart, how can one make sure that he both is missed and misses others? As much as technology has made it hard for this, a simple start to disconnect and unplug from the existing network would be a) by changing your phone number and refuse to part with it, no matter what b) decommissioning your old email address, and creating a new one, only if needed, and like above, refuse to part with it, no matter what. c) staying away from any sort of social networking that'll get you in touch with all sorts of 'lost + found' relationships, like reunion sites, old classmates pages, find my buddy and other such. These three acts would take you 90% out of the circulation, if not completely erase your digital traces in the cyber world. And I guarantee, this is going to make your life that much more interesting the next time you visit your friends. Though these couldn't be tried with the mandatory relationships in life, I guess that is the price to pay for clean sheets and hot food.
In all the five days I had been away, there wasn't much that happened in my world that the female form wasn't privy to, and that included, the meals I ate (and the items I liked and hated), the programs I watched on the TV, the items I bought for her at the local mall, and the periodic weather updates. I shared, and I shared like it was nobody's business in all modes possible. After I returned from the trip, the female form greeted me at the door step, and the first question was, "so, how was the trip, what's new?".
I miss missing.