Needs, priorities, habits


I returned home with my body pulling me in two directions. It felt like there was a layer of glue in my throat pulling the layers of my throat together; I had never felt that parched. My bladder on the other hand felt like the Mettur dam after a heavy monsoon shower: ready to burst any minute unless the floodgates are opened. Do I go left to the kitchen to quench my thirst, or do I first go right to the restroom? I paused for a moment to consider the dilemma and decided to check my e-mail instead.

Checking e-mail is a force of habit that is more powerful than forces of nature. My Gmail had three coupons, thirteen passionate messages on India’s foreign policy approach towards Pakistan, eight notices from friends of friends who had commented on a friend’s picture that I had earlier commented on. A stranger had sent a friend request and long lost classmate had responded to my friend request. I felt thankful for the stranger and the three corporations that had sent me coupons. They were the only ones to send a message with my name on it; after all there is nothing more insulting than an inbox without a single mail addressed to you.

The glue was drying out and the bladder sent a clear message. I opened Facebook. Sometimes I feel that I live in Facebook and periodically visit the earth. I checked out a monotony of that is so cute messages in the pictures and went to my wall to check out the latest happenings in the lives of my friends and their friends since the last hour. It was time to move on, and I opened my official mail of alma matter.

It has been months since I left the university and have not received a mail in the last two months. But then, checking it is a habit that I closely followed for years each time after checking my Gmail. But more importantly, it offers a closure. I know well that I will not get a mail, but never fail to feel a little dejected at not getting one. That’s the point when I decide to close the browser and get on with life. Browser closed and the laptop goes to the standby mode. It’s time for me to decide if I should go left or right.


About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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