“I messaged JLT”

Blinking, squinting and trying to frown my way out of deep sleep, I tried to make sense of that line on my ph- a Fb notification that sat smug on my screen when I reached out to check the time (4.30 am). I had about an hour to go back to sleep before getting the day started. All of it was spent puzzling over that line- Why was the person telling me he messaged JLT? Who in the blazes was JLT? Should I admit to not having a clue or respond with a vague- ‘regards to JLT’ or ‘how is JLT’ in the hope of more information coming my way?

There are those among us who not only adapt to new things, like a chameleon to new surroundings but actually bloom and thrive with change. I, sadly, am not one of those. I am that famous quote if you think of it backwards- “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” I tiptoe around the unfamiliar and observe it from a distance before attempting to make sense of it, leave alone try to BE it. Like a cautious tourist in a beautiful city, I’m all agog at the new experiences but I never fully trust that I know my way around. I never quite take that leap of faith with new people, new food, new fashion, new authors..

A new language, most of all, stumps me. At home, when growing up, two languages were spoken and my sister as well as I are fluent in both- English and Malayalam. She, being the aforementioned chameleon, and always one to operate on faith, went on to absorb every language spoken every place we lived in. Punjabi, Hindi, Kannada, and last heard, showed an interest in learning Tamil. Just for the heck of it. While I know and understand these languages, I cling to the safety of my English and my beloved malabar Malayalam when it comes to expression of any sort.

Over the past ten years or so, there is that whole new ‘language’ that has sneaked up on us, the SMS lingo. I returned from a trip to India, (2002-2003) completely fascinated by SMS which was all the rage there already. Found out it was known as ‘Text Message’ and cost an arm and a leg as they were just finding their feet in the US. I signed up anyway. Tentatively at first and ardently very soon after, my fingers flew over the little keyboard on my flip phone and I found all sorts of creative ways to fit everything I wanted to say into one text message.

Even then, there was this mind block. A stubborn resistance to abbreviating and relearning a language that I proudly claim to know and love. When texting proper words cost me a trip to India, I resorted to those goofy little emoticons. It took me five years to LOL without gagging. My kids JK’d and ROFL’d their way to timeouts. Cool friends rolled their eyes, BRB’d, and never did.

Flip phones gave way to smart phones and texting became THE way to communicate. It no longer cost a fortune but the world became a busier place and time a short commodity. The pressure to condense and hurry up was everywhere. The well oiled wheels of the dynamic world were turning more rapidly than ever before and one either got on board really quickly or got run over in a great hurry. My one woman non cooperation movement began to weaken right along with my resolve to never give in.

I decided to stick a foot in and LOL. Maybe even LMAO if there wasn’t a way around it. I embraced the changes technology hit me with and basked in the glow of compromise. I taught my kids not to fall for first impressions and myself not to go by ‘text’ impressions. When educated people my age posted HBD on my Facebook wall on my birthday, I tried not to be judgmental. I tried very hard.

But try as I might, using text message terms in email, comments and messages make no sense to me. When someone enquired in an email how my DDs were, I was a little shocked and a lot flattered but when they followed up with how old my LO was, I was lost. And then sentences like ‘Y is der no nws frm u’ and ‘will b nyce 2 cu soon’. I read it and the image of a chuckling Shakespeare pops up – ‘wouldst thou have this vacant prating and not mine archaic prose that thou didst curseth oft?!’

Frankly, neither. I wouldst most have prof Henry Higgins and my English teacher Mr Simon Lowe, who taught me that profound thoughts are best conveyed in small simple words. I would like a civilized world where the beauty and poetry in those simple written words don’t fade away. A world whose wealth of literature and language is a strength that drives it forward, and not backwards to the series of grunts and rasps where it all began.

As I sit and contemplate on the Facebook message, the dark October sky catches my eye. The leaves have turned and there will soon be an explosion of color, a striking reminder that change is inevitable. The leaves will fall and fade away, others will take their place. Nature doesn’t brood ‘to be or not to be’. I wonder why I do. A glorious sunrise lights up the skies. Darkness gives way to the broadening glow of a brand new day of things as yet unknown.

“I messaged JLT”

And I get it. Just like that, I get it.

After all, I tell myself, are words more important than the message?


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