Monday, June 11, 2018

Goodbye, you smiling yellow devil.

Yahoo messenger will no longer stay. It has grown old and got lonely, people getting on to younger versions of social media like facebook, gtalk and twitter. But like any old person, yahoo messenger has had its own life stories. Stories of its youthful and joyful days. I was one such person witness to its youth, which faded away rather rapidly.

When yahoo messenger arrived, it was the only thing for us. And it was a big thing. You could instantly connect to someone on the other side, have a chat while you were sitting on the clingy old chair in a cyber café or a steel chair at your undergraduate institute. There was no facebook or twitter to connect instantly and one must remember that the next best thing we had was the yahoomail.

The usernames were funny. Some user names were traditional, names with numbers. Others were innovative. Some usernames instantly gave you the gender, some the location, some the date of birth. The nomenclature is still followed with gmail and skype usernames. But there was something in usernames which caught your fancy and you started thinking about the person on the other end. Who could the person be and what would be their characteristics? My first username was pseudosid. I was preparing for IITJEE exams and had recently read about pseudo forces, forces which are not present in reality but have to be mentioned in the force diagram (something like this, can’t recollect exactly). The idea behind my name was that I was not really present in front of the other person but present only in the virtual form, sid being the short form of my name.

ASL plz. Which meant you had to give your age, sex and location. Conversations started with this. Or some witty line which one could conjure up hoping the person on the other side would appreciate its literary ability. For many Indians, as my brother indirectly pointed out yesterday, yahoo messenger provided the first taste of talking to foreigners. Indians could talk to Englishmen and women, or Americans. What a delight for somebody staying a small town with hardly any experience of metro cities let alone foreigners. Some Indians also vented their anger against the Pakistanis while talking to them.

A phenomenal feature of Yahoo messenger was Yahoo chat groups. Here in pre defined groups, users could chat with each other. All kinds of groups were present and people had their own motivations of joining a group. But as young students burdened with scientific knowledge and marked the cream of the nation, without being given ample opportunities to interact with the opposite sex, my group of friends sole aim was to find beautiful girls and impress them. Basically in a land called Bokaro or Kharagpur, both places where getting a girlfriend was like watching a comet to pass by, waiting and waiting for it to happen, yahoo chat groups gave an opportunity to break the shackles, show some finesse and get a girl.

An interesting incident crops up in my mind related to this, something which is not uncommon. It happened at the boys hostel at IIT Kharagpur. Yahoo messenger was commonly used and trying to get a girl friend was in vogue. One of my friends was shit deep in trying to do this. Everyday he would give us a narration of his daily activities in the night talk sessions. Ideally the stories should have been of classes, instead they were of his activities on messenger. He would speak about entering so and so chat group and impressing so and so girls, getting their phone numbers. Our initial reaction was of belief and appreciation. Later things started getting frustrating.

So one day, some of his friends got beautiful female usernames and entered the chat rooms he used to frequent. He was as usual online and ready to chat. Now this guy was no cassanova. He was a normal ex sincere student, who could easily pass in as a wannabe. It showed in his chat history as well. Nonetheless they started chatting with him pretending to be females giving him imaginary stories. In between these chats (he lived at the first floor and they on the ground), they would also call him for a sutta session (from the outside) and he would shout out loud ‘I am busy chatting with a friend’. They would giggle at this and keep chatting.

Yahoo messenger provided this kind of an opportunity for fun. It could forge deep friendships like between the imaginary female friends and the boy. It could make you fall in love like this friend of theirs fell into.

‘She is beautiful. I am sure of it, the way she chats.’ He told them one day.

‘But you got to see her picture.’ They said.

‘Girls don’t share their picture so easily, you dumb.’ Saying this he went into a deep state of meditation thinking by himself as his friends looked for his next words.

Finally it had to happen. He was desperate to see a picture and meet. They were bored of chatting with him in this virtual world. So they made up a story of her marriage and her unavailability on the messenger from that day. They stopped using the usernames anymore and he got depressed. Afraid at his depression,  they broke the story to him while he was philosophizing about love and life. He was angry and ashamed. They were laughing with joy. The story spread like wildfire around the hostel and outside. The next thing to come out was he said ‘I knew it since the start. Do you think I would never know!’

Many little memories are attached to yahoo messenger. Sad that it has to go! Maybe that is how things are, moving. One can only bid them a warm farewell.

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