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“I stumbled upon the net one fine day a few years back and have felt like Alice in Wonderland ever since.” – Shail Mohan.

There is something about the internet that’s curiously magical and uplifting. Where else can you, at a sedate fifty, with hair beginning to gray at the temples and wrinkles making their stealthy appearance, find on opening a social networking site you are member of, waiting for you a message with a simple query, “Will you marry me??” Below is an example and believe it or not, this is the very first communication from this particular netizen.

As you all know I am your typical (well maybe not that typical, but still typical enough) bhartiya nari whose life has run on predictable lines. I was born into a traditional home and palmed off to the guy the parents thought was the right one for their daughter. On the lines of ‘if winter comes can spring be far behind’ as asked by the great poet P.B. Shelley, ‘if marriage happens can kids be far behind’ asks the very tiny-in-more-ways-than-one poet Shail (that’s me, in case you were wondering). This is especially so in the Indian scenario where the arrival of said kids is awaited with bated breath by the whole set of nosy-parkers (“Any good news?” they ask) that go by the name of well-wishers.

Anyways when the little pitter-pattering feet finally make their appearance, your world turns all topsy-turvy. Time is at premium. All you have on your hands are busy days getting busier, till you are spinning like a top not knowing when a day begins or if the night comes at all. Sleepless nights due to the baby bawling give way to more sleepless nights spent wondering about the uncertain future of the know-it-all teenagers. But somehow you survive it all to find to your utter surprise that your kids, against all your misgivings, have turned into rather decent sorts. They have gotten into their chosen fields and don’t need you now except when the odd hunger pangs hit reminding them they do have a mother.

Finally you are there; reached the time in your life you longed for. You stretch yourself luxuriously and look around at the world with new eyes. You are now a free bird with lots of time on your hands to do as you wish. You now have time to ponder on things other than what new filling to use for sandwiches for the boys or how to remove the ink-stain from their white school shirt. You remember long forgotten causes that you used to talk of animatedly. You now have more time to espouse and hold forth on topics close to your heart. And one day the kids in their youthful exuberance impressed by the Mom (or perhaps to remove her from their hair, your guess is as good as mine) decide to introduce her to the internet.

Mom aka yours truly, meets the internet and takes to it like duck to water. She is enthralled, like Alice in Wonderland. Blog-world and like-minded people make her feel she has found her niche. She connects with a lot of friends on networking sites where she finds an outlet for her weird sense of humor. But something happens that she had never ever bargained for in this very virtual world. She finds suitors for her hand, yeah you heard right, suitors for her fifty year old hands.

Now it is a mystery to me, what exactly forces certain people to propose to absolute strangers on the net, strangers whom they do not know from Eve?! Is it some as yet undiscovered and nameless compulsive disorder against which they are powerless? Or is it something similar to the philosophy behind the Mallu saying, “Kurudan maavil eriyunnathu pole’ which literally translates to ‘Like a blind man throwing stones at a mango tree’. You see, the sight impaired man only has to persist in the stone throwing and eventually he is likely to hit a mango and make it fall, provided the tree is fruit-laden of course. Do these proposal-senders operate on similar lines? Do they think that if they persist with the ‘Will you marry me?’ long enough, it will be met with a resounding ‘Yes I will!’ some time or other?

Anyways why should I bother my head with such questions?! I am actually amazed and thrilled to the core that, compulsive disorder or not, some actually asked for my hand, yes the same fifty-year old one. Wowee. Honestly speaking, who would have thought I would get an opportunity of this sort again in my life? Not me, not by any stretch of imagination. Apart from the fact of the six-footer in my vicinity acting as a deterrent to aspiring suitors and dampening their enthusiasm in ‘real’ life, there is this other matter, rather small but important nevertheless, of the enormous courage necessary to ask a tigress in baa lamb’s clothing (who else but moi) for her hand.

Yet such is life that what can never happen in ‘real’ life does happen in the ‘virtual’. It is something to do with the flickering of the computer screen methinks which somehow momentarily stupefies the person sitting in front of it, enough at least to mislead him into thinking he has it in him to aspire for the hand of the tigress (though in baa lamb’s clothing). Bless the flickering computer screen. Woohoo. What a boost to the shrunken ego. The plummeting self-confidence now is back in business and working on all six cylinders as Wodehouse would say. It struts around, reasserting itself.

I peep into the mirror and find the gray hair and wrinkles mysteriously missing and conveniently forgetting to make allowances for my failing eye-sight, I come away pleased. Who needs all those Botox injections or surgeries, the tightening, the nips and cuts that are so popular these days, all for the sake of a smoother complexion and a better figure? All one needs is an account in a few social networking sites with a name that sounds feminine. Now tell me, how can I not find the internet magical and uplifting? Nothing like a few proposals in your middle-age to boost your sagging …umm… morale.

©Shail Mohan 2010