That lost personal touch..

This morning, at the library, it dawned on me, how little person to person contact we have these days. I go in, take the books I want to return to the machine, return them, browse through the shelves, select books, and then self check them out.

Libraries have always been in my top of my list of  ‘happy places’. Ever since I remember. I actually remember how the first library I visited looked like. It was the library of my school’s primary section. I remember how I used to wait for the library classes – we had a period reserved for the library. We were not allowed to take home books until we were in Class 3, and I remember waiting impatiently to reach Class 3.

Our high school library was just as good. And our librarian was a darling! She was a wonderful, sweet tempered lady, with whom I used to discuss books. I remember waiting for Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. When the book got released, I was in Class 10. Our school term was almost over. We had study holidays to prepare for Pre-ICSE, and we were not allowed to borrow books(time-pass books, that is). But I managed to convince my librarian to let me borrow it 🙂

I have had a wonderful time talking to librarians, discussing books, getting recommendations. I would have never read authors like Elizabeth George, Sophie Kinsella had it not been recommended by the librarians of the libraries I have frequented over the years. One of the librarians I met was a software engineer who quit her job to open her own library. How I wanted to be her at that time 🙂

In London, I used to go to the library almost every day. It used to open late, and I would often finish a book in the time it took me to get to work and back. So on the way back home, I would either drop off my book, or pick up new ones. After daughter was born, and after I took time off from work, we used to visit it even more. I think she must have been just as comfortable in libraries as she was at home. And what made my library visits so memorable was certainly the interaction with the librarians or library assistants.

That was before the age of self checkout machines. In London, our library had just started introducing them, and they refused to work most of the time, so I always ended up at the counter to borrow books. When we moved to Leeds, everything changed. The self checkout system here worked much better. I hardly had any contact with the library staff. They were almost always busy serving older customers who found it difficult to use the machines. And that is when I realized that although I have been frequenting my current library for over 3 years, but I don’t seem to know any of the staff! I know the checkout staff at my local supermarket better than that! And they have a much larger staff!

And that is only thanks to those soulless machines which I interact with these days.. The mere thought of all this, makes me yearn for the days gone by when the librarian would checkout each book, stamp it out, and talk to you about whether they read that book or not. Sometimes exclaiming that they had no idea that this library stocked this book, sometimes  asking me how I managed to read so much, while I tell them how I used to dream of being a librarian as a young child.. It makes me feel a little sad..  a little nostalgic for the days gone by, a little sad for that lost personal touch..

The good old days..

were they that great?

I have heard, and read in various forums, discussions, both in the real world and the virtual world about how things were much better ‘in our time’. And this is not from older people, but also people from across generations. Especially when it comes to parenting.

I have heard people talking about how when they were young, they would play happily with sticks and stones.. and the thing is, that children of today do the same. Just because they have a bunch of fancy toys does not mean that they do not play with things like that.  My daughter is perfectly happy playing with pieces of string, pens and pencils long past their lifetime, pieces of paper, packaging from her toys, a blanket to pretend that she is a princess.. Yes, she also has stuffed toys and fancy stuff, which are used too, but the basic imagination that a child has, remains intact. They just use different tools to fuel their imagination. Even things like the TV, can be used constructively or destructively. The other day, I was telling Poohi about the volcanic ash. We were watching the images of volcanic ash on TV. Later she  drew a volcano – big clouds of ash – that was what she understood from what she saw on TV. It is fascinating to see how much the children learn from every little thing. And children find fun and joy in little things that totally escape us. That part of childhood, I think, is the same, across generations.

Another thing which I have heard of, is a blanket statement of how parents these days pamper children and do not ‘guide’ them. I find that a little difficult to believe. I see fantastic examples of good parenting around me. Children who are well behaved and who know the difference between right and wrong. Of course there are badly behaved children too   that is true of every generation, isn’t it? Am sure all families have their black sheep(in every generation)!  The way I look at it, every generation has good and bad parents. One difference from the time I was growing up, is the economic conditions. Yes, my parents were not as well off, as we are today. But that does not automatically mean that my child will grow up spoilt. As far as I ensure that she knows the value of money, she knows that throwing a tantrum will not get her whatever she wants, and knows that good behaviour will be rewarded, she will get a good grounding in life. And haven’t we seen badly behaved spoilt children while we were growing up?

People talk about how things were ‘simpler’. We did not worry about things like child abuse. But really? Isn’t that simply a case of ignorance being bliss? Aren’t we better off knowing than living in ignorance.

I really feel that in a lot of scenarios, nostalgia has a way of brushing away the unpleasant parts. We do tend to forget a lot of things as we grow older and things appear rosier than they were.

Yes, we did not call our friends before dropping in, but then most of us did not have phones at that time to do so. Now that we do, we think it makes sense to check if somebody is around before dropping in.

Every generation makes it’s mistakes, it’s discoveries, and times change, times move on. The basic nature of people does not really change, or at least that is what I think. I know people say that people were not ‘materialistic’ then. But then it is all part of the times, isn’t it? Especially in a country like India, where all of us want a share of the pie. Where the motivation to do well in life is so high, because of the competition that forces us to perform.  The advance in technology and the changes that it brings, lifestyles change, attitudes change, and every generation moves with the times. An earlier generation made do with family and friends in the neighbourhood, we make do with family, friends in the neighbourhood,  virtual friends. Every generation works with the resources that are available  and within the constraints that exist. Some do a fantastic job, some do a mediocre job, and some fail…