Kabhi Laptop, Kabhie Phone: It’s All About Teaching Your Parents

Humour

Kabhi Laptop, Kabhie Phone: It’s All About Teaching Your Parents

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

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fter introducing my dad to WhatsApp, he sent me a message one morning that read, “M3J7QJU1”. I asked him what that was all about. He replied 10 minutes later that it was a password he wanted to make note of, so he sent it to me on WhatsApp. Now every time he needs to look at it, he just opens our chat. Ingenious. This other time he wanted to update his Facebook photo so he pinged me about it. I told him to just scan a photograph and upload the image. An hour later, I see that he has changed his profile picture to a tiny photo on the top left of an otherwise empty A4-size page.

In the 21st century, it has become almost impossible to stay away from technology. Babies have to be shown jingles and stories on phones to make them eat something. School kids are hooked to Snapchat, and teenagers to web series and porn. Office-goers are seen playing Ludo Star and watching movies on six-inch-plus screens while commuting. Older folks now read the Hanuman Chalisa on their phones. Not having any stake in the online world is like not having an opinion on the Kangana-Hrithik debate – you’d have to be living in a cave.

Our parents aren’t safe from the bite of this tech bug either. They use WhatsApp, forward videos, do basic banking transactions, use Flipkart to buy essentials, and book Ubers. The interesting part of their gradual acceptance of technology is that, quite often, their children end up becoming the teachers in the process. And, as we all know, children can be real assholes.

Bane told Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, “You merely adopted the darkness. I was born in it, moulded by it.” Unlike those of us born during the tech revolution, our parents are adopters. We know the shortcuts to muting NSFW videos in a flash or how to secretly turn off the WiFi on our parents’ phone when we’re downloading huge files. Sometimes I make up my own full forms for internet slang – like the time my mother read MILF on my phone and I explained that it stood for Monetary Interest Levels Fluctuate. Our parents are proud of having grown up without phones, apps, the internet, or TV. You’ve probably heard about 83 times how they played football in fields instead of on a PlayStation, or how they had to walk a couple of thousand kilometres to go to school, or swim across the Indian Ocean on their days off.

For years, I was told that alcohol was rat poison and Chyawanprash was a new flavour of chocolate that somehow only I was forced to eat.

Our parents had their ways of teaching us. For years, I was told alcohol is actually rat poison. I was told Chyawanprash was a new flavour of chocolate that somehow only I was forced to eat. Whether it was learning how to walk, talk, or behave our parents taught us everything. At times, because parents are humans too, they’d just give up and start lying to us, resulting in claims like fairies bring babies to the world and eating chocolate will bring a monster to the house at night. Now that our parents are at the mercy of their children, it’s time to strike back.

My mom thought she messed up her phone because the internet wouldn’t work and she had “tried everything”. Because I’m an asshole, I thought this was as good a time as any to have a bit of fun. “What did you do… Omg you were not supposed to change that setting… AH, now I think this phone is dead, let me see if I can revive it… Sorry, all your money was just flushed down the drain.”

I could almost sense the guilt on her face, it’s an expression I frequently showcased as a child. That day, I was treated like a member of the royal family – it was almost as if I was sick, or it was my birthday. After “working on it for hours”, I turned mobile data “ON” and everything went back to normal. My mother was relieved, as if I had told her nuclear destruction had been averted.

The thing about learning, is that when you make some progress, you try to do the rest by yourself, and end up on the dark side. Like when you were first introduced to the concept of wallets, and you tried to steal ₹10 from your dad’s. I was once using his laptop to access porticoindia.com. I typed “www.por” into the address bar and got some really interesting website suggestions that I had fun quizzing him over. “Oh, somebody is sending viruses… I have no clue what all this is about,” was the feeble response. So like a good son, I introduced him to incognito mode, where no one could “hack into his bank account”. He thought it was really cool. Later, just to fuck with him, I quietly uninstalled Chrome and installed Opera. When you have power, never let it slip.

My dad still saves four numbers of the same person as “Amit Jio”, “Amit Docomo”, and “Amit Home” in spite of me constantly reminding him that the phone can save multiple numbers under one name. But he’s the kind of guy who deletes individual messages from WhatsApp worrying that 573 messages in a group will “hang his phone”. When our parents had to teach us the same thing for the third and fourth time, we were yelled at. Now when you fuss about them not grasping something, you get back the classic, “Tu bahot bada ho gaya hai ab. Remember when you were small and we taught you how to walk?” There is no comeback to this. Don’t even try.

Just as we fumble and learn through experimentation, our parents have found their own jugaads when dealing with the online world. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it must get the work done. Sometimes I wonder if I ever want them to learn it all, since I would then lose leverage and the tiny little ego boost I get every time they approach me.

I do feel mildly guilty about being an ass at times. Recently, I was forced to take a taste of my own bitter medicine, when my younger sister tried to pull one of these tricks on me. It was annoying at first, but as they say, Chutiya Banana is the national fruit of India.

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