By Radhika Oltikar Jul. 30, 2019
Recently, an elderly relative took it upon himself to personally message me a “quote of the day” every morning. Soon I started to notice a strange coincidence. All these quotes started magically reflecting exactly what was on my mind at the time.
There is very little on Earth I find more tiresome than a WhatsApp group. Most are born of the best intentions: To “reconnect” with old school and college mates, or “stay in touch” with extended family that you have neither the time nor the inclination to meet.
Then there’s the all-important parents group, formed so we can monitor our kids: “Aaj kya homework diya hai school mein?” “Next parents teachers meeting mein school se kis burning issue pe jawaab maangna hai?” In other words, to generally outrage against the school’s policies while keeping a stranglehold… I mean, “watchful eye” on the kids.
I want absolutely nothing to do with this. If I’m not in touch with any of my school or college friends, it’s usually for the simple reason that we never had a connection in the first place. Ab zindagi ke is mod pe “reconnect” karke kya ukhaad lena hai humne? The people from my past that I genuinely care about are already in my life and we have meaningful interactions on a regular basis.
The issue with WhatsApp groups is that once they start losing steam, they become dumping grounds for tasteless, misogynistic jokes and hackneyed platitudes. And that’s not to mention the infernal “good morning” messages that can boast of clogging up the internet. God, those messages. So garish, so cloying, so off-putting!
Every morning, I’d wake up, a quote would be waiting for me, followed by a, “Good morning, have a wonderful day ahead!
So for all these reasons, whenever I’m added to a group, I immediately try to leave. But trying to leave a WhatsApp group is like trying to leave “Hotel California”: You can check out anytime but you can never leave. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’m promptly added back, pulled right back into the black hole.
Now I’ve taken to doing the next best thing: Muting all my groups for a year. But just as I was getting used to a “good-morning”-free existence, life did a number on me. A close elderly relative suddenly took it upon himself to personally send me a quote every single day. A random relative, a random quote that appeared to have copy-pasted off the internet. Every morning, I’d wake up, a quote would be waiting for me, followed by a, “Good morning, have a wonderful day ahead!”
Now, one can ignore the messages posted on a WhatsApp group. Personal messages — especially from an elderly relative — are a whole different kettle of fish. I’m sure there are brave individuals who have the temerity to simply ignore such messages, but yours truly ain’t one of them. I felt obliged to reply in some form, to at least acknowledge the messages. Yes, I know… Wuss.
In the beginning, I’d grit my teeth and send a perfunctory reply. Then I started to notice a strange coincidence: The quotes would uncannily address exactly what was on my mind at the time. Like a soothsayer’s prophecy, they’d appear garbled at first, but as the day would progress, begin making more sense, and turn out to be actual usable advice.
One morning I was talking to my husband about wanting to write professionally, and wondering out loud whether I would be able to gain a foothold in the field at this stage in my life. The next minute, my phone beeped. It was my “quoting” relative.
These messages are like my hotline with the universe, a private game we play.
“‘You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will’ ~ Stephen King. Good morning and have a wonderful day ahead!” I nearly fell off my chair in astonishment. If this wasn’t a clear sign from the universe, and my favourite author, what else could it be? Ab toh likhna hee tha!
These series of supposed coincidences continued over the following days. In fact, they persist to this day. I woke up one morning in a bad mood. Something had happened the previous night that had caused me to feel betrayed. “Ding!” went my phone, and I opened it to this quote by Rumi: “For only when faithfulness turns to betrayal, and betrayal into trust, can any human being become part of the truth.” Okay jee. Weird. But, in this case, I would choose to be part of the truth then. Thank you for the guidance!
“You will not believe the bizarre shit that’s happening in my life,” I remarked to a friend who I met for coffee recently. “I only have to think of something and I get a clairvoyant chhap WhatsApp message from Brijesh uncle that coincides perfectly with what I’m saying. You remember Brijesh uncle, don’t you?” Just as she was trying to place my geriatric uncle who she last met 20 years ago, my phone chimed. Of course it was Brijesh uncle, with his daily dose of gyaan. And the message? “Coincidences are spiritual puns ~ G K Chesterson.” Both my friend and I cracked up so hard.
So, for me, it turns out that there’s some use keeping WhatsApp after all. I guess this is my life now. From abhorring platitudes and avoiding good morning messages like the plague, I’ve gone the other extreme: I actually wait for them. These messages are like my hotline with the universe, a private game we play. Meanwhile, Brijesh uncle is late in sending me today’s quote. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have half a mind to ping him and tell him to hurry up!
Radhika Oltikar is a freelance academic editor, translator and writer based in Mumbai. She loves cuddling with her cat, a good love story and day-dreaming, almost exactly in that order. She’s constantly correcting people’s grammar but only in her head, unless she’s paid to do it.