We have all heard the jokes about family Whatsapp groups. The ones where the older uncles and the younger cousins become the lambs of innocence and share the good jokes, motivational messages, devotional pictures and the funny videos. Of course there is the other ‘cousins only’ Whatsapp group that contains a bit more censored content that wouldn’t be deemed fit for the ‘elders’. And then there are the ‘girls only’ and ‘guys only’ groups that are there for the sole purpose of girl and guy talk. I do not know about others but my family has a huge variety of cousins from different ages to populate all these groups with ease. And maintain the pace of discussion.
There is never a dull day with the differently named groups, where it is easier to follow birthdays (because there is always that one person who wishes first, reminding us to wish, too). The mandatory group name changes to suit the different occasions. I was a part of five different groups named ‘Happy Pongal’ just ten days back, and it was a hard time to oscillate between them and not post the objectionable content in the wrong window, a problem I am sure all my cousins would have faced.
The original ‘Family Whatsapp Group’ populated by the ‘tech savvy’ uncles and aunts is the one that is most active on the early mornings (and the cousins group is better at nights. Much, much better. *sniggers appreciatively*). In my phone, this is the most informative group. There are updates about family events, upcoming birthdays and anniversaries, important dates for religious functions and the celebration of achievement of one of their children.
I have always been amazed by the grace with which the older generation took to Whatsapp (is that what they say? Like a fish to water?). My father was the last to join and his inclusion into the group was so very celebrated with pomp and grandeur. It probably was because his arrival in real life events is also celebrated the same way. He livens up any place he is in, and he quickly becomes the center of attraction wherever he is. He hardly lets loose a smile but has the group around him in splits within minutes.
Of course, it is another story that my cousins celebrated the entry with a ‘reverent’ radio silence that lasted two days. No. I am really serious. But my dad quickly put everyone at ease and was the person who mainly populated the group with jokes and funny videos, also ‘status updates’ about the family. And that is how the group functioned till last December, until we realized its true worth.
We have all enjoyed the quick connect we felt with the rest of the family no matter where we were. But since the December of 2015, when the city was devastated by floods, there was the more serious, much more beneficial angle to the group. It served as the place where everyone kept getting updates about everyone else and ‘marked themselves safe’ through the group when mobile towers fell down and Wi-Fi was the only form of internet available.
And that continues till today. Whenever there was any major event that might call for us to confirm that our family is safe, the Whatsapp group is the first thing we go to. Uncles and aunts from across the state checked in on those of us from Chennai and as every person updated their status, we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
As each member of the family declared themselves safe – the travelling cousin, the uncle stuck in office, the aunt stuck in shopping and the cousins overseas who were desperate for information – we all connected in the one common, reliable platform we have always used in the times of need. While the group serves as my daily dose of jokes and fun, it also is the first place I refer to whenever I need to check things up.
The Family Whatsapp Group is the virtual family house, the same roof under which everyone lives, distanced physically but connected emotionally. Once the birds have reached their own micro nests, the group will shift back to routine tomorrow. We do have a wedding to come up. And one more person to include in our midst. As I look forward to it hopefully, my phone pings with an incoming message. It is my family group.
‘Glad the family is safe. All of you put leave tomorrow. Too much stress at 82. Can’t handle.’
Well, who else would that be but my charming grandmother, the matriarch who has guarded her family like a hen monitoring her chickens and eggs. She is the savviest of us all and the one who usually opens the counter for the day with a ‘thought of the day’, and plays referee to the conversations. I so want to follow her instructions! And I might 😀