I have a question!

I have a question. It has born out of a repeated observation. Almost all the times when I have been to washroom to relieve myself, I see that people become completely silent. And I am making this observation against the washrooms which are located in a building where people work and most often know each other in person, for example in an university or in a office. The fact that they know each other makes me wonder why did they even not acknowledge the presence of the people they know. I understand that this might vary from culture to culture but I have tried varying this observation by asking many of my friends and family and they seem to attest the same.

Well the simplest of reasons I am being told of is that it is out of etiquette to do so. But I don’t remember any teacher of mine telling me about this. Or may be I have been to one of the not so good schools. But even if it so I wonder how people could resist saying hello to the people (they know) when they encounter them in washrooms and loos. How could the etiquette gain such an enormous power that it dictates human behavior to become completely strangers to each other during that time? Strange, isn’t it?

The another argument which comes upfront is the following: Washrooms are usually the places where there is always filth and foul smells. So why to stay there to exchange words of acknowledgement. One always tries to leave such a place as soon as possible. Well I could have really considered this argument had I never been to any washroom myself. The washrooms I am talking about since the beginning of this post are actually the ones which are very well kept and sanitized. These are the washrooms equipped with world class toilet fittings. These are fitted with hand dryers and automatic dispensers to release water and soap solution in urinals and toilet seat. To an average nose like mine, there are absolutely no foul smells. So an urge to leave ASAP doesn’t seem reasonable.

Consider the third argument: Bathrooms are usually congested spaces so its not really possible to carry a conversation. To me this also doesn’t seem to be the case. Current architectural plans of bathrooms are quite spacious. They are some times as big as living rooms and have ample of space to move around and relax. Thus this argument doesn’t seems to sustain as well.

I don’t really know why people behave like that. Take all the arguments and see them in parallel but what I am wondering about is the disappearance of a simple acknowledgement in these spaces. Till we find the answers we are free to speculate and off course to observe silence in any such washroom we enter.

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A mind full of ideas and a crowd full of support…

Not so long ago when it used to be a nightmare for Sridhar, a documentary filmmaker from Ahmedabad, to arrange funds for his projects. He had to personally visit and write to a number of institutions and individuals asking them for their support. In few fortunate instances when he had some financial support in the beginning, it was still difficult to sustain the same during all the stages – from ideation to completion- of a project. But now with this web initiative called ‘ReelChanges’, things are getting a lot better for him. He can inform a larger audience about his project details, ask for funds in parts during the production and once completed can even market his documentary films to a potential broadcaster. On the other hand, an audience i.e. a site user gets to learn about a topic he might be unaware of and can probably help a struggling filmmaker like Sridhar get his project completed by making a monetary contribution. With some filmmakers who have multiple projects in their online portfolios, the users will be able to help them out in the one they find the best. However visiting a site that hosts a quality bunch of documentaries on issues- ranging from arts, music, education, indigenous cultures to youth, politics, and environment- also qualifies as a sole motivation for many.

At a different site by the name ‘CNCnews’, citizens are busy posting questions to the government- demanding answers and reactions on issues of public interest. However as we can easily predict; most lawmakers and executives would like to cut corners in answering questions posted ‘online’. To curb this possibility, a group of journalists then follow these executives in the political corridors with the same questions. It is often the case with this web site that a single question gets endorsed by a number of citizens, making it ‘a must to answer’ for the concerned lawmaker. The cycle completes with journalists posting back these answers on the site for users to review.

These examples are currently few but one just needs to look around and notice the huge success of campaigns like the “Hard Rain” and “Jago re”. The former is a charity program to support globally a series of public exhibitions about climate change, poverty, the wasteful use of resources, population expansion, habitat destruction and species loss. However in both these campaigns, internet is being used to inform and gather local participation and support.

So who all should be counted in this new class of trend setters? Are these only the filmmakers, journalists or activists? Probably not! These are the common people- like you and me- enthusiasts from different fields- who have realized the true potential of this medium- not just merely as a tool to inform but more as a tool to attract and encourage public participation. They are establishing a parallel image of the internet- proactive and collaborative; other than a daily morphine dose of social networks, news, stock trading, pictures, video and porn. And it’s not the first time that they are trying to use technology ‘unconventionally’ to their advantage. Owning a website or a personal blog can’t be the only solution, especially in the times when the success of an entire idea depends on whether you make it to the first few results of a search engine or not. The future now lies in creating shared platforms- often non-profit – for people with different interests but possibly with similar ends to meet. It’s increasingly about lessening communication gaps amongst individuals while discovering opportunities to appreciate and support mutual efforts.