A version of this post appeared in The Open Road Review.
A couple of days ago, I got myself a sleek, shiny, and very suave MacBook. It had been on my mind for a while, but I had been resisting the change: I did not want to let go of my old one.
The old laptop, which came to me on a pleasant November evening 6 years ago (it was an exceptionally beautiful piece of engineering back then), has been one of my most trusted friends ever since. It has seen me struggle through long, sleepless nights. It has helped me fight loneliness and anxiety. It has kept me company when everyone else was either too busy or too tired for me. It has, in a way, been my alter ego. For the past many months though, owing to my incessant use and my children’s periodical abuse, the machine had started to get moody: it had become slow, it would not charge, its battery was as good as dead. I knew I had to fix it, but I never found the time: there was always something more important to do. And now, that I wanted it to work, it wouldn’t.
To keep my life running, I had to buy a new one.
While I was undoubtedly excited about the new acquisition, I also felt guilty about the old. All through my drive home I had only one thing on my mind: How do I keep it alive? Once at home though, as soon as I opened the package and set my eyes on the gleaming new silver machine, I forgot all about my old faithful friend. I have, since, been busy fiddling with it. (You guessed it right, even this piece is being written on the new machine).
In the last few months, I have had to buy quite a few new things and every time I have gone through similar emotions. I resist the change until it becomes absolutely necessary, I shed a tear or two while the old product is being taken away, I nag the husband about how I miss it, and then, quite strangely, in just a few days, I am so occupied with the new, that I hardly remember the old. There is something else that I notice. I tend to care for the new much more than I had cared for the old.
It is amazing how quickly we adapt to change, and how, in the excitement of exploring the unknown, we often leave the familiar behind. Things that once comforted us become insignificant even as newer experiences take their place. This holds as true for people and relationships, as it does for things and experiences.
Just like products, we also tend to take people and relationships for granted. When we know that we do not run the risk of losing someone or something, the effort we put into maintaining it drops drastically. And so, we ignore our best friend’s phone call, we forget the spouse’s birthday, we overlook the needs of our parents, we don’t meet our siblings for months, because we know they will not, go anywhere.
But what if they did? What if relationships, and people also came with an expiry date?
In the last few months, with my mother constantly on and off life-support, I suddenly realise that people, even the ones we always take for granted, can go away too, sometimes without so much as a warning. And, unfortunately, unlike a new laptop, or a new refrigerator, we cannot buy a new mother, or a new lover. Isn’t it fair then that we put in a little extra effort in preserving what we have, rather than always being enticed by what we want?
P.S. Although I began writing this piece on the new machine, it was completed on the old one. The comfort of the old and trusted after all, far outweighs the excitement of the new and unknown.