Monday, May 19, 2014

Beware – Big Data is watching – Part 2

My Grandmother’s ghost has been haunting me off late. She died almost 15 years ago.
I do not think about her much. But a couple of months ago she came in my thoughts for a very different reason and purpose.
Over the last year or so I have been thinking of keeping a safe distance from facebook.
Facebook delves me into frequent bouts of depression. Every time I log onto facebook, someone or the other that I know has posted pictures of their exotic vacation in Goa, Hawaii, Grand canyon or their African safari.

Over facebook i have passionately followed the status updates on how the gold-fish that Madhavi’s boys got home were doing, in their suburban home in New Jersey. I was even a tad depressed when the gold fish did not survive the week two of its displacement into their home. 
Over the years I have kept track of Melanie’s  job changes as well as relationship changes. Nandita’s morning sickness, baby shower and the baby boy’s naming ceremony passed me by without ever having to been in touch with her over the last seven years. That cow, she was such a b!^(#

I got updates on Janette’s photographs of her little prince, the birthday parties of Vijay's son, the shopping indulgences of Sanjay’s high maintenance wife with the same interest as I followed the mass uprising of  armchair intellectuals from Illinois to England over the widespread corruption in India.

All over facebook.  
Facebook - it just depresses me.
I mean, everyone seems to have something exciting up their sleeve almost every other day. Everyone seems to be going on vacations, popping out babies or passionately supporting  a cause from faraway lands over their ipads and iphones.   

And what do I do ?

Monday to Friday – I vegetate.
As in, I drive to work, clear emails, attend meaningless meetings, prepare power point presentations and size up people or get sized up. With all this going on over the weekdays it is only natural that over the weekend I get stressed out cooking, cleaning, dusting, stocking up vegetables and groceries and catching up on my precious Sunday nap.                 
Once in a while I logon to facebook, linkedin and my B-Grade and C-Grade email boxes. But inevitably when life gets a tad too stressful I seem to gravitate towards them like how an already overweight person gravitates towards a coffee accompanied by krispy kreme donuts.    You know how it works, right ? You start with one donut and then before you know it, you have gulped almost half a dozen. The other half a dozen is seducing you . That is how the downward spiral sucks you in.

You get depressed and to beat the depression you logon to facebook. Then facebook depresses you. I had to break this vicious circle. Out of frustration, I deliberately typed my facebook password wrong three times.  They deactivated me and sent in an email to the B-grade email box saying my account was probably being hacked. They asked me by way of secret answer the name of my favorite restaurant and I said ‘Donald duck-What the fuck’.   
And then I opened another facebook account.
I needed facebook, but wanted to remain anonymous and un-contactable.
But they refused to take in anonymous accounts. They even refuse to take names like sexy kitten, sleeping beauty etc. I needed to think up an authentic identity.   
That afternoon, Appa was enjoying his favorite Rajiniknath movie over the TV crouched on the couch.  Amma was in one of her foul moods and was cursing her long dead Mother-in-law for her lack of parenting skills. That is when it all happened.  

Sita Lakshmi Ammal opened her facebook account posthumously. She could have been arguably the oldest user of facebook .  Had she been alive she may have been about 89 years old now. She was certainly not going to sue me. And moreover she would have loved to be on social media.

She was such a kick-ass grandmother, had she been alive she would have taken facebook and Twitter to such great heights that would have put the Modis ( Lalith)  and Tharoors (Shashi ) to utter shame.
Mother in law – Daughter in law spats over Twitter would have been the trendsetter for a new genre of entertainment, that would have threatened poor Ekta kapoor’s livelihood.
Sadly, she is long dead.  More  about her in yet another blog.
Anyway Sita Lakshmi Ammal’s facebook identity was configured to my A-grade email account because they refused to take my B-Grade email account, saying it was already in use by another user.

A-Grade email account : Used for interactions of the serious kinds like job hunt, linkedin and  income tax return filing. 
It is also the most frequently accessed email account of the user.
B-Grade email account : Used for Junk emails. To sign up for freebies and offers online.  
 Also reserved for Tier-2 friends. They are friends or rather acquaintances, with   whom you do not 
 want to keep in touch, but want to keep in touch. Just in case. Facebook friends may be relegated to 
this email box.
C-Grade email account: Used for ‘illegal’ downloads of all kinds. It is also the most preferred email id
 for Surveys that promise lucky draw gifts in the form of iphones, ipads and galaxy tabs if you tell 
them what brand of underwear you currently use or where you shop for your hard drinks. 
This account is preferably opened and operated from an internet café where you could give a battered
and illegible copy of someone else’s PAN card as your id proof.  Usually the Spam folder in a C-Grade
email account far outweighs the real mails.

Unlike facebook, skimming through your C-grade email account can be a great stress buster.       

There is another category of email account the ‘A Plus’ category – the official email id given by your employer.  Never ever ever  send emails across from  your A+ email account to your B or C grade accounts and vice-versa.  And here is why I warn you thus.

Sita - grandma’s ghost is haunting me. 

Pardon me for this rather longish story ...

I was raised by my paternal grandmother between the age of 13 and 17 when she came to live with us. My mother was around, but as it is with most MIL/ DIL relationships, Sita-Grandma called most of the shots at home in those years.  
Those were the days, when like most girls of that age, I was, what they call a ‘pretty looking chick’ who attracted a lot of attention particularly from the opposite gender.
That, my parents continued to educate me in a co-ed school, despite me coming of age was the most heated debate usually initiated by Sita-grandma. That, she was overprotective and overly  worried for her darling granddaughter would be an understatement. She was overpowering and exercised an owl-like scrutiny over my daily activities and friends circle.   Commute timings from school to home and home to school were strictly monitored. No friends of the opposite gender were to be entertained. Friends from the same gender were entertained at home provided they exhibited a ‘homely’ demenour and came from ‘respectable’ families.         
When we went for weddings and other social functions, she kept a watch over me as well as other potential preys from the opposite gender.  She was of the opinion that I inherited the ‘flirtatious’  gene from my mother’s side of the family and had to be watched over. She could not afford anything that could embarrass her family’s reputation.  (On the ‘flirtatious gene’ bit – I realized over the years that it is the most common accusation and lament mother-in-laws have over their daughter-in-laws parental lineage. It happens across cultures and across generations. )
But at that time I knew no better and walked around in daze trying to be the naïve and nice girl atleast in Sita- Grandma’s  presence.  Afterall it was not entirely my fault, if I was a ‘looker’ and every road-side Romeo would turn his head if I passed by.  :)
But, there was no escaping Sita Grandma. She was there wherever I went.
Ah ..I digress again.
Soon after I opened the facebook account in the name of Sita –Grandma, she started getting friend requests. 
Who on earth would know her in this social media age?
And why on earth does anyone want to be friends with a woman who is long dead? 
But no … every other day she receives emails saying Sita … you have 5 friends requests .
Sita … Do you know Xyz, ABC, PQR etc. etc. etc.
I ignored the messages and used the account exclusively to sneak in for purposes best known to me.


Last week I was attending a one day workshop that we termed as ‘away day’ and went to J W Marriott inorder to be distraction free from the daily din of office work.

Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy, a reputed consultant from the industry with impeccable credentials with an astronomical per-hour training rate was engaged to train us on ‘Blue-sky Thinking’. Through his training we were  expected to come up with a vision and Mission statement  for our organization. I could not take my eyes off  Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy.  He was a sort of stylish looking fellow with a French beard with broad strand of grey in the middle and long side burns that were greying evenly at the corners.

Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy had done his graduation in engineering from a relatively lesser known engineering college in Namakkal and then went on to do his post-graduation from IIM Ahmedabad and then a Doctorate in ‘organization visioning’ from the Havard Business school, USA. In the meanwhile he also did another Doctorate degree from Stamford, USA and was currently pursuing his third one from Rochville university, USA.

Impressive, is'nt it.

To top it all Dr. Dr. Harish, was the Managing director of a multinational organization and what with two doctorate degrees and third one in tow, he was obviously a world renowned thought leader and much sought after ‘visioning’ expert in the industry.  His hourly rates were stupendous. But then after all we were the ‘emerging leaders’ of our esteemed organization and worth every penny and rightly deserved the mentorship and grooming that his coaching would provide us, inorder to take our sweat shop into the next whatever level in the food chain.

Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy spoke with an American Accent that he must have acquired over his years in America. Actually in everyone’s view, that alone justified every second of his stupendously high ‘Per hour’ rate. There is a premium you pay for an American accent, after all.  He said his roots were firmly in India and it was his passion to bring the professional touch to the leadership pipeline that India lacked. He also said that while he had an open offer from 7 American Universities as a visiting faculty, he chose to work with lesser mortals like us inorder to feed his passion.

An hour into the day-long session, after introductions, power point presentation and tea with biscuits, the seven of us were asked to sit by ourselves and come up with the mission statement for the organization.

With Sita Grandma’s ghost haunting me for the last few days, I was not able to concentrate.
Honestly, I do not have much of an appreciation for Management lessons.
I did what I thought was the best option.
I googled  'Mission statement of organizations' and the results threw up about 19 pages of mission statements. I randomly picked up one from page 13, since 13 is my lucky number and copied the mission statement of the 13th link in that page. And lucky it proved to be. My suggestion for mission statement of our organization was the one ultimately chosen because our trainer felt that it was the closest reflection of our true cultural and corporate identity.  ( the other mission statements that were presented closely resembled the ones that appeared in page 1,2 and 3 of the google search. Lazy fellows .. these colleagues of mine ... I tell ya !!! )  

Of course there had the be some changes and improvisations to be made in my mission statement.
After all I cannot be perfect.
Truth be told, in order for it to sound less readymade and more authentic, I inserted a deliberate grammatical error and changed from ‘The best in class' to ‘A best in class …’


Google is an efficient search engine. It does not take more than a second to google up anything for that matter. But I had thirty minutes. That is a very short time for Blue-sky thinkers who also need to effectively use that time to take a smoke break, ghutka break, pee break and  also think up the mission statement for the organization.

Not me. 30 seconds into my 30 minute break, I
1. Picked up my Nokia 520 and googled up Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy over his linkedin public profile.
2. Since I was bored but needed to act very busy, I decided to look myself up on google. I discovered 6 people with the same name ranging from students at Madurai kamraj university to a director of corporate communication in Singapore.
3. Utterly bored, I googled up Ex… no .1 to check on happenings in his life. Then I checked out ex no.2
4. I opened another window to check up Sita-grandma’s  facebook account. 
5. I opened yet another window to skim through my B-Grade email box. There was a message from Geni  announcing  Raju celebrating his wedding anniversary.


 Raju is my cousin brother.
He was also raised by Sita –grandma in his formative years before she came down to live with us.

Geni is a free online tool that lets you set up your family tree online and keeps the entire extended family trees to be in touch with their relatives. Four years ago, during one of my jobless phases I took it upon myself to set up our family tree.  Ours is a big family even by the modest definitions of Indian families.
Sita-Grandma, my grandmother from my paternal side had borne 12 children, out of which 9 survived adulthood, marriage and they procreated. Just the immediate cousins in the next generation would number about 15-20 in our case.   Raju is one of them.  He was an active member of Geni- the family tree and diligently wished everyone on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries. It was basic courtesy that I return his impeccable manners and appreciate his involvement with the virtual family tree. Raju is a social media savvy guy. He works in digital advertising or some such thing and so remains online for about 17 hours a day. If he not online he is usually sleeping. He checks his B-Grade and C grade emails while doing his morning ablutions inorder to be time-efficient and well networked. Raju was online today.

Me : Hi …. How u doin … What plans for the evening?
Raju : No Akka … all that is outsourced to the home ministry . I am only required to open my wallet when asked to. I am chatting with three other people including you.
Me: Anyway wish you a happy wedding anniversary.  
Raju : Thank you.  Are you not supposed to be at work now ?
Me: Oh … I am at the Marriott attending a workshop on ‘Blue sky thinking.’ And BTW do you know this illustrious alumni of yours from Namakkal college of engineering who is a thought leader in ‘Blue-sky thinking’. He is also an IIM-A alumni and a doctorate from Harvard university by the name Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy. (I sent him the link of Dr. Dr. Harish’s  linkedin profile. )   
Raju: LOL

Me : What ???

Raju : ROFL

Me: Dude … I am a little old fashioned and slow at the uptake… Could you care to explain?

Raju : Remember my first year after I had joined engineering. A few weeks into the course, I came back home crying like a sissy because I could not take the ragging at the college in Namakkal.

Me : Oh yes … that was some awful stuff. All you juniors had to choose your seniors and drink their Pee in your allotted coffee mug and swear allegiance to them and something like that… you came back saying you could not survive there. You parents were aghast because they had paid through their nose to get your there.
Raju :  Yes … It was Harish M Murthy’s piss that I had to drink.  I went back to Namakkal, only  because the management promised to rustigate the seniors who served their piss to the juniors and all was peaceful thereafter.  And BTW why does your Dr. Dr. Harish not write his year of graduation anywhere???

Me:  uhh... !!!

Raju: How would he ? He does not have one. He is the topic of conversation at all our alumni meets, but is never seen anywhere over there. You may want to convey my regards to him.

Me: Ah really … I cannot believe it. But he speaks impeccable English with a heavy American accent. He must have done well thereafter.

 Raju : LOL…   After he was thrown out, his parents had to grease the palms of a lot of people to get him out of police problems.  He went to Bangalore and joined a call center. He did his time there by working as tech support and selling some HR software modules to hapeless customers in the US. Since he sucked at selling but was good with his English especially the one with American accent, they made him a product trainer.

Me : Ah … That explains his American accent and also explains where his mastery over Management tools comes from. Maybe he then went to IIM- Ahmedabad and then to Harvard. Are you sure this is indeed the guy whose piss you had to drink ?

Raju:  Tell me, exactly why do you need to quote Havard university USA and then once again Stamford university USA. Are linkedin users so poor in geography and general knowledge that they do not know Harvard (not Havard) and Stanford ( not Stamford), Rockville (not Rochville) are in the USA. You really think these are all just typos.
Trust your instincts.

BTW, does he have a thick black mole on his right cheek bone that is quite distracting ?

Me: Yes…
Raju : That alone is authentic. 

Me: Ok Bro… I got to go … He is starting the next session which is on ‘Spotting the leopards among the cats – tools to identify fast trackers in high performing teams’.
Raju : One last thing.
Me: What ?
Raju : Is’nt a leopard born with spots ?
Me : LOL … ROFL  …

I could not take my eyes off  Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy.  I watched his French beard intently. It had a broad strand of grey in the middle. The rest was pitch black.
I watched him again.
 Those of you who struggle with strands of grey would understand this.  If you are one who tries to color your hair inorder to cover up the grey, you will notice that every 3-4 weeks the shoots of grey will crop up and cause a hell lot of embarrassment.
But with Dr. Dr. Harish, it was just the opposite.  Above his grey French beard and grey side burns were shoots of jet black hair.  You had to look closely and had to be in a stoned state of mind like mine to actually observe this.  Poor guy, he actually has to cover himself up with grey to fake experience and wisdom.


Ah … the wonders of a digitally connected world. We were not even past lunch and I had already written a mission statement for my organization, connected with family, googled for myself, got the latest updates on Hrithik- Susanne split and finished a shocking Back ground check on the high profile trainer standing in front of me. 

But Sita- Grandma’s ghost would continue to haunt me.

At lunch break I checked over my A-Grade email id.
Sita lakshmi receives another email.
Sita : Do you know Jayanti Gopal, Jayanthi G, J Gopal, Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy,  <Jayanti’s Ex … no 1 > and <Jayanthi’s Ex. No. 2>.


Sita – Grandma must be LOL… ROFL now.  Or maybe turning in her grave fuming with anger.  

She knows about all my Ex’s … except that guy from the corner house who smiled at me everytime I passed by his window to the automatic milk vending machine to buy milk.
There is no way she could have known about him.  By the time I started mildly responding to his overtures, she was seriously ill and before he attempted to tell me those three magical words standing behind me in the queue at the automatic milk vending machine she had passed away. But that is not why she would not know about him. Those were the days when the www had not taken over our lives. Those were the days when there were no emails, orkut, facebook , linkedin or twitter. 

Does Sita Grandma --- have access to all my emails from the past 14 years ?
Oh No … it is the digital ghost playing all this havoc.

I once again open my A grade mail box to check for mails.
Sita : Jayanthi, Meenu, Raju and Vishwanathan, Dr. Dr. Harish M Murthy  want to be friends with you.

What a miracle ?

15 years after her death, her Daughter –in-law (whose email account I used as my C-grade account) has decided she wants to be friends with her on facebook !!!

It was time to sort all of this out. 

I went into the Geni account, signed in as the administrator and updated Sitalakshmi Ammal's date of death.
I checked in on Twitter, Yahoo, Google, PINterest, WAYN, orkut and linkedin to remove all digital traces of Sitalakshmi Ammal.  But it was too late.
Digital footprints are like the Pyramids of Egypt. They are here to last for long. I realized that even death cannot do you apart from your digital footprint.  

Please, can anyone help me to deactivate my grandmother's facebook account ( and mine too )?
I want to give her decent digital burial and help her digitally rest in peace .   

Inspired by the Oscar nominated movie ‘Her’ .          


P.S : All characters in this post are fictitious.
P.P.S : All names have been changed inorder to protect the identity of the facebook, linkedin, orkut, WAYN and whatsapp users ( just in case !!! )  and my long dead grandmother.


1 comment:

  1. It was hilarious Jayanthi :-) But this blog post could have been broken up in to various parts though,

    - experiences of a posthumous FB user

    - How we tend to perceive trainers who charge a hand and a leg ( the best part of the blog I liked) :-)

    Ofcourse sprinkle them with 'My experiments with my exes' and you have one hell of a humorous treat !

    Humour is tough to write - keep it coming !


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