Google Search is my best online friend; neither Bing nor Yahoo could ever attempt to chip away at the strong bond I share with it. You may ask: “What about Siri, then?” And I would say: “Well, Siri is still very young.” In fact, I think I suffer from a “rigid mindset” issue when it comes to giving Siri a try, not to mention the generation gap, my dislike for talking in particular (NOTE: Not to be confused with other forms of communication; I dislike talking, but not writing!), my very Indian Accent (which Siri would, of course, find “exotic” enough not to understand at all) and most importantly, my extreme difficulty in retaining even old friends, leave aside making any new ones! So I’d say: “No…but…no thank you, Siri.”!
My relationship with Google Search is almost as old as the first time I ever touched a computer. Except for the briefest of times, very recently, when I had to befriend Bing (due to unexpected downtime at Google), there has been no need for me to look elsewhere for an online pal! Just like a best friend, Google Search has always been there to listen to my constant whining (Read inquiries about everything under the sun – “The How To”s, “The Why”s, “The Where”s, “The Problem With”s, “The Exception/Error”s and so on and so forth!) and provided best possible answers for me to pick and choose from. It got me out of many professional as well as personal soups with its quick and easy fixes. I don’t think there are many IT professionals (including ex-IT people like me) who can ignore the level of involvement Google Search has on their day to day work life.
Then again, Google Search is only as good as your ability to communicate with it accurately and more importantly, your ability to know where to look for answers in the thousands of web-page search results.
On a number of occasions in my past IT life, I have been given credit for being able to find solutions to software problems quickly, when the same problems had baffled other people in my teams for ages. In reality, those “perplexing” issues took me just a couple of searches; there is always someone (somewhere in the world) who’d faced the same (or similar) problem before me and took the time to post the solution on internet. All it needed was the friendly neighborhood search engine, Google and my ability to unleash its powers! Those were the times when I used to tell my coworkers to befriend Google for their own good because anything’s possible with “Google God’s blessings”! In fact, I was so smitten with Google, that I even had a pet line for Google Search (borrowed from the tag line of Master Card): “There are some questions in life that cannot be answered; for everything else, there’s google.com!” (I used to think that it was quite clever of me to come up with such an “original” quip, till Google Search brought me down and showed me many people who thought on similar lines!).
So when one fine day (about two months ago) I typed the words “For Kalpana poem, eat eat my child”, there was not a shred of doubt in my mind that Google would find me the poem from my adolescence. The result showed up a lot of pages, but none of them contained what I was looking for. And for the life of me, I could not remember who the poet was. All I remembered was that it was in my CBSE English Poetry Syllabus from Grade X, XI or XII and the poem was adjacent, in the book, to a poem by Ogden Nash about suffering in a dentist’s chair. (By the way, I found that other poem called: “This is going to hurt just a little bit” in the first page of Google Search itself!). I tried various permutations and combinations of all the information I had about the poem “For Kalpana” without any success.
For about a month, I kept searching and I kept looking and Google kept silent. I was very disappointed and then, very angry. What kind of Best Friend could not find me a poem? But when the anger subsided, I realized that maybe it was my fault, I was not giving it much information to begin with. Maybe if only I could remember the poet’s name……..
I mulled over it for about a fortnight more and then one fine morning (after a good night’s sleep), just like that I remembered, “Nissim Ezekiel”! I was beyond excited. It looked like my subconscious was in great shape and had succeeded in clearing years and years of cobwebs to find me the poet’s name from sixteen years ago! It was perfect. Now Google will know! I quickly opened my laptop and typed “For Kalpana, Poem by Nissim Ezekiel”.
I found many poems by Nissim Ezekiel. I also found Nissim Ezekiel’s Biography and learnt about his Indian Jewish Ancestry and the struggles of his life. I felt sad that despite being such a great poet, he had trouble finding his footing in life and even after his death (and a glowing obituary in “The Guardian” being hailed as the “Father of Post Independence Indian Verse in English”) Google did not know him that much! I also learnt that Nissim Ezekiel had three children and Kalpana was his middle child, but my search “For Kalpana” (which had made such an impression on me as a teenager) was still futile. In fact I found another fellow poem hunter on a message board in rediff who was in the same predicament and struggling with the same unsuccessful outcome.
There was nothing more I could do to help Google find me that poem. I had provided the title, the author, a few verses…..what else could I give? It was all but over! Then a thought hit me. Why the hell was I being so angry at Google? It was designed to find only what was there “on the internet” to be found. What if nobody posted this poem online ever? What if it was my chance to provide an answer to Google, instead of continuously seeking answers from it?
But without Google, without the internet, how do I go about looking for a poem? I was at a loss for a few more days and grappled with various notions on how to go about my quest. Then it occurred to me: “Maybe the keepers of my childhood, my parents, will have the answer!“. I called them up immediately and asked them to look for my old textbooks in the giant cast iron box which houses bulk of our childhood memories (mostly, the souvenirs which could not be fitted on display in the showcases in living room!). Unfortunately, I was the one who was big on donating and recycling old text books in my teenage years and that is what happened to my old books! They were given away to other people once I passed high school. And so this turned out to be a dead end.
Then, my mom (who is still teaching at the same school I studied at) said that she would go and ask the students of Grade X through XII to look for this poem in their textbooks. And they did. Unfortunately, syllabuses tend to change! It’d been sixteen years since I passed high school……I don’t even recognize my own school anymore, so there was no chance that I was going to recognize the new course books as well! Dead end again!
That was two days ago. Now, my only chance is to go back to “the land before Google times” and remember what it was like back then…………Oh, I remember!…………Libraries!
When I had joined my first (and last) IT Company twelve years ago, the interns were not given access to use the internet (It was a very privileged resource back then, only for the perusal of the elite….read: project managers and architects). Those days, any technical question would see us running to the Office library and leaf through many books in order to find the right answers. Flash forward to recent past: Just before quitting my IT job, if you’d asked me where the library was in my office building, I’d have looked puzzled and said: “Huh?!”
That is the level of importance nowadays libraries have for me. But now I must leave aside Google for a while, look back to old times and ruffle through the dusty old books in a nook in some forgotten old library. Otherwise, my quest will remain unfulfilled. I owe it to Nissim Ezekiel and to Google to find that poem. But before I go, I must ask your help in looking back. Do you have a book somewhere gathering dust waiting for you? Does Google need you to give it some answer that only you know? Then don’t wait for the right time, just do it! Who knows who is sitting (somewhere in the world) waiting for you to type it up!
PS: You may be wondering…. why do I need to find “For Kalpana” and how will my quest eventually end? Well, as the narrator in “Winnie – The Pooh” would put it…..It is an entirely different story for an entirely different time!