Lazy or Innovative!

The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications!

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Humans always want to do things differently and easily. We say that fashions come back in circles every 30 years! But pictorial writing took a few thousand years to come back! Are humans lazy or innovative? From pre-historical days, we’ve learned to talk, we’ve learned to write, but we’re only now learning to write at the speed of talking (i.e., text), sending messages. If you are talking to someone face-to-face, you don’t need an additional word or symbol to express “I’m smiling” because you would be smiling. Research determined way back in the 1950s that only 7 per cent of communication is verbal (what we say), while 38 per cent is vocal (how we say it) and 55 per cent is nonverbal (what we do and how we look while we’re saying it). This is good for face-to-face communication, but when we’re texting/WApping, the hypothesis goes for a toss. 93 per cent of our communicative tools are out of the picture.

In came Emojis! Emojis were born from the mind of a single man: Shigetaka Kurita, an employee at the Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo. Back in the late 1990s, the company was looking for a way to distinguish its pager service from its competitors in a very tight market. Kurita hit on the idea of adding simplistic cartoon images to its messaging functions as a way to appeal to teens. The emoji means, “picture words”—were designed by Kurita, using a pencil and paper, and were inspired by pictorial Japanese sources, like Manga (Japanese comic books) and Kanji ­(Japanese characters borrowed from written Chinese). I always had this feeling that Emojis show a feel of Japanese/Chinese characters and now I have come to know that I was not wrong.

These 176, initial crude symbols became very popular and Japanese Telecom adopted them. These were used only in Japan.  Apple put these characters in iPhone in 2007 for phones to be sold in Japan; it was meant for Japanese youth and was hidden deep down in software layers. But tech-savvy users in the US found these Emojis and then it was only a question of high-speed proliferation. Now even people above 80 are using WhatsApp and use Emojis very comfortably. In a survey in 2013, it was found that 73% of people in the USA and 82% of people in China were using Emojis in their communications. There is one interesting thing I have observed about Emojis. Since the faces shown in them are basically based on comic books, there is hardly any angry Emoji! Using Emojis, people can love, feel sad, feel elated but it becomes difficult to hate or feel angry using Emojis!

The meaning of Emojis interpreted in different areas of the world are flexible and that is the real beauty of it. 🙏🙏 is an Emoji that is interpreted as Namaskar (Hindu Greeting) in our part of the world. But in the western world, it is interpreted as High Five! If one needs to discuss or comment on something serious, the best solution is face to face talk, next best is Emojis and third place goes to the written text. These not very professional looking cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux, they keep on changing. The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications, especially when it’s sent using tiny screens, tapped out in real time.

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The beginning of writing started with pictorial drawing and their interpretation. First written symbols that began in our lives are pictures. Pictograms—i.e. pictures of actual things, like a drawing of the sun—were the very first elements of written communication, found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. From pictograms, which are literal representations, we moved to logograms, which are symbols that stand in for a word ($, for example) and ideograms, which are pictures or symbols that represent an idea or abstract concept. Modern examples of ideograms include the person-in-a-wheelchair symbol that universally communicates accessibility and the red-hand symbol at a pedestrian crossing that signals not “red hand” but “stops.”

One thing is sure that pictures, emojis have a definite advantage over written communication. I will tell you how I got confused in Germany, way back in 1984. I had gone to West Germany of those times. I was travelling back to the place of my stay in a small town called Menden, using the train system. I was required to change the trains at a couple of places. I saw one railway employee with a tag, “Information”. I was happy, finally, I found someone speaking English!  I went to the railway employee to seek the directions. Later I came to know that Information in German is pronounced as, Informatsionen! The person said, “Ich spreche kein Englisch”, which I assumed as “I don’t speak English” He held my hand, took me to the correct platform and pointed to me the direction! No Emojis!

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The Joy Emoji shown above, is referred  to as “Face With Tears of Joy” or “the LOL Emoji” (Emojis don’t have official names, just nicknames created by their users)— it dates back, in North America, to roughly 2011, when Apple put a readily accessible Emoji keyboard in iOS 5 for the iPhone. Which means that in a few years, Face With Tears of Joy ­vanquished the 3,000-year-old symbol “~” called Tilde, which is at the top left-hand corner of our keyboard. Tilde is used as a symbol for approximation. Let me tell you briefly about ~! It was one of the most common symbols used in written language for a long time but was overtaken by LOL in three years! That is the power of Emojis!

Then comes the issue, are Emojis the right way to communicate? I think so because when we communicate with each other on social media, it is more of an informal discussion. In our lives now social media communications are very large in volume. Formal work or business related communication is still a letter or an email! You may send an informal consent for a purchase order on WA, but will end with, “Purchase Order follows”.  Of course, there are personal feuds or lover’s tiffs that can happen on WhatsApp. Now I have passed that stage but had WA been available in my younger days, I would rather have used  Emojis. If I had to show my displeasure, I would have used 😕☹😒 instead of saying, “I am unhappy or sad because you said blah blah on phone!” This one sentence would lead to so much more exchange, of initially tough words, and maybe then harsh words. 🙂🙂

Spelling mistakes or deliberate spelling errors are part of communication. ध चा मा is a famous historical saying in Maratha history during the time of Peshwas. There was an order to धरा someone, means capture someone. ध चा मा means the letter ध was replaced by मा . The order became मारा, someone, means kill someone! Don’t be under the misconception that such errors can’t happen while replying using Emoji. The following Emojis are next to each other on the keyboard, 👏👄.  A young man wanted to appreciate what his female boss had achieved. By mistake, he sent 👄 EMoji instead of 👏. This was before, “delete message” facility in WhatsApp. Sheepishly he went to the boss to apologize. His boss said, “Meet me in the evening!” The office was almost empty when he went to her cabin. He was shocked when his boss replied to him with,😘😘 in person! Boss is always right!

Bravado or Truth!

Accept the tough situation in life and face it upfront!

The other day my niece’s husband Dr. Makarand asked me a very pertinent question. He said, “Kaka when you were going through treatment for cancer, we all could see that you were very positive during and after the treatment. Can you share with me if this was Bravado or that is what you really felt?” It was a very valid question. In the face of tough situation as the cliché goes, “Tough get Going”! It is all fine to mention clichés, make a show of not being bothered or nor showing any concern. 

Makarand’s question got my thought process going and I went back four years, to 2013 Dec 1st, when my cancer was detected. This detection was done by Dr. Sant in his clinic and set the wheels rolling. Raju was with me; when we came out from the clinic Raju said, “You don’t worry, I will drive the car.” We had taken my car. I told him, “Oh, come on! What has diagnosis got to do with my driving the car? In fact, first let us eat something as I am hungry.” Our next step was the hospital where Atul was waiting for me to get the CAT scan done, to check the extent of spread. What were the thoughts in mind, besides deciding what to eat? Honestly, I did not feel worried, afraid or did not have a question in my mind “Why me?”. In the CAT it was found that there was no spread and the growth looked local. Was I relieved. I don’t remember having any specific feeling of relief.  

It was decided to perform the biopsy on 7th December. We took a family decision that managing newly born Kittu and my cancer treatment cannot be handled together, in our regular home. We had already hired one condo next to Priya’s. We took a decision to move stuff to the new condo. Next 4/5 days we were busy moving our stuff to this condo. That week was very busy, and I did not have time to think of anything other than shifting furniture. Did I have apprehensions about the result of the biopsy? Not really because Dr. Sant was very confident that growth was cancerous. I had totally believed in his judgment and did not get unduly worried when Lab confirmation was received on 10th Dec. 

Another ten days in deciding the logistics and getting the drug from Pharma Company. Jaya and I were busy setting up the new condo, plus my work continued. When I was told that the first immunotherapy was to be given in an ICU, I did feel apprehensive. What is the reason for ICU? What can happen? What can go wrong? Somehow, I had a feeling that cancer had luckily been detected at a very early phase then why this sudden change in threat level? I asked my Onco surgeon. He said, “Pramod, this is just a precaution we are taking. Once in a blue moon some patients have reaction against the drug hence this step.” I was relieved and was back to my normal mood.  

Ignorance reduces your anxiety levels. When the cancer was detected, I was told that there would be Radiation therapy along with Immunotherapy. My lack of knowledge prepared me for a couple of radiation sittings. When we had our discussion with Radiation Oncologist, the doctor told me that there will be 32 to 34 sittings. For a moment, I was stunned. But when the doctor explained, I understood the process. He said that 1 or 2 radiations are given in case of patients who have tough cancer and need palliative treatment. He also said that when chances of overcoming the cancer are good, number of sittings are more and depend on different factors. Knowledge acquired, I was back to normal way of thinking.  

Coming back to the question asked by Makarand. Was I truly not much concerned or was it my bravado? I can safely conclude that it was not my bravado. Why was I not worried? Why do people get worried? It is natural to get worried, anxious, it is ok to get terrified also. There are some situations in life which tend make even tough people panicky! In my case, I do not know why I was not worried. Maybe I have learnt to take things in stride. Maybe my mind is such that I move on. I am a normal human and I also get anxious, worried but somehow, I never remember being afraid of a situation. Maybe I have never faced a situation which can scare me,yet. Rather than being brave or tough, I feel that I am a normal person who is little luckier than others, who was never required to face a situation where I was almost required to give up. Another possible reason could be that I am pragmatic and accept situations which are not under my control.  

Am I the person to preach people how to handle the difficult situations? Definitely not! But I can share my experience with others. Did I pray to god? No, I believe in some high-level spirit which can be called God. But I am not into prayers, since childhood. I have always seen my father doing Namaskar to God but he was never into prayers and pooja! This was imbibed in me from childhood. Other than this, I always had great support from Jaya and my children, especially during my tough phase. Positivity of the whole family including my nephews and nieces went a long way I keeping me balanced.  

Makarand, yes, I was really not afraid, nor did any of us panic! It was not bravado but overall managing the whole situation as a project, keeping emotions in control, when it was necessitated. Thank you for asking me this question which made me introspect about the tough phase in our life, it was not only my life! I have not done something great that I can advise people but I have suggestions for all who get into any tough situation; it could be illness, it could be family issues, it could be money issues. Be in it together, face the situation upfront. Acceptance is the key to fighting back. Every fight is winnable to an extent. Leave rest to Him!