The OWL Despatch

Conversations with cab drivers

The other day, a banter with my cab driver lead me to a mutual friend. There we were stuck in a jam whilst I was thrilled to bits. A random conversation with a stranger in a battered cab leading me to someone who I had lost contact with for almost a decade. I promptly called my long lost friend. We reconstructed the years that had disappeared like a spectacular scenery behind a bend in the highway.  That conversation was soul filling. That for later. 

For now, consider this. Two strangers get talking and sharing their stories. Out of nowhere, there emerges a connection from nowhere that leads to spectacular results. Results that would have been stillborn had silence reigned in the cab ride. 

Over the years, my belief in the power of random conversations with total strangers has only grown.  Over this time, I have become far more aware of the value of not dismissing a point of view quite contrary to the ones I hold close.  

For instance, if someone walked up to me and told me that my belief in meritocracy will be harmful to me, there is a good chance that I would have flicked that view like a speck of dust. But not now.  Random conversations have taught me the many benefits of suspending judgement and considering alternate points of view. Of course, it still is work in progress, but there is awareness now!  

So, consider me a random stranger who walks by and starts a conversation and says something like this:  
 

“we are now grappling with effects of digital pollution that have become so potentially large that they implicate our collective well-being”. Yes. Digital Pollution! Yes, it is a thing. Yes, it is large. Yes, it is only getting larger. Yes, we need to do something about it.

Would you pause? Well, there are benefits of pausing! 

Speaking of pausing, I froze reading the report on how much of surveillance we all are under. To know that data from our grocery bills, driving details and fitness tracking devices can determine our insurance premia is not news anymore. Of course not. At least to most of us. (Although I must say, my mom was flabbergasted when I discussed these with her).  We must remember that we are trading a part of us for the comforts that the internet offers. Sometimes not knowing that we are signing on the dotted lines with a swipe or a click does greater damage. 

You are not alone if you are beginning to wonder how we can extricate ourselves from this mess. Or if you throw up your hands in frustration and say that it requires a social movement of sorts. We need more awareness of our own options and choices. Plus we need to talk about them. Even if it means in our own small pockets and comfortable environs. Social movements have interesting trajectories. Who knows what will get lit when! 

I started out with the cab driver bridging me to my long lost friend. It turned out that he had exchanged his corner office and big city life for growing tomatoes and turnips.  ‘So, you are self-actualized’, I remarked.  Sharp as ever, he asked me to go read Maslow again. It opened a few windows.  

We need our screens. What we need more are awareness and moderation. I think we must talk more about these.  A good place to start is with cab drivers. My rides get better when I keep my phone away and talk to the driver. Have you tried?

Image credits Pixabay

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