May 5th, 2009

Light Play


Everyone has a name. In the normal course of events, one meets a person and gets to know their name. However, in the world of internet, one is usually acquainted with the name first, then an email, a phone call and eventually, perhaps a face. This results in people having images of a name in their mind.

Certain names conjure up certain personalities and ages. An email style is no indication of the person's age, yet we tend to categorise. As is talking to a person on the phone. An old man may have a surprisingly youthful voice and vice versa.

This is the age of dissociated understanding of a person. The age where one may judge another person solely by their actions and words, with no preconception regarding their expected acts.

For example, earlier, meeting an old person, one would forgive him/ her certain gestures - since s/he was from the 'old world' where those qualities were the norm. However, the same thing on email sounds either quaint, rude, or chivalrous, depending upon the act. A rude dismissal is just that - a rude dismissal, and not an 80 year old mans impatience. Courteousness in emails is just that. And not the habit of a 70 year old man from years ago. The same stands true for younger people.

However, these emails are actions. The actions are coupled with names, and we humans being what we are, like to put a face to every name/ gesture/ action. So we imagine a personality behind the names/ emails. Not consciously, but a vague idea. An idea that effects how one reacts to an email, and talks on the phone, but basically, something that is not actively decided.

On meeting the said person, we unconsciously expect certain things - and are surprised. Hence we realise that we had a presupposed personality in mind.

To me, certain names convey certain personalities, like the name 'Naval'. Coupled with the prompt email responses and informal note, I expected a strapping man in his early 30's. Instead, I met an old man, short, shriveled and very knowledgeable.
The name Sanjeev meant nothing, his unavailability on phone however led me to presuppose him to be in his mid 40s. His curt email and asking his secretary to set up an appointment told me he would be in his mid 50s at least. The secretary herself sounded like an unmarried quirky christian in her mid 80s.
Guess what?
I was right.
About the seccy. The man? He was an early 30's Dynamo. Vibrant, energetic and young. And oh so bald!

And yet, because of the time spent interacting via emails and phone calls, my mind still sticks to the preconceived notions. And, when I see Naval and Sanjeev on paper, I have to remind myself what the man was really like. Like the tiny bespectacled man behind a big desk, when I expected a fat jowly person. Like the young irritatingly slow, balding man with a tic, when I expected a young, energetic dynamic person. I could go on.

Most of the times though, the thoughts and realities don't clash wildly. As a result, the mind does not remind us of what we had preconceived. However, it does remain that we always imagine. We always put mannerisms to actions, and faces to those mannerisms.