My experience with the Internet - good or bad?

Author: 
Jatinder Sethi

Jatinder Sethi was born in Lyallpur, now Faisalabad, in pre-Independence India. He finished his M.A. (English) from Delhi University in 1956, and went off to London to study Advertising in 1958. He passed his Membership Exam of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (M.I.P.A) in1965, and joined Rallis India in Bombay. Later, for over 20 years, he worked for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Now retired, he helps his son in his ad agency in Delhi.

“Not quite the web we wanted,” says World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee.

I am Jatinder Sethi, 88 years, residing in Gurugram, India. Net Blogger!

One of the first comments on the internet to my first blog post about my birthplace, Lyallpur (now in Pakistan), that, surprisingly came just few days after it appeared on the web (2012.09.015), was from two young Indian girls studying for their PhD in Berkley USA. They sounded thrilled as my blog reminded them of their own grandfather and his life.

These young Indian girls turned out be none other than granddaughters of my own elder brother late Nath Bhaji Janum & Umrao Sethi. Till then they had no idea that I existed in this world.
Neither I of them. Here is their comment:-

“We read this aloud to each other sitting outside in our garden on a Saturday in San Francisco, and it transported us to a different place and time, which we felt connected to - in big and small ways, like the paranthas with white makhaan and lassi that Dadu had every morning for breakfast and our Dadi's stories about Biji and the family. Thank you so much for writing this, allowing us to imagine so vividly the city, the house, the river by which our family grew up. We would love to read more and also to come meet you next time we are in Delhi. All the best. -- Janum and Umrao (Nath’s granddaughters)”

Their emotional comment filled a vacuum left in my life by passing away of my brother, Nath Bhaji.

Then the comments started pouring in from all over the world in response to my blog post about my birth place My Memories of Lyallpur.

Even after seven years, the internet blog post still keeps attracting people looking to find relationship with the loved ones of the past.

The latest such googler is Dr. Anjali Roy, Professor, Department of Humanities & Social sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. She managed to unearth me recently and sent me an email:-

From: Dr. Anjali Roy
Date: 09-Mar-2019 12:19 AM
Subject: Re: LYALLPUR
Dear Mr. Sethi
I have been following your blog and all the comments on it, including Mr. Sangat Singh's, for several years. I will write to him and meet you next time I am in Delhi because my father's memories closely intersect with yours.
He was also in DAV school and my grandfather owned a shop in Rail Bazaar, Lyallpur.
Warm regards.
Anjali

Now Anjali is the latest entry to my Internet friendship circle. Read all about it later.

 

Prologue

Some people advise you,if you are not a Net user, to experience the thrill of using it, the chance of meeting hundreds of people all over the world, unknown to you otherwise … instantly! Intimately! And see what you have been missing.

There are others who caution you to avoid the internet like a plague because what you write on your smart phone or laptop or pen down your blogs is floating on the cloud for anyone to see, read for eternity. Try all possible tricks but you can’t delete it.

Such people frighten you with the unknown consequences that geeks over the world can misuse this information and create huge problem for you, the net user!

Their words of caution frighten the pants off you, and if you are the type who gives into their advice, you switch off the internet into a coffin and lay to rest forever. (RIP)

But is it really that scary that you stop interacting with the unknown? Otherwise so easily and readily approachable throughout the world? And all those millions, as eagerly, waiting to meet you there.

My own experiment with the net is good; quite pleasant and rewarding in some ways.

Being a retired man of almost 88 years, and unfortunately, not gainfully employed to keep busy, though quite healthy, Internet is almost like a boon to keep me mentally occupied, rather than just getting into the way of other usefully occupied family members. And become nuisance to them.
I start with two “quotes” about internet, searched and copied from Google. These two quotes reflect correctly my urge to go on the internet and expose myself to world at large.
They both apply to me and I will tell you how: Then you tell me!

 

First Quote

“Some people put their work on the Internet and check every day how many people look, how many people made contact and made comments….”

YES! I am now one of those people, belonging to the above quote, who eagerly waits to see if anyone has read my blog, and made any connection and comment.

It gives me great satisfaction to feel that there are other people, with time to surf the net and find you there; not only find you but also talk to you through their comments, mostly appreciative, posted to your blog.

I have, I can say, “NET-MET” number of people from all over the world, and few of them have become almost lifelong friends, with common heritage and interests, though I never met them, person to person. And some turned out to be long lost neighbors from childhood days.

My Net-Blogs that have been read, and have generated good number of comments from all over, fall in two categories:-
The first are those that relate to my own memories of my childhood, family member, and journey through life of eight decades.
The second ones register my impressions of the places we visited during our short annual “holiday travels with family”.
There are a few more, yet being debated, whether they should be “netted “in the public domain or not?

The public domain blogs are on three web sites that are run by people, who have now become friends. These three web sites are:

1. www.indiaofthepast.org

Subodh Mathur

Subodh Mathur

Managed by Subodh Mathur, originally from Alwar, an MIT Economist, in Washington DC.

Search for Jatinder Sethi to see all my blogs.

It is because of Subodh Mathur, who spent lot of his time and effort, to create this happy encounter through his web site that publishes stories that are over 50 years old. He himself has since then become important part of our Net Hoopla-Hoop; in spite of his other important functions.

His web site has become a beehive attracting bees like me to deposit our memorabilia for eternity.

 

2. www.apnaorg.com
APNA stands for Academy of Punjab in North America. Also in Washington DC. (Search under Research Papers for my blog post about the last days of life of the His Highness Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala.

 

3. www.ghumakkar.com

Nandan Jha

Nandan Jha

This very popular travel site is managed by Nandan Jha, Noida, India.

Search under “Authors“ for Jatinder Sethi for 12 travel impressions of mine that you can read, and still post your comments.

I was one of the earliest and, perhaps, the oldest contributors to Nandan's web site. As I don’t do much travelling around now, my contribution to www.ghumakkar.com is now limited to posting comments on other people’s travelogues.

Nandan is now a globe trotter, yet we keep in touch as friends, in spite of the huge age difference.

 

I am like those people, who otherwise remain unknown to the world, and look for some recognition and appreciation, to get the feel of self-importance; no matter if it’s a false one! It provides one the emotional safety net, as my case shows.

The kind of response to my very first blog post that I got and even today keep getting after seven years from all over the world is overwhelming, very humbling, satisfying; and ego boosting.

You can see the responses,from all over the world, if you go to www.indiaofthepast.org: My Memories of Lyallpur, and other blog posts of my memorabilia. Makes you feel important.

This is about the first part of the quote referred to in the beginning and it fits me like the computer virus ILOVEYOU “--- one of the most virulent computer viruses ever created and it's not hard to see why”.

Second quote

”Internet friends are the best friends.”

This second quote is also true as far as my life is concerned.

Many years ago, I read a book ”Who Will Cry When You Die?” by Canadian author Robin Sharma and it made me realize that I did not have any friends, except for a few family members, in answer to Robin Sharma’s question. And honestly, it made me shiver with this realization of being friendless in the world. Now its too late to create friendship; a few aquantances, yes, but “friends in need?”

None. In 88 years of life!

Internet is the “magic” that has partially filled this vacuum, and saved me from becoming a victim of depression;by giving me few people,who I can call my ”best friends” spread over the globe, though I've never met them face-to-face.

They are now like a close family group.With all secrerts & memories shared togather almost daily - exchanging news, views, photos, blogs of interest to each other. Along with the internet, the smartphone has helped to tie the ”Friendship Bands” among ourselves, permanently.

Life-long friends found on the Internet

These are the people who first came in contact with me after accidentally getting exposed to my circa 2012 blog post My Memories of Lyallpur, my birthplace, in Undivided India (as the Indian Passport office likes to record). Now I can call them my “best friends”.

 

1. Krishan Kamra, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Krishan Kamra with his wife, Ardis.

Krishan Kamra with his wife, Ardis.

Krishan was the first person who got in touch with me after reading the Lyallpur blog post on indiaofthepast.org. Unfortunately his email, and original comment, has been misplaced or deleted, but I recall part of what he wrote.

As it turned out Krishan also belonged to Lyallpur and studied in the same Arya School where I was a student. He was two years senior to me and the class-fellow of my elder brother, Satinder. Our families, both Arya Samaji, knew each other. His father was a Professor in Lyallpur Agriculture College, where my other elder brother, Prem Bhaji (later on spirtual head of Shri Ram Shernam, Delhi) was a student of M.Sc. (Agri.)

Krishan recalled how his family also used to have the picnic on the Lyallpur Chenab Canal, along with us, during the rainy season… ”making ice cream with the old hand-grinding machine, and having canal-cooled mangoes and hot maal puas (pancakes served as a dessert).

Like my father, his father also used to give about 10 boris (sacks) of first new crop of wheat from their land to the orphanage in our Arya Samaaj School where we all were students under the Headmaster Shri Ram Lal Sapra in circa 1930s and '40s.

His story of Partition was that his father, after leaving Lyallpur, collected whatever money he had, and sent Krishan to Edmonton (in 1948) to study engineering. Since then (from 1948, at the age of 19), Krishan settled down there, and till today lives there with his family. He celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary a few years ago.

Krishan, while a student,was given a job to haul books in the new library and deliver them to the student librarian who was a local girl. Krishan, like the old Hindi film hero Rajinder Kumar, fell in love with that girl, and started hauling books faster to her so as to see her and be near her as often as possible. The young female studen librarian, called Ardis, also started flirting with Krishan and fell in love with him. After a long romance and overcoming the cultural differences, the girl’s parents agreed to their marriage.

Krtishan’s wife, Ardis, is the granddaughter of a past Prime Minister of Alberta. You can google “Romance of Libraries” to read all about them.

(I have my own similar “Love Story” of our college days of Delhi University circa 1956/57 but no permission from my life partner of 63 years to put that photo blog in the public domain. Yet.)

Another interesting point is that my blog post of Lyallpur was seen by Krishan’s daughter, Kerry Kamra, who read about Lyallpur and got her dad to read it. Since then, we are in touch with each other on all important dates, like birthdays and anniverseries. We are now known as “Lyallpuri friends”.

 

2. Sangat Singh, Kaula Lumpur

Sangat Singh

Sangat Singh

Sangat, as it happened, turned out to be also from Lyallpur, and almost a neigbour of mine, and my age. I don’t know how he found out about my blog post of Lyallpur, but got in touch with me through Subodh Mathur who was managing the site indiaofthepast.org that had also published my Lyallpur blog post.

Born in 1933 in Dijkot, a small hamlet in district Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), Sangat Singh, as he says, came after about eight attempts, including miscarriages. He grew up in Lyallpur as a pampered child. At the age of five, he was sent to nearby one-roomed primary school where Spartan old Jute Hessian bags (boriyan) were used for mats. (I studied there.)

He refused to study there and was enrolled in Sacred Heart Convent School for the next 9 years. After getting his college degree in India, he moved to Singapore in 1954, and then to Malaysia in 1957, where, now a retired plantation manager, he lives with his wife. 

My Memories of Lyallpur was published on the web in 2012. In June 2016, Sangat Singh read the story and wrote an emotional comment on it on the website. This has led to an ongoing electronic exchange and friendship between us.

I have collated them into a sort of dialogue-story.

---------
Sangat: June 7, 2016 (First Comment on www.indiaofthepast.org) (unknown to each other, then)
“My God. You have no idea how I have searched to find your [Jatinder Sethi's] e-mail address. Even wrote to APNA without success.

I was born in Lyallpur in 1933. I have needless to say a lot of delicious memories of Lyallpur and a lot more details to add to your affectionate recap of our beloved Lyallpur. My father had a shop at the corner of Gole Bazaar just next to Dr. Chaman Lal's dispensary and next to Bhagat Ram Sawhney's office and home. His son Ravi was my friend.

Our shop was just in Cooperative Bank building next to the vegetable stall, and also a Mochi (cobbler) used to sit.

I have some special feelings for Lat Photo where I forcibly attached myself to learn developing and printing and enlarging skill.

I studied at the Convent School and then entered MB School for my 9th class. Master Avatar Singh was my Chemistry teacher.

We lived in Walkila da mohalla next to Zail Ghar and shared a common wall with Pandi Wakil (lawyer) whose house was opposite the small Kasi and a small bridge.

Please give your e-mail address as I have a lot more grist and wonderful and nostalgic recant to add to your post of Lyallpur.

As a lout, I knew every inch of Lyallpur and would be happy to supply you some missing bits, like for example Grand Hotel next to Ghanta Ghar who baked breads as well make us the most divine Cream Horns. The owner's wife was an English Doctor and had their Bungalow next to Coronation Library and near the Ladies Garden.

Jatinder Ji, we may have played together.

With much affection,”
Sangat

---------
Jatinder: June 7, 2016 (Comment on www.indiaofthepast.org)

Dear Sangat,
Thanks to Subodh that even after years, I still keep getting replies to my Lyallpur blog. And meet friends like you.

---------
Sangat: June 8, 2016 (Comment on www.indiaofthepast.org)

Dear Jatinder, how very nice to connect with you and finding like a long lost relative. I was actually born in Dichkot but moved to Diglespura. Our house was the corner lot on the left as you entered from Jhang Bazar. At the end was a one roomed Babu Sant Ram's Gurdwara. I used to walk there as I was allowed to man the 'Jora Ghar.' My only problem was to remember if the number was for the upper or lower shoe hole.

Let's walk the Ketchery Road and come to the Mochi on the left side. That's where all shoes were made. Next to it was Dr. P.N. Dhody's Dental practice. His son Mohan was my classmate at the Convent.

No one else mentioned about the Grain Elevator but you where we used to play often. Then there was my friend Mugis whose family owned Sheikha de Mill and among the few to own a couple of cars. On the right hand side was S. Sant Singh Vakil and lived in his 'white house'.

Continuing on the left side was Pitman Commercial College teaching touch typing. I got myself enrolled and learned touch typing at the age of about 12. At the end was a 'Pasari di dukan' who used to act as Hanuman during Diwali.

Entering the Gurdwara Gali there was another lawyer's house I forget his name but remember the son as Mota Inder. I am sure you would remember him too. Next was another photographer who had a motor cycle with a side car. Next to it was Mehta Shop - sold some fancy stuff which we couldn't afford. That was opposite the ASCO Museum.

You mentioned Janj Ghar. It was built by my wife's family Piar Singh Jawaher Singh, the leading textile merchants in Lyallpur, and favorite of all ladies for their dresses. I suspect this comment is long enough and hope it passes Subodh Ji's muster. Well, there are still 7 more Bazaars to go. Sangat.

Jatinder and I lived may be less than 100 yards away but never had a chance to meet each other. It was this piece that brought us together like lost relatives during the partition with heart breaking tales.

Sangat

---------
Sangat: June 10, 2016 (email to Jatinder Sethi)

Jatinder Ji,

Sangat Singh in his youth.

Sangat Singh in his youth.

First of all, we both are perhaps just months apart in birth. I was born on 18th April, 1933. Again, all dates are approximate and sometimes matched with the situational requirements, in train, in school, sometimes marriage.

When I asked from my eldest sister Bhenji Amar about the year of my birth, as my mother had passed away, the standard answer would be when so and so gave birth and took bath after 14 days you were born.

There was of course no dearth of births (I could make it more interesting if said in Punjabi). Looks like that ritual bath was the benchmark.

It was the time of WW II - no medicines were available in the hospital. You might remember the Government Hospital near Minerva Cinema, also next to the Mandi. The gruff shouting doctor was one Dr. Chabil Dass.

One morning, I didn't want to go to school; I wanted to be near mother. But my father persuaded me to go to school. Just a couple of hours later, my brother in law (Jija Ji) came on his bicycle, and told me to get back to the house immediately. He then went to Government High School for girls to take my Bhenji Pritam, who was then in her 10th class, likewise to go home.

When I arrived, my mother had passed away. But the moment I got near her bed, she stated to breathe for perhaps 10 seconds. She waited for me. I was the first born son after the birth of perhaps 8 sisters.

Why was I named Sangat Singh is a story for another time.

Bhenji Amar was married in Kamalia and was living there. Being the eldest, she shifted to Lyallpur and became the mother I knew.

(I think readers will enjoy reading the life of this great Ham–Radio Operator, Rubber-Plantation –Manager on indiaofthepast.org: A Plantation Manager in Malaysia.)

 

3. Gurvinder Khaneja, New Jersey

Gurvinder Khaneja

Gurvinder Khaneja

Another friend I made on intenet is Gurvinder (more of my sons’ age) in New Jersey, whose mother used to go to the same Gurudwara in Lyallpur where my mother went.

Gurvinder (from Bergan County of New Jersey) read my blog and wrote more than three years ago, and since then she has become part of the loop of Jatinder, Sangat, Joginder and Subodh. Friendship for ever. Here is her first contact with me via internet and my blog post published in 2012.

2015-06-03
Hi, My name is Gurvinder and I am currently in USA. This was a very nostalgic piece. Only tears flowed. Read it once, twice and thrice, and continue to hold it as a precious piece of publication.

I was born in Delhi to my parents who were born in Pakistan but migrated to India with 2 little children. Dad was from Jhang-Maghiana from a famous Khanijo family of surgeons and bhaiji's in gurdwara. Mom was from bagh village some 6 miles from Jhang on Toba Tek Singh road. They got married in 1940's and they made their first house in Lyallpur.

Mom used to proudly tell us how beautiful Lyallpur was - how modern it was and so on. They lived in Douglaspura (she use to call it Diglispura) in an apartment I think.

My dad Jiwan Singh was a hockey player and a pharmacist by profession. His wonderful stories of swimming in Chenab with his cousins always amused us.

Both are not in this world anymore but your story got me closer to their lives that I did not know. Dad died in 1970 while I was in 5th grade but mom was in US with me and passed on in 2011. I felt I knew nothing of where they came from - my proud Jhangi parents - but you gave me an insight of that time and all I could do was to bless you, thank you and cry some more. Finally, I knew my roots…….

Here is another comment from this friend, Gurvinder, that shows our life in Lyallpur:

Thanks for your email jatinderji I am in New Jersey as well, though I am attending a conference in Ashville, NC right now.

I remember dad saying that they tied mangoes in a bag and floated them in Chenab so that they were cold and ready as all his cousins came out of water after a good swim with him. It seems jatinderji's mother and my mother shared something in common- the fact that both went to the same gurdwara is really touching. It gives me goose bumps thinking about that.

As you said we are all connected and it is amazing that we are sharing the memories of past. I also read the novel "The fine family" by Gurucharan Das after reading your article. One of the people cited in the book as Des Raj was a friend of my dad and tayaji and the family. He lived in paharganj Delhi and we are from Karol bagh Delhi.

I also remember that once in India dad used to participate in jhang association run by people of jhang/lyallpur area. I myself would love to visit lyallpur/jhang to see my roots. I will definitely read your blogs and I will try and write something based on the memories of my dearest parents.

Touching your feet to seek blessings jatinderji
Gurvinder Khaneja

There are regular mails from Gurvinder that show the kind of friendly and creative person Gurvinder is. Gurvinder now is part of this friendship circle.

 

4. Dr. Joginger Singh Anand, England (Blightywallay)

Dr. Joginger Singh Anand

Dr. Joginger Singh Anand

Before I switch off my internet connection, here is another, long lost Punjabi friend, I found, thanks to the internet and the web (courtesy: Tim Berners-Lee). He's a real Punjabi from Punjab… now in Blighty forever.

Dr. Joginder Singh Anand, who is settled down for life in what he calls Blighty.

Joginger read my blog and wrote a brief comment (dated 2015-05-06) to which I replied. And that started the exchange of mails between us. Here is his comment to my blog that created this net link between us. Since then, there is hardly a day that goes without exchange of mails.

“Dear Sethi Sahib 2015.05.06

I know nothing of Lyallpur except that friend of mine (a Wadhwa) and his family were evacuated by an IAF Dakota. Not much room. So, no seats. But at least they reached India alive. I have Sethi relatives but they are not Lyallpuris. They are from Sargodha district. A cousin of my father, I think he was a Chandhiok was in Lyallpur pre 1947.

Thank you and best wishes.
JOGINDER”

Joginder landed in London few months after us, my wife and me, disembarked at the Victoria Station, in the month of October 1958. Whereas we decided to come back to India, he chose to marry and continue his practice there. He also has his connection with Lyallpur through his parents, though he is more a Lahori than Lyallpuri. We never knew each other while in England.

The loving personality of the man, who has become one of the best friends of my life, is revealed in his own words, in his own inimitable Punjabi style, in spite of the fact he is settled in England since 1959. And loves Germany.

Comments

Interesting. I am just turning 40, but even 20-25 years ago if you met someone from your hometown there used to be an automatic connect and invariably an invitation to tea or coffee. If it was a shopkeeper, you were likely to be offered campa cola or Thums up! Things feel different now.

Good that you have found friends via the internet with whom you share a sense of hometown connection.

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