I haven’t written anything of substance in recent times. Doesn’t always happen. Doesn’t just happen. Very often it takes experience, and perhaps good writing comes out of agony and suffering.
Agony? Suffering? No...no, I am not talking about anything very serious. Or maybe it is. I am talking from experience about what happens when you come face to face with a computer crash, AND the possibility of losing all data.
This happened a year ago. One not out-of-the-ordinary morning, my PC refused to come on. The previous night it had happily purred to life as usual, the in the morning, when I switched it on, it showed no sign of life. None at all. Just a cold message about some error number something-or-the-other, before Windows was supposed to start. I tried again and again, and recived the same treatment. Okay, I decided, it is probably overworked and needs some rest. So I regretfully abandoned it for a while, and resisted the temptation to check my mail at the neighbour’s.
Afternoon, the same treatment.
Evening---the same cold message stared at me.
I went to bed, and woke up in cold sweat after a nightmare.
A new morning dawned, and as with all mornings, HOPE. I rushed to my computer. Error number something-or-the-other once again looked cheekily at me. Suddenly, fear. I picked up the phone and called the computer doctor. "Please, please, PLEASE...come immediately; don’t delay...I have a deadline".
The minutes and hours seemed to drag. And then he came. One look at the message, and "It looks like a...hard disk failure"...he mumbled casually as only computer docs can mumble, even while I groped for oxygen. (At that point I realised that computer doctors’ speech = human doctors’ handwriting).
And then I gathered by his actions that he needed to take my hard disk away, to test it in his office. I felt as though he was literally snatching my heart away from me. "But, but, but..." I stammered, as I asked him all the questions that came to my hysterical mind. He casually mumbled a few incoherent ‘answers.
In the days that followed, I felt as though I was down with some terrible ailment. I did not have any appetite, I couldn’t sleep, I perhaps hallucinated because all the data I had NOT backed up swam before my eyes, creating interesting shapes and colours I had never seen before. The publication with 250 graphics and near-final layouts...I had done the last backup 3 months back! And a lot had happened since. I would have to recreate all the pages from the printout I had. And then all those precious emails I had wanted to copy on to a CD, or even print out...and then, oh my god, my photos! I had not backed them up in the last six months. And I had erased everything from my camera too (why the hell did I buy a digital cam?). And then my personal folder...letters to my children, my diary...how much of me was in the little piece of metal the comp doc had casually flung into his bag...
Now I felt really sick. I called Him (henceforth ‘Him’ = comp doc). His mumble sounded like, "we are trying, madam." I tried to impress upon Him the importance of my files. They were not just personal...my computer was my professional tool, and I had deadlines. "We are trying, madam", He mumbled again, vaguely.
A week passed. I felt more and more sick and nervous. The suspense was killing. I remembered trivial stuff that was on my PC, which mattered a great deal to me. Things I had done many years ago, but never bothered to back up. Things that gave me great happiness each time I read them.
Two weeks passed, with me calling Him every two days or so, trying not to sound anxious, but gently reminding Him that it was important to recover my precious publication files. All the while I was unhappy, restless, angry, couldn’t concentrate on anything and wanted to get violent...
And then He called to mumble He was coming over and perhaps, the files could be recovered after all. Or something like that. I waited, holding my breath, pacing the floor. He did not come at the time promised. He came many hours later. I was sitting listlessly in a chair. He put the hard disk back into my PC, put it on...voila! it came on! I saw my good old screen, wall paper and all.
Visions of fire crackers in wild colours on a Deepavali night flashed in my mind’s eye, but I changed the visual from colour to b&w, told myself to wait before jumping to happy conclusions.
I’ll fast-forward here. After three or four attempts at looking normal, my PC flashed the same cruel message again. My heart sank, I lost all hope, it seemed like the end of the world.
And then suddenly it came on again...it did. The comp doc mumbled, "can you make a backup now?" I said an emphatic "yes", and quickly started backing up...when it went off yet again.
Disgust, dismay, anger...I knew the tears would come soon. I looked away. And then He mumbled, "Madam, try to back up the most important files quickly". It had come on again. I began backing up. It seemed stable, and I copied the very-important files first, and then slowly, other files. In about 2 hours, I had backed up everything. As soon as I had done this, it crashed again!
I had backed up EVERYTHING!!
Visuals of rice fields in Ghanpur, happy multi-coloured faces on holi, rustic rangoli, even tulips in the Netherlands...accompanied by sounds of birds chirping, gurgling water, and a burst of music of joy and celebration, composed by all the great musicians of the world...
I smiled a smile of relief. I wanted to give the comp doc a big hug. All was well with my world.
My virtual world.
It has been a year since this happened. I thought a great deal about what I went through. And was disgusted with myself for feeling those feelings. Even as my colleague and friend told me repeatedly, "I told you...you should back up regularly. Start doing that at least now", I came to one definite conclusion as to what I would do if this happened to me again. What do you think? Chalk out a timetable for periodical backups?
No! I decided to get philosophical about my virtual world.
If data is lost, let it go!
If photos are lost, no big deal. You do have wonderful memories of your vacation, don’t you?
Okay, you need to recreate a publication. Do it. A crash doesn’t happen every day.
You lost emails? FINE! Let them go! Don’t be too sentimental and cling on to words, that too in cyberspace. For...
When real life itself is maya...what of the virtual?
Jaane bhi do yaaron...