“Hey, Grandma!” I called out, after unlocking the front door to my house and dropping my heavy, textbook-laden backpack with a groan.
“Hi, Serah-baby,” I heard her voice respond cheerfully in return from the dining room.
Slightly surprised my grandmother hadn’t come to the door to greet me as she usually did when I returned home from school, I peered around the corner and stopped, staring blankly at the sight of Grandma perched on a chair by the dining table, my old pink laptop open in front of her.
Huh, I thought. Perhaps she wanted me to search something up for her online…or maybe even teach her how to type on the keyboard? It had to be something like that. I inwardly sighed as I glanced back at my half-open back-pack and all that math homework I had yet to complete.
As I entered the adjoining kitchen, dropping my lunch-bag on the counter, she didn’t even look at me for a second, her spectacled gaze fixed upon the little screen before her; I could now discern moving images reflected upon her glasses and hear soft music. I frowned in complete bemusement.
“Grandma…what’re you doing?” I asked carefully.
Not missing a beat, yet still fixated upon my laptop screen, she responded in an off-handed tone: “Oh, I’m watching YouTube.”
Finally fed up with her grandchildren’s excuses of being “too busy” to teach her how, (I sheepishly grin), my South-Indian, 75-year-old grandmother had taken it upon herself to explore the inner workings of the Net for herself.
Watching her daily Tamil live mass on anbolitv.net and observing how I could simply type in a question on Google Search and retrieve an answer in less than a minute, naturally she’d become curious as to how the whole thing worked. So she had decided to learn how to use the mouse and keyboard by herself and very slowly, but carefully, she had managed to find her own answers. And as I had, multiple times previously, put on a playlist of Indian songs for her on YouTube when she was bored, she had now obviously done the same for herself. And like any innocent individual who begins to watch one YouTube video with the intentions of that being the last, it takes only one catchy title and intriguing thumbnail to grab the viewer’s attention and they are then lost in a YouTube binge-watching spree. Such was the case with Grandma, who went from a song, to a movie trailer, to a movie review, to an interview with the lead actors…and so on and so forth until she went to take her customary afternoon nap.
Now, after a few months of this, my Dad decided the natural course of action was to get Grandma a device of her own. Not only was my grandmother a proud and avid user of the Internet, she also loved calling up her relatives and friends each and every day – the majority of the telephone bill probably went into her vast number of hours-long conversations – and so, it was decided that when I got my first cell phone, so would she. Thrilled with her shiny, new Samsung Galaxy 4, it only took a few weeks before she got the hang of it and was making phone calls and video calls to her heart’s content. I downloaded apps for her daily mass as well as a collection of Tamil Christian songs. Away with the old and on with the new, seemed to be her motto – the old portable CD player discarded in her drawer, dusty and unused in the wake of evolving technology. I no longer felt like the sole teenager in the house, seeing Grandma unconcernedly bring her phone to the dining table while we ate our Sunday meals as a family – and unlike me, get away with it, too. She, till today, will text her long-distance friends and family members on WhatsApp with professional ease and single-handedly make Skype video calls in order to see and coo over her new little grandchildren. On one particularly memorable occasion, I even gapingly witnessed the sight of her strutting down the hallway in her sweats, phone tucked in her pocket with her earphones plugged in, humming along to a song. The only thing missing from that picture was perhaps a Snapback and a pair of aviator sunglasses.
Less than a year after receiving her first cell phone, Grandma had yet another gift. A Samsung tablet to view all her YouTube videos, daily masses and Indian TV serials – because what self-respecting tech-savvy individual would watch such things on an itsy-bitsy cell phone screen? She now navigates the Web like a born natural, taking down notes from cooking tutorials and finding the lyrics to her new favourite song with little difficulty.
With great power, however, comes great responsibility – Grandma soon discovered the danger of viruses and malware to her precious devices and learned that with the ability to click on a link, came also the treacherous pop-ups, advertisements and undeniable lure of the “click now for your chance to win ___!” But, like any cautious Web-user – and after a stern lecture from both me and my father – she no longer allows herself to be tempted by such evils, the potential downfall of losing her beloved cell phone was evidently too great a risk.
Unlike most of her generation, my Grandma’s a strong, independent tech-savvy woman. It just goes to show how far sheer will and determination can take you – you’re never too old to learn anything if you just try.
And it’s only a matter of time, I suppose, before she sets herself up an Instagram account, too. – CINEWS
Serah is 18, just finished the IB program at Michael Power/St. Joseph HS and will be starting a Bio-technology program at UTM (UofT, Mississauga) this September. Currently she is working on some writing and video editing projects.