Clang, smash, boom! “Why does it have to be so congested?” Omi got up terrified. The room was shrouded in darkness, so dark that it appeared as if someone had poured liquid pitchblende into the room. The only light that dazzled his eyes came from a rectangular screen where his photos were arranged and several emoticons and text greeted his bewildered eyes. It was then he realised that he had fallen asleep while chatting on ‘Facebook’. But something else startled him. By the faint white and blue light coming from screen, he noticed two burly figures duelling with a lance. Omi jumped out of his bed and switched on the light. What he saw made his eyes pop out of his sockets. Was he dreaming? As a singular shriek escaped his mouth, General Edward Harry Dyer and Adolf Hitler turned towards him. So did Louis XVI and Abraham Lincoln. Omi felt the mosaic floor slip from beneath his feet. He sat with a thud on the floor. At once, Mother Teresa, came to his rescue while Raja Ram Mohan Roy watched him from a distance.
Omi started screaming hysterically, “I am getting mad!”, “Help!”, “Ghosts!”. After an unsuccessful attempt to quieten Omi, Hitler intelligently stuffed his Lufthansa embroidered handkerchief into Omi’s wide mouth. “Mmph, gaw, mggh” came Omi’s gagged response.
Clearing his throat, the dreaded ‘Fuhrer’ began, “As you know, ladies and gentlemen, this young brat here with my prized hanky in his unhallowed mouth finds himself incorrigibly addicted to Facebook – so much so, that he considers the American Revolution or the Civil War, the French Revolution, the Rise of Nazism, the Crimean War and even his country’s own ‘JalianwalaBagh Massacre’ inferior to....er..... well Facebook. He doesn’t have any regard for even the charitable work done by Mother Teresa. He sits up whole night and goggles at the blasphemous Facebook screen on Monday when he has to study us...... I mean his history book for his history test on Tuesday!”.
“He must be immediately executed in the guillotine,” chimed in Louis XVI politely.
Abraham Lincoln with his insatiable desire for knowledge said, “Calm down Hitler, I have always experienced an attraction to this Faceboook glue which adheres the young generation of today to their desktop screens. And as we have stepped back on earth today through the worm hole in the fourth dimension, I think we should try our hand at this blue and white messenger.” So, while Omi sat with a handkerchief in his mouth, the magnanimous characters of class VIII, IX and X history textbooks brought out their laptops and signed in to a world which was very different from their world of duels, battles, luxury and prattles.....so very different.
Louis XVI and Napolean Bonaparte found themselves adjusting their collars and frills and carefully parting their hair to cover the baldness just to get a few more “likes”.
General Dyer struck a few poses on Omi’s bedpost and then the window sill trying to get the perfect selfie until Hitler jumped up and pushed him off to secure the background for himself.
Then there came a groaning sound. Louis XVI in his admiration for a photo uploaded by a young lady had tried to copy her facial expression which happened to be a pout. However his old fashioned facial muscles not being used to such queer contractions and relaxations that their modern counterparts face, couldn’t revert to their normal state. For the time being, it appeared as if the mouth of the epitome of royal indulgence would be stuck forever in an unwanted pout. However a well aimed punch by Raja Ram Mohan Roy effectively relieved him from the disgraceful distortion. Louis XV could only thank him with a painful yelp.
Lincoln and Mother Teresa started on a heated argument on whose picture would look better on the social media’s global platform. In fact, they all sat addicted to that very blue and white screen they had all condemned.
Meanwhile, Omi had managed to free himself. He raced to his history book and found that the pages of History had rewritten themselves.
He opened to Chapter No. 13
American Civil War (13)
With the no “great emancipator”, there was no freedom from slavery. Suddenly in the first scarlet and saffron beam of dawn he recognised some black ‘niggers’ or slaves carrying coals outside his house.
He shrieked. He turned to Modern History. The name of Mother Teresa had just vanished from all the thirty pages he had been asked to memorise. He looked out of his window. The ‘Missionaries of Charity’, near his home had vanished. The spick and span avenue outside his home was filled on both sides by sick, diseased and the destitute people. Two lepers were lying just near his courtyard. Flies swarmed around them.
Scared out of his wits, he madly turned the pages to Indian History, With Raja Ram Mohan Roy busy in commenting on people’s posts, there was none to promulgate the anti-Sati law and save the hapless young
widows from dying a tortured death on their aged husbands’ funeral pyres. He could almost hear their pitiful cry for help as the cruel inferno consumed their innocent bodies. Did the cry sound similar to that of his sister?
He could contain himself no longer.
Omi got up and smashed the laptops in front of everybody. Immediately all these historic stalwarts disappeared in a whiff of smoke with a queer satisfied smile on their lips. Omi realised that his world has to be one without Facebook. There were millions of needy, poor, tortured and downtrodden people everywhere. He and his real friends needed to reach out to them. He needed to hold them to his heart and get the blessing of their toiled and soiled hands on his head. Surely that would make up for the hundred “likes” he would miss on Facebook.
He realised he needed to study hard, earn a living and work for the underprivileged. The battle drums of charity were ringing and beating in his heart. In the new bivouac of life that he had just envisioned, he saw how unsocial the social media had made him, how much indifferent he was to the needs of other people and how detached he was from his own parents, sister and friends.
“Thank God there was no Facebook to occupy these great men and women of history!” He wanted to go and give a hug to his parents just at that time. He realised that he would have to later explain to his teacher how his history book had become so different from the others.
Nonetheless, he was also thankful to those noble souls who brought before him a world – a good new invigorating world without Facebook.