A very dear American female friend of mine wrote me a letter last week where she wrote, obviously in great anguish, “There comes a point my friend where Facebook becomes a kind of false community and if we don’t tend to our day to day lives it is for naught what rapport we develop here. I believe you understand all this.” I perfectly understood her. She was at the moment at a cross road in her life where she could just sense her calling in life from deep inside her but her road ahead led into an uncharted territoty, she had very few examples before her there. She is a pioneer. Personally to me what a great friend, supporter, inspirer and confidant she has been ! She had faith in me when I didn’t, she could see good qualities in me when I couldn’t! A few women of the west like her made me what I am today. All credits go to them. Just like what Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, “ We were men of clay, Gandhiji made us into what we are today. All credits go to him only.” So naturally I shared her anguish, felt her pain and wished sincerely that I could be with her to hold her in a very loving, accepting and allowing space. I don’t hold her to blame or criticism either for calling Facebook community a “false community” because who could understand FB better than her? In her hand FB has become an instrument of change to many, including this writer. And the qualifying clause of her sentence tells it all,”If we don’t tend to our day to day lives it is for nothing what rapport we develop here.” How true! Facebook has meaning if only we have kept our day today life unaffected and have got all our acts together and in shape. Any imbalance in any sphere of our activities, whether be it domestic or work or social, is bound to affect our dearly cherished social networking, viewing, sharing, exchanging and interacting experience, the one experience we have chosen out of our freedom only. In all others we have very little options. In a sense this is sacred to us, like our friendship. But, if only we are able to “ tend to our day to day lives” satisfactorily, specially for people whose lives involve us or who are dependent on us.

My friend, my muse, my philosopher, my supporter through thick and thin, Carmen Penteck writes in one of her observations, oh how full of brilliant, insightful observations she has been,” For a simple activity like viewing Facebook, I need a lot of things. 1) I need a house to live in and a computer to place somewhere safely in it. 2) I need to have food in my fridge to eat from time to time. 3) I need a supporting environment to concentrate into whatever I am viewing or sharing.4) I need a constant source of income to pay my bills etc.” How true! If only I could tend to all these needs then my viewing experience of FB would be possible and may even be rewarding. Then I won’t have to call FB community “a false community” because I won’t be needing anything from any of my friends other than simple sharing of each other’s thoughts and experiences. It is our expectations from others, especially in the physical shape, like expecting others to donate for me, or expecting people to buy my books or attend my talks or satsangs or even expecting people to read all that I tag them or send them; these create strain in our sacred relationship. I call it “sacred” because I take my friendship in the virtual space that way, uncontaminated by any physical considerations whatsoever. I would rather prefer to die than beg any of my friends here of anything material. Their sharing, and what incredible sharing experience the past year and a half has been to me, is enough for me. I have not a single friend from my real life here, for they don’t understand my joy at “whiling away” my time and energy in a completely unremunerative medium. Yet it has been a fact for me that none of them is so dear to me as some of my western friends in FB whom I have never met in person nor I find any possibility of meeting them ever, considering my hermit like living in a 20 feet by fifteen feet hall with my family and my extreme reluctance to travel outside just fifty miles radius of the place I have been living for the last forty years.

When I was eighteen, I came across a line in my History of English literature book about Jane Austen, my favorite novelist then. It read, ” Jane Austen, never travelled more than fifty miles from the place she was born and lived there till her last. Yet she knew every detail, every person in that small place. Her novels bear testimony to her acute observations and superb wit”. That became my motto too. To me this virtual community, where sharing is the rule and just keeping everything to oneself is the exception, is the real community. I doubt if, my female friend of USA who shared with me her anguish, had shared such inmost thoughts to any of her real life friend. I too share many thoughts here which I have never shared with any of my real life friends. So I wonder which is the real and which one is the false community. Of course, if I am unable “to tend to my day to day life” then both the communities will be false communities for me. In that case the communities have not failed me, I have failed in both of them.

I remember one famous quotation. It says,”Your true kins don’t always live under the same roof. You may find some even at the other end of the world.” That is what I have been doing here in FB. I have been searching my true kins. Carmen, Julia,Shad, Grace Mendoza, Grace Ana Kenneally, Susan, Robin, Steven Steensel, Gopalakrishnan, Bill, Adriana,Jill, Janine, Russie, Unity, Bonnie, Shira,Santosh,Irene, Barbara, Liz,Anthony, Fred, Mark, Alan, Hilary,Mary, Joy, Georgia, Donna, Bhawani and many many more whom I cannot name here for paucity of space are my true kins and I am grateful to FB for helping me find them. They have made me into what I am now, otherwise I too was “a man of clay”, timid and totally lacking in confidence. I was like an empty sack, unable to even support or stand for myself. When these friends held me in their loving embrace, in their hearts full of loving space and presence, I was transformed and found my original face, my own voice and stood erect. The result has been tremendous. Last week, this timid man, this former empty sack, took a lion, all alone by myself, in his own lair and grappled with him holding firmly his mane and beard and forced him to lie low as I wanted him to do. I cornered my boss. In a large Govt. organization where three thousand employees like me work, where even to meet my boss I have to take appointment at least three days prior to the event, and that too if I have sufficient reason to justify myself, I forced him to change his earlier decision which was going to hit an innocent man so hard financially that he won’t have recovered in his life time, his family would have been ruined. I wrote him a four page note the like of which he had never seen in his life nor anyone of his staff had ever dared to write before and he had to rescind his earlier decision, against his will. The writing of the note, which he termed as “Mr Mangaraj’s surprising outburst” was no doubt inspired by my writing in Facebook which taught me to write about things that moved me deeply inside. People say art imitates life, but this one is an example of life imitating art. My life has been deeply affected by this wonderfully supporting and sharing Facebook community.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
Richard Bach in Illusions

I am grateful to all those who have chosen to communicate or share anything with me, that includes all those who were once friends, even close friends, but subsequently chose to, for some reasons best known to them, defriend me. But even after severence of all communications, how can they take leave from my heart ? They may refuse to recognize me, but do I not know who they really are ? They are my true kins. Myself in so many forms and names. I have defriended none. But I respect them who have defriended me, as they have done their work on me and for me. As someone said,” People come to your life for a reason or for a season; some even stay for long with you. But You will always find the right people for you with you.” Or as Byron Katie says,”Everything happens for you but not to you.”