A Netizen’s Guide To Keeping Up With The Digital Zeitgeist
A month ago, I spent the better part of my Sunday morning frantically Just Dialing forex dealers all over the city hoping they would supply me with dollars. After forgetting to arrange for foreign currency, and with a flight to catch in less than 12 hours, I knew I should’ve downloaded Google Keep and made that to-do list. A dozen unanswered calls later, two options surfaced: an inconvenient trek to a dingy shop in Mahakali Caves (that doesn’t even show up on Google Maps) or exchange at the airport — the unspoken plan Z, because you don’t exchange money there unless you are absolutely helpless.
A good four hours later, I was only mildly surprised to find that even dollars could be home-delivered; because if Scootsy can send condoms, speed boat tickets and purple corn (as told to me by co-founder Sandeep Das), then this is no big feat. Not trying to steal their thunder, BookMyForex, an online service dashed to my rescue, and even gave me a competitive rate.
In the middle of this discovery, I found that the results of a random Google search for ‘Book My…’ will feature ticketing giant BookMyShow in the top spot, with BookMyFlight being a close second, and the newest entry in third place is a demonetisation-friendly startup called BookMyChotu. On further snooping, I learned that this service, based out of Delhi, lets you hire errand boys to stand in queues outside banks and ATMs so that you don’t have to! Another potentially revolutionary portal I came across was Online Prasad. ‘I just got prasad delivered from a temple in Thiruvananthapuram for my grandmother’s 97th birthday’. A friend raved about it on Twitter and ended her tweet with ‘#Slay’ (slang for success) which I felt was fairly appropriate, considering that they even ship golden Shiva posters from over 100 temples in India and accept cash on delivery!
Remember when Monopoly Electronic Banking seemed revolutionary? Maybe you even jumped at the idea of not having to use mental maths for the last thing that really required it. In reality, the transition from paper money to plastic and then no money at all happened as Hemingway would put it, ‘two ways: gradually, then suddenly.’
Big players like restaurant listing app Zomato, travel service Make My Trip or e-commerce sites like Myntra, Jabong and Amazon are probably considered ancient now. It’s the new crop of apps and websites based on very specific consumer needs that are taking over. Last week, I attempted a no-bake crème brûlée where the primary ingredient was heavy cream. None of the supermarkets around town seemed to stock it, and I eventually ended up mixing milk with butter as per one highly-rated suggestion on Quora. The end result was a sugary soup far from the French dessert. In my second attempt, I was hell-bent on sticking to the original ingredients. This time, in exactly 0.002 seconds Google listed out five different online grocery stores that were willing to deliver all sorts of cream that very day! Whereas Amazon Prime will take 24 hours to send across items with an added charge, there’s Foodesto, Big Basket (that even Shah Rukh Khan claims to love), Zopnow, Grofers and more, who deliver in barely three hours.
And if you want to get even more specific, there is Place of Origin — another website that supplies popular Indian sweets and confectioneries to your doorstep: gajak from Indore, seasonal pickles from Rajastan, Shrewsbury biscuits from Pune, orange burfi from Nagpur. For other things, there’s Russsh — a service that helps pick-and-drop packages, and even offers to run daily chores. In August 2016, Scootsy hand-delivered 2,053 copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to impatient fans across the city (saving us all the trouble of standing outside Crosswords battling it out with fifth graders). This wonderful level of convenience has spread its tentacles into the corners of everyday life. So last weekend when a friend of mine asked me to accompany her house hunting, I suggested we just log onto housing.com, while sitting in our respective homes. An exhaustive list of available apartments in the city comes with brightly lit images to match, and we ended up exchanging links and rating listings without moving a limb. This was followed by a twinge of déjà vu, to Pixar’s Wall E and its slapstick rendition of future humans as super obese couch potatoes.
We’ve completely sidelined our father’s visions of the great Indian dream (that includes no less than two fancy cars and owning your own home). Instead, young India cannot wait to try Uber’s private jet facility. With the ‘share a ride’ option and a winning promise to arrive in less than 30 minutes, this means we could actually fly to a bistro in Lyon, a comic con in Japan, and finally to the darker recesses of suburban Mumbai.
This bizarre devotion to ‘instant gratification’ has presented itself in several outlets to all-accepting netizens such as myself. As I enjoy the perks of the Prime Minister’s ‘Digital India’ project and the booming startup culture, it is relieving to know that one can find everything one needs online; including a Tinder boyfriend and 25 ways to Netflix-and-chill with him.