Words are worth a thousand photographs

I bought a new 16Gb iPhone recently. As anyone who has ever owned an iAnything would tell you, that’s a bad idea. Because not only does 16Gb mean 11Gb, 11Gb actually means 2–3 Gb once you are done with the basic set of apps (including those memory hogging monsters — FB & WhatsApp. No wonder one ate up the other)

So why did I — a long-time, self-confessed Apptard — make such a rookie mistake? Well, the one word answer, is Google. The 5 word answer, is Google Photos & Google Drive. I figured that if I could fit my apps in 10gb, I didn’t really need anymore space. Google was offering, rather imploring me, to save all my memories, in whatever form, on it’s cloud. Free. Forever.

If I didn’t know better (do I?), I’d say this was Google using it’s muscle to stop Apple from up-selling to higher memory variants. How else could one justify (or turn down) this offer! This is the kind of shit that makes you believe that maybe, someday, you’ll actually pick up that hot chick from the bar. Not just that. When you reach the hotel and hurriedly thrust your credit card in the receptionist’s face, imploring her to make it quick lest the lady get sober, the attendant would tell you that the room’s for free. No charge. All they’d need in return was 20 minutes to go through your bag and decode your childhood issues looking at your underwear brand choice, and they’d call it square.

Apparently, that’s the play. The good folks at the valley, it seems, are so desperate to know what I did last summer (allegedly to predict what I’ll do next summer, including where, how, with whom, to whom, on what airlines and using which credit card), that they’re willing to offer me unlimited free storage for every piece of forgotten garbage that I’d never need.

On a side note — I feel the time of the average folks has finally arrived. Folks like me who’ve lived largely unremarkable lives. Folks with small closets that can’t fit many skeletons. Folks who’d happily let you look into their closet if you’re offering an ever expanding, never ending wardrobe in return!

So anyway. Point being- I happily whored out my entire personal history in exchange for free storage. Didn’t think twice.

Thence began the long, arduous process of Google figuring out what a bad deal it had struck. 15436 photos and a few hundred videos started uploading to the cloud, and I went into total recall mode as long forgotten memories started flashing by me. The euro trip, the euro road trip, Vegas, the wedding, the honeymoon, the friends wedding, the cousins wedding — all of it neatly wrapped and packaged into tiny albums courtesy Google. It was fun, remembering all these ‘lost’ moments — moments that one generally wouldn’t get time to pause and revisit.

I did that for about an hour, before I realized that this would take a while. Google quantified ‘a while’ as 5 hours. So I pulled myself out of nostalgia mode and walked over to the cafe to catch up on some weekend writing.

But nostalgia mode is like the Apple ecosystem. Easy to enter. Extremely hard to get out of. Which meant that as soon as I setup my iPad, I felt this sudden urge to read my old works.

And thus began the second trip down memory lane. Those first two dark, murder-mystery wrapped, love-stories. Decent plots, juvenile writing and the eerily vivid pain of her rejection. Then a few play-scripts, and reliving a time when theatre had become both my escape and my identity. Then that long period of long travels across India, on job-training. My lively salesmen, Rajasthan roadways buses, daal-baati laal-maas, that first salary, that feeling of freedom, of living it up in Mumbai, of being humbled while traveling in the rural hinterland, of inadvertently writing a half-decent travel blog in the process. Then there were the long e-mails written by an excited pup on his first job, the preachy blogposts on starting-up by a dreamy-eyed entrepreneur, the preachy blogposts on slowing-down by a recently disillusioned entrepreneur — and peeking out from behind all that -a whole lifetime lived through words.

Several hours came and went by. Google was almost done backing up my entire life. But somehow now, it didn’t feel so important to have all those photographs safely stowed away.

We don’t just see moments. We live them. Photos capture just what we saw. Videos add another dimension. But nothing captures what you were living through back then, like writing does. It’s captured in the topics you wrote about, the person you wrote-in, the length of your posts and the tone of your voice. And it captures how you were feeling, what you were reading, who you were seeing and who you were being.

It would take a lot of photos to recreate memories in that detail. Maybe Google can say how many.

PS: I love the idea of ‘the cloud’. I like imagining my words and thoughts floating up there, somewhere.

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