Sick of wrongly attributed motivational messages, today morning I posted one for my close relatives on the social media application, WhatsApp. My message had the photograph of Abraham Lincoln with a mobile phone in his hand, stating, 'The problem with quotes on the internet is that no one can confirm their authenticity.' Considering that the recipients included some very active contributors to the group, I had hoped for some reaction.
No one reacted.
My brother, then a big shot in a petroleum behemoth, wrote a thriller four years ago. The modestly priced English novel was available for sale on Amazon. He ran campaigns on social media about it. Counting on his colleagues, friends and relatives, I assumed at least a hundred copies to be sold. I was wrong in my assumption – very few copies were sold. His other novel, a social drama in Hindi, suffered a similar fate.
Last year, I compiled a collection of short stories written by my father, an award winning author. My friends and close relatives were very excited about it, some being 'unable to wait for the release' of the anthology. Moving with the times, I got a soft version of the book published, available for download at Rs. 200. In the six months since its publication, three friends have downloaded it; relatives have stopped talking about it.
My stories and poems are regularly published on internet magazines and newspapers. A year back I used to share the links with all my relatives and friends. Not any more, after I realised that most do not share their views even if they read the piece.
I can understand reluctance in shelling out money to buy a literary work, but what I fail to crack is the secret behind the silence on material made available without any expense. What is it that propagates a barrage of dubious forwarded messages but stems the expression of one's personal opinion? Are we becoming too lethargic to think on our own? Can we think but are no longer able to express ourselves in words? Are we witnessing the onset of intellectual paralysis?