Got a call from my aunt the other day. "Nilu, I need your help now." That's how it is with her usually - everything has to happen NOW. No matter if you are driving or cooking or taking a bath. "What is it, aunty" I ask. "I was trying to edit my contacts in Gmail and I had reached upto R and they just disappeared!!!" The last word ended on a screech. "Calm down, aunty. Start from the beginning. What happened exactly?" I ask patiently while stirring busily in the pan. Its breakfast time. Mornings on weekdays are usually rushed as both I and hubby have to get ready for office.
"Well, you see, I have a lot of email IDs of all my clients. I need to prefix their names with the names of their organizations else I keep getting confused as to which client I am dealing with. So I was trying to edit my contacts alphabetically. But as I reached the letter R, they just disappeared. I logged out and logged back in many times, but to no avail. I even rebooted my machine." My aunt runs a small business. She is a real entrepreneur, started it at the age of 43 and its running quite successfully now. And whenever you want to get successful or more visible, you gotta be online. My aunt is clearly out of depth here and relies on me, or her son, heavily for such problems.
"Ok, let me login to my computer, I'll call you back" I promise. I finish cooking and go to the study to boot up my laptop. I then ask my aunt to provide me her credentials for her gmail account. I logged in, clicked on Contacts and was able to view all her contacts. Was even able to edit some. She logged back in from her computer, but she faced the same problem. I then asked her to check the browser she was using, most difficult since she did not know what a browser was. I asked her if she was using IE (Internet Explorer). Now, in marathi, "Aai (pronounced as IE) means mother. This confused her even more. So I asked her to read the topmost line on her screen. "Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer" she read out. "Ok, now click on "Help", then "About Internet Explorer". This took a while. Finally, it turned out that she was using Version 8.0 of IE and I was using Mozilla Firefox 3.6. I quickly checked with my IE and everything was working fine. But I had IE version 6.0. (I don't use IE so often, you see).
Finally I tell her "There may be something wrong with your browser settings." Silence on the other end. "You need to change your browser and try once again." I say. My aunt gives up and says that I need to talk to her son. Soon, her son is talking with me. I explain to him that he needs to download Firefox and try to login to Gmail with that. He understands and promises to call back with the result, thank God!
Some time later, my aunt calls back jubilantly exclaiming "It WORKED!!! But how come your uncle can see HIS contacts in his gmail in the other browser and I can't?! But never mind, this browser seems so much nicer. Thank you so much :)" So ends yet another Tech Support session for me. I've done this umpteen times with my dad before - that's where the patience comes from. Also, not being physically present at the faulty computer can be really frustrating but I've learned to deal with it now.
Its such a small thing - every internet user is aware of what a browser is and its various features. And for people like me who use computers for a living, its as easy as breathing. But there are so many seniors who struggle with such basic things on a daily basis. I admire their perseverance to learn a new technology at such a late stage in their lives. They are not embarrassed to show their ignorance and ask questions that may sound stupid. Yet, many of the young folks frown at their "silly" attempts. They are so complacent in their superior knowledge. Perhaps, we need to humbly learn the lesson that "learning should never stop" from our seniors.