The last time I went out, I caught sight of a new library a few kilometres from where I live.
Before I go any further, there are a couple of things I need to clarify: 'The last time I went out' was at least a month ago, if not two (I can barely remember); and the 'new' library could have opened three or four years ago - speaks volumes about how frequently I tour the neighbourhood.
Anyway, the view of the passing library stocked with books and more books reminded me that it was years since I stepped into a book lending library. It also reminded me of something I wanted to do for a long time - register at a popular online library here in Bangalore. I came back and did that, and reserved a couple of books I had wanted to read. They were delivered the next day.
Thus the library became one more place I used to go out to, that now arrives at my door. To think that somewhere in the periphery of our memory, there still exist dusty, book-smelling libraries we used to walk into, long queues we stood in patiently to pay bills, book stores we frequented to feel the rustle of fresh paper in our hands, hotels we visited to taste food we loved, shops we pushed our way into to buy our monthly provisions, wooden tables and chairs we sat in to run our pen over papers and files, ...
They still exist in the world, of course, but it is easy to imagine a day when none of these would.
When Amazon came into existence, it was called the largest bookstore without a single book in it. It took me a while to understand what that meant.
I now pay all my bills online. A few of the bills I get by post, many arrive by email. When I need provisions, I call up the supermarket and within an hour I get everything in my hands. One day when my son needed a new pencil box, the boy from the shop brought two different types to my house for him to choose from.
For almost two years I have been working from home solely through email, using online whiteboards for discussions, online taskboards to track my work and Skype to chat with my colleagues.
In 2009, I published an anthology of stories and sold it through the Internet. Almost without taking a step outside my door - 'almost', because I did visit a couple of stores in Bangalore at first, before realising that their vendors could be contacted and the entire transaction managed through phone or email.
My daily dose of fresh air reaches me when I step out to the gate - in the morning to see my son off in his school van and in the evening to receive him.
My son's school communicates with me through email or phone. I could skip the monthly Parent-Teacher meeting if I wish, and the teacher would call me on phone if required and update me on his progress.
Restaurants deliver food to the house, and there is a variety of food and places to choose from. One can buy dresses, books, CDs and even furniture through online stores - it's just a matter of choose-and-click. All the latest movies are available on DVD or through the digital TV. With the home theatre, one does not even miss the ambience of the real cinema - popcorn and nachos could be delivered at the door.
In short, the only reasons why I may need to step out of the door is to get a haircut or take money from the ATM. I don't see any change happening in the first in the near future, but I sometimes manage a home delivery of money by transfering funds to another's account and asking that account owner to bring it to me.
Do I ever wish to go out? I do, once in a while, though I would rather not. A few minutes of the heat, dust, unruly traffic, and a handful of disgusting experiences are enough to send me running back to my sanctuary.
The day is not far when schools will be extinct and children would study directly from online tutorials, and take online exams. Already offices ask personnel to work from home when required.
I don't think anyone who first envisioned the Internet dreamt that it would one day lead to solving traffic problems or fuel price hikes. People would soon not have to travel at all (except the ones who do the actual delivery - till a better method is devised), then how would there be traffic jams, and why would anyone need petrol?!
Those days are long gone when the whole world was within reach. Now when we knock on our own front door, the world opens it for us.