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After 15 days in the “wilderness” I’m back in what we call civilisation only to read an article in Times Life ( June 16, 2013) about something called “Braincation”. On reading it I realised that I have done something hip and trendy; I have been on a “Braincation”!! Only that I didn’t know that I was on a Braincation. It’s only in retrospect that this realisation has dawned upon me and I’m basking in the glory thereof!

For the uninitiated like me, Braincation is a vacation for the brain which primarily, though not only, involves a break from technology that has made much deeper inroads into our lives and psyche than we can imagine. No wonder then, as I read somewhere, digital detox is what it is also called. My Braincation actually was self imposed. Pokhara ( Nepal) is not exactly in the back of beyond where my Smart phone or Laptop would not work. However when I got the chance to not switch on my overzealous smart phone, I grabbed it. It was as if my very being needed to tune out the over bearing intrusion of the outside world. In all honesty, I was not totally devoid of all gizmos and gadgets. There was a good old Nokia 1100 mobile phone that lay somewhere around the house to talk to friends and family. I did check my mail once a day or every other day; I logged into the bane of our existence, Facebook once or twice and I did write a few blog posts. But I kept my smart phone far away. Neither did I bother to pick up a local number and get data activated on it nor did I try and connect to Wi-Fi anywhere. It was then that I realised that the biggest culprit invading our existence second by second is our over smart “smart phone” which, in the guise of keeping us “connected”, has driven us to a point where we can’t bear to part with it even for a minute . Be it Mail, “WhatsApp”, Facebook ,Twitter, Viber or numerous other apps and games – there really is no rest for our over stimulated brains. To think of it, why blame the poor inanimate gadget? It was designed to make our life easier. Yet we have allowed it to take over our lives so much so that now there is a wholly legitimate phrase for a vacation that the brain needs from it- Braincation!  How is it that we get ourselves to a point where the things designed to make our life simpler, end up complicating it instead? The smart phone doesn’t prod us to reach out for it every time it beeps. We do it out of choice. Our need for constant and varied stimulation, the global attention span deficit that plagues us, our inability to simply be, even for a few minutes- all this make us jump for our smart phone every few minutes. Excuses are there in plenty, work being most common of all but at the end of the day, that is just what they are- excuses. It’s not uncommon to see a family out for dinner ( or even on a vacation) where the husband and wife are busy on their respective phones while the child is handed an iPad to play on. Why bother going out at all when all that you want is your phone and not the people or the surroundings ? What happened to good old family outings? People whose very life is on line, be it on the phone or tablet or a laptop are on the rise. Take these gadgets away and the person won’t know what to do with himself. If this is not addiction, I don’t know what is. No wonder then that after proudly proclaiming “free Wi-Fi” on their banners, hotels and travel destinations are now offering digital detox and “technology breaks” as their selling points.

This “use to the point of abuse” is a pattern that we human beings seem to have mastered. Plastic carry bags were supposed to offer ease of usage and disposal. We didn’t think twice before chucking out our good old cloth bags for them. Now we are fighting tooth and nail to ban those very bags. Simple mobile phones, the kind we hardly see much anymore, made communication easier. Today we are talking about the adverse effect of these phones and communication towers on our health. Microwaves are pretty much indispensable in every kitchen. Yet there is research to show how their excessive usage is detrimental to health. What is it with us that we just don’t seem to be able to maintain any kind of balance- be it in our lives or in nature? Recent Uttarakhand floods are a case point. Blame God, blame Kedarnath all that you will. At the end of the day we just have ourselves to thank for it.

So how did my mini Braincation feel? Liberating. After what seems eternity I had my privacy, my life. Not too strangely not only did I survive these 15 days beautifully but the world around did not collapse either. Yet as I reached our good old T3 terminal at IGIA, old habits seemed to be craving to take over as I switched on my smarty pants phone and found myself looking for Fb status updates, WhatsApp messages, mail etc. However having experienced digital detox, I’m determined not to fall back into the old mould. So all that I use my phone for now is what it was originally intended for- calls. Will I succeed? I sure hope so. For there is nothing that is worth losing one’s peace. Like it or not, for most things in life, there is a “later”.