You know how when you stare at a word for too long or keep writing it over and over again it loses all meaning? I am sure there is a scientific word for the phenomenon. Anyway, that explains why I have forgotten my name and need to look it up now and then to remind myself of it.
This is because of a phenomenon – scientific name formfillitis – unique to our times – travel in the time of Covid. Here are the facts: I have been in one country on a holiday and now I am returning to another, my own, to get back into routine. It’s happening all over the world.
And I have been filling forms on the computer with a consistency and dedication, which in another literary field might have earned me a Booker prize (if there were one for non-fiction). Repetition is the soul of our bureaucratic system. And when I wrote in one place that the reason for travel was "returning home after holiday", and in another "returning home after vacation", the computer caught me red-handed.
"Vacation" or "holiday" ? it asked in that nasty, superior way computers have when they think they have got you and an arrest is imminent.
So I had to start all over again. I considered writing "vacoliday" just to confuse it but knew that would mean yet another restart. Computers have endless patience and can go on repeating themselves ad infinitum if not ad nauseum.
You fill one form, then you fill another, followed by a third and fourth ad nauseum. Frankly, I have forgotten the number of times I have written my name. And then it happened. Suddenly, "Suresh" made no sense to me. It didn’t set off any recognition or warm feeling as it usually does. What is this strange word, I asked myself. And how did it insinuate itself in this form I am filling? Is there an antidote?
On one occasion, my finger slipped and I typed "Duresh" instead. That word seemed to teeter on the verge of meaning, as if I might recognise it if only I stared at it for longer. It was meaningless, of course, and it occurred to me that our civilization will end not because of a meteor falling on us or artificial intelligence taking over but because of a thick finger hitting the wrong key.
My advice is this: if you are planning a holiday, add an extra day for filling forms. It will take you time to understand the questions and even more time to ensure that the answers fall into the right slots. Write your name in the column meant for your passport number, and civilization might end.