Abha Dawesar: Life in the “Digital Now”

Super Storm Sandy impacted the lives of thousands and Abha Dawesar was one of them. This novelist found herself in the dark, without power, and without her constant connection to the digital world. One among many who found themselves scrounging for power, Dawesar says she became just as preoccupied with charging her multiple devices as she was with finding food and shelter. “Nature had just reminded us that it was stronger than all our technology, and yet here we were, obsessed with being wired.”

In light of that experience, Dawesar now believes that the simplistic, non-digital forms of ourselves no longer exist, but have been replaced by an abstract, digital universe that has become embedded in our identities. In this TED Talk: Life in the Digital Now she asks, “Have our lives now become fixated on the drive to digitally connect, while we miss out on what’s real?”

Citing learning experiences as a child with her grandparents, she says that time-warping technology challenges our deepest core, because we think technology can archive our lives, but it cannot store the profound experiences of time. “Time can’t be fought, and because it will pass and it will move, we owe the present our full attention.” She says that the digital world cannibalizes time. In doing so, it threatens the completeness of ourselves. But we can choose the innovations and moments that restore the flow of time, instead of fragmenting it. “We can slow down and we can tune into the ebb and flow of time. We can choose to take time back,” Daewesar says.

Abha Dawesar writes to understand herself and the world around her. She moved from India to the United States to study at Harvard. Her novels include Babyji, That Summer in Paris, Family Values, andThe Three of Us. Her most recent novel Sensorium uses a combination of Hindu mythology and modern science as prisms to explore the nature of time, self, and uncertainty.