Yes (ad) minister!

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There’s nothing that’s taken India by storm in the last couple of years as much as Whatsapp. Everyone’s on it – right from the harried mom coordinating with the dabbawala, to the maid who sends chutti notices on WhatsApp, to the super mom who juggles her job, and instructs the tutor of the kiddo, and orders groceries from the corner dukan, to corporate biggies sending out emergency messages. The self employed being on it is a no brainer – most of the business happens on WhatsApp didn’t you know? 80% of my biz happens on WhatsApp, to resellers and buyers, from docs doling out medicine lists, to nurses, school principals to millennials, and centenarians, septanarians and even 7 year olds!! Every message has to be read instantly and reacted to. There’s a video to share, petitions to sign, recipes to circulate, products to be sold, lame husband wife jokes, those envy creating pics to be shared, FIFA matches to be discussed and lately child kidnapers to be warned about!!! Gosh – just about everything is happening on WhatsApp.

And so there are millions of groups around – a yoga class group, a tuitions group, a resellers group, an old trekkers group (that’s still active), and finally the most important one – the parent teacher association group, that brings together all the parents of each grade of my child’s school. It’s this group that is the subject of dissection today. I’m sure if you’ve been on such an important group, you’ve all had your share of MIQs (most imp questions) that you ignore at your peril – where parents discuss the portion of an exam to be held the next morning at 11pm, to the bus conductor having a cold, to a teacher’s incorrect correction, to a happy bday message, a good morning and good day message, an exhibition message, and of course to the most important ‘ who’s so and so’s mom’ questions 😉

The discussions are stimulating to say the least, everyone has something to say, even if it is ‘I agree’, or ‘yes’, or “I not agree”.  Fights and disputes are common, and we’ve all learned to accept these messages/queries/arguments with a pinch of salt. So I was a tad surprised when a mom in a group of the school WhatsApp got upset when another parent requested that bday messages to her child be sent personally and that the group need not be the medium for the same. She went ballistic and unbared her fangs/ unleased her writing prowess – she reminded everyone especially that particular parent that she was the one who had created the group as admin; indirectly reminding us all of her power. She then accused the parent of being jealous of her child, that her child was more popular than his.  She then proposed an election where the other members had to vote whether she was right or the other parent was. The irony was that the voting actually took place and she LOST! Can you believe that? She then quietly went into exile, meaning exited the group – I say credit to her. To be able to do that quietly, after all the fanfare?! On the whole I found the situation hilarious, but it reminded me of the power the group admins wield or think they wield!

More recently, a new PTEM (parent teacher executive member), who is the one point contact between the school and the parents, was appointed for the new academic session. The Whatsapp group members enthusiastically welcomed her (about 400 of them) and I’m certain she would have read each congratulatory message, and to be honest a little worried that I didn’t do the same (I’m certain there had been an emergency that day) and possibly she may have made note of which parent still hadn’t wished her – ouch! That would certainly hurt my prospects of making it to her good books. Well, I’m just as certain that she’s a wonderful lady, forgiving and mature. But wait, she’s not the heroine of this piece – the old PTEM seems to be having difficulty in adjusting to new scenario and I feel for her. Everything that the new PTEM puts down, the old PTEM has taken upon herself to rephrase and provide an explanation for. After all, weren’t the parents used to her style of communication for the past year? With every such message she sends out a disclaimer that she’s the erstwhile PTA and her name should not be used anywhere. The new PTEM thankfully seems relaxed & cool and takes this quietly without getting into power struggles. I really could feel the pain of the erstwhile PTEM until, one day the old PTEM suggested that we have sub PTEMs for each division, who would then convey parental concerns to the head PTEM – parents could write to the sub PTEM who would take matters further; and no surprises she self appointed herself as the sub PTEM of her child’s division. With much reluctance, I put an end to the suggestion the minute I read it stating clearly that I would communicate directly without any further layers. What was this? The making an organization of PTEMs? I guess its not surprising that people find it difficult to let go of power or to not misuse it. Controlling information is a huge responsibility and gets you in a power position for sure. And its heady – it will go to your head, if you allow it to. 

She backed off, a little hurt obviously, with her standard disclaimer that it was a suggestion and she was doing it to help the current PTEM since messages could go up to 400 a day. I said , thank you but no thank you. Thankfully, I got more ‘I agrees’ to hers.


P.S: WhatsApp has now however decided to empower its administrators some more – there’s a new feature that’s being rolled out to enable only the admin to post messages one way. God save us lesser mortals or should I say – God save the admin!

Would love to hear your WhatsApp stories as well.