<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 123 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

September 19 , 2003

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Cellular Love

Shamim Ahsan

Only a few years ago the mobile phone was quite a rarity. Those who owned it attracted curious and even envious looks from those who didn't. It was certainly a mark of affluence, but it also gave one a distinct air of importance about him. Things have changed a lot since then. Now it's difficult to find hands that are not holding mobiles or pockets that are not bulging with the little devices. Some have bought one out of necessity, some because they have enough money to squander while some just because everyone they know seem to have one.

This cute, tiny machine called mobile no doubt has its merits but there are times when having a mobile is a real pain. In fact its greatest advantage is sometimes its worst disadvantage. It's true that the mobile always keeps you connected, but in doing so sometimes also infringes upon your liberty. To buy full-time connectivity you end up losing your privacy, something you need at least on a part-time basis. It just doesn't have any sense of time and place think of the moments when you are enjoying a 40 minutes' nap during a busride, or those emotionally charged moments when you are searching yourself in the depths of your sweetheart's eyes, down by the Dhanmondi lake. At moments like these it just intrudes into your life unannounced, like a defiant rogue.

It has this weird tendency of ringing out at most inconvenient moments. Suppose you are in a meeting with your dreaded boss or interviewing the most serious looking knitted-- brow octogenarian intellectual on his favourite subject “Democracy, the American Style” or in a class lecturing on the relative pronoun's relation with other pronouns or in a seminar reading out the key note paper, when all of a sudden breaks out a musical soiree. Extremely perturbed you look at every person one after another to locate the source of such disturbance and after a thorough and careful search, you discover that it's you.

You cannot keep your private talk private on the mobile. Especially when you are in a public place like in the street or inside a bus or a shopping mall, talking on the mobile is as good as sharing your most personal of things with dozens of curious, attentive listeners around you. The fact that the Dhakaites are showing an every-growing tendency of talking louder and louder, adversely affecting Dhaka's soundscape, certainly has something to do with the mobile.

With all its drawbacks the mobile has nevertheless
managed to create a huge following among the young populace, especially those affected by love. No more are the couples dependent on the sole TNT phone shared by the entire family. Young boys or girls were seen with great suspicion if they showed a little more interest in the phone than well-meaning parents would think proper. More cautious parents (especially of girls) even went to the extent of eavesdropping using a parallel phone. That worry is gone forever in this post-- mobile era.

The mobile has become the most loved thing to young lovers. “Missed calls' and 'SMS' are the most frequently used words in the vocabulary of the romance affected young couples. Young boys and girls, both those who are already in love and those who are eagerly awaiting to fall in love, are frantically buying mobiles.

One little problem remains though. On the land phone
one couldn't talk for long for the fear of getting caught, on the mobile one can't talk for long for the fear of going bankrupt. On the mobile romance costs Tk 6 to 7 per minute, too un-romantic a rate for the poor lovesick couples. But then there are some that would happily court bankruptcy but refuse to cut short the love talk. Farzana, one of my close acquaintances, is one such spendthrift, who earned a berth into the shortest list of the highest bill payers, with a whopping Tk 14,000 to her debit. She achieved this milestone on the month when her boyfriend was in Dhaka on holiday. In this one month her phone line was cut six times as she outran her deposits every 5 to 6 days. She had to visit the CityCell office so frequently that the woman in charge of the cash got to recognise both her name and her phone number. A few more visits could turn their acquaintance into close friendship.

The mobile has also played crucial roles in developing romantic relationships. The Romel-Dowel affair set off with exchange of 'missed call'. At the beginning it was 4 to 5 'missed calls' a day but in 2 weeks time they were miss-calling each other every few minutes. The relationship took a serious turn when they switched over to SMS. In another week's time as both of them discovered that their fingers were a little sore all the constant pressing on the buttons, they finally opted for talking. Romel's Tk 300 card was being emptied in less than 3 days and Doel's mother began to receive what she thought was a 'ghost (phone) bill'. It is yet to be known if the mother has discovered the real identity of the ghost. The last time I met Romel he was going to the stadium market to fix his mobile setas most of its buttons were bruised severely. The weight of love can be very injurious to health, of your mobile that is.


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