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     Volume 4 Issue 13 | September 17, 2004 |

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Slice of Life


Richa Jha

The mobile phone set that I carry for my use looks like it belongs to another era. For any other piece of accessory on person, I wouldn't have minded a retro look, but a cell phone that looks like a walkie-talkie is an absolute no-no. When I look at people sporting their small handsets, I get a feeling that they are doing it to rub it in--it is the kind of complex you'd get being seen in your 1958 model Impala (that refuses to start in one try) next to the latest BMW Convertible Coupe.

Not that I have done much about it, other than occasionally nagging The Hubby that the instrument needs to be changed immediately. Part inertia, part hesitation to walk into a shop alone to buy something I have no clue of, this instrument has been with me in use since as way back as my memory cells (no puns intended) take me. As it is, we could easily qualify for the all-time Most Techno-Phobic Couple awards, so walking into a mobile phone shop, alone, is an intimidating proposition.

But of late, it has been getting too much to bear. The piece is dog-eared (my son in his infantile curiosity chewed away a couple of buttons), and obviously senile now, begging to be replaced. The frequency of 'Card Errors' (at times, even in the middle of a conversation!) finds a match perhaps only in the 'Illegal Programme Errors' on my PC.

About a fortnight ago, I pinned down The Hubby in a rather good mood and told him firmly we needed a change. He looked at my set rather critically and declared in his characteristic avuncular tone (I wonder why he uses that with me) that tells me my basic premise for demanding a change is shaky, "I don't see a problem with it. It's fine. I carry a similar one, and I have never felt the slightest of hesitation in using it before others."

"Your case is different. You will bring home a battered gramophone in the name of a disc-player, and not know the difference."

"Whatever you say, Wifey, but I think it is a perfectly fine piece of instrument. In fact, look at its size, don't you think it is bigger than other models of mobiles you see other people carrying?"

"But that is the problem. You don't get it, do you? Mobile phones these days are not meant to be seen. Even the cordless handsets are being modelled smaller than our mobile phone. What's worse, it doesn't fit into the hand-set pocket provided in my new hand bag; it is nearly twice as big as the pocket! My set is archaic, believe me."

"Wifey, why do you hanker after intangibles like size and looks and …"

"But size is tangible. When I'm holding it in my hand, I'm holding it, right? And every time I look at it, I feel I'm looking at the remote control of our TV set."

"I didn't mean intangible in that sense."

"No, I don't care what you mean. Get me something sleek. I am ashamed of being seen with it in public."

"Oh! So now you'll say you're ashamed of being seen with me too.

Time you exchanged me for a sleek husband?"

"I'm shocked you could even suggest something like this. But since you have raised the topic, I certainly wouldn't mind a more flat-bellied man to be seen with. But aren't we getting into unnecessary arguments? All I'm saying is that I feel everyone's looking at my set each time I pull it out of my bag, and looking for all the wrong reasons."

"Good. So don't use it in public. It'll save us a lot; as it is, even despite the way it looks now, the ticking dials of your watch become inconsequential when you chat with your friends. I don't see which important conversation can't wait till you have reached home. What else is your landline for?" There was a slight pause after this while he expected me to argue on, but by now I was on the verge of giving up for good.

"You, like these two mobiles, certainly don't belong in today's world." These are the kind of statements one utters when throwing up ones hands in despair.

But I hung on there. And tried a different route by illustrating to him how the world of cellular phones was passing us by without our being even aware of it. From sms-ing worldwide to web-surfing to sending images to computing to video conferencing, is there anything one cannot do with cellular phones today? The future, they say, is in our palms. Besides, mine had not been the best of handsets even in its heyday. I remember my friends commenting that even at that time (I'm talking of several years ago), it was the least user-friendly model in the market. That makes it a junk set by today's standards. It had to go.

"The latest is that I hear at least three different voices in the set. The person I'm speaking to (or at least intend speaking to), my own voice, and the invariable cross-connection," I added.

"Now what does the poor handset have to do with the cross-connection? But fine. Since I see that you have decided to change it anyway, go ahead, do it. I don't see why you didn't buy a new one for so long. When was the last time you consulted me before buying anything? This mobile phone is a small thing indeed."

"No, you come with me, else I'm not going."

"You want me to accompany you while shopping!! I don't know whether to believe my ears or not. Sure, my love, anytime; the pleasure will be mine." If I sensed a tinge of sarcasm in his words, I didn't react the way I would have otherwise. Clarifications could wait.

Just as I am still waiting for a new mobile handset, even a fortnight later! When they say 'trust thy man fully' they obviously forget to factor in equivocal deceptions like these. I may have to do it on my own, after all. But do it, I will. I realised this morning that a full charge of its battery lasts precisely two brief calls. Enough is enough.


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