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     Volume 4 Issue 71 | November 18, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Learning To Live With It…

Richa Jha

THE Hubby handed the paper bag to me and announced, "Surprise! A surprise gift for you. This should take care of your students."

I ripped open the neatly wrapped pack to see a glistening new mobile phone there! No wonder he had mentioned my students. They always disapproved of my outdated mobile set, having been most vocal about its oldness, and plainness. No jazzy exterior, no catchy ring tone, not even a camera: Ma'am, they often wondered aloud, "Are you sure you belong to this world?" The only saving grace was its enormous sensor, which often got mistook for a camera lens! "Teacher, all is not lost," they would comment in jest. "You can pretend this is a phone camera, and get away with it!"

Of course, I had no qualms about being 'seen' with a dated set, so I never bothered to replace it something more modern. But looks like the Hubby finally felt that I must be moving with the times. After half a decade of the first 'foldable/ flip' mobile sets to have hit the market, I finally have one with me. I feel real swinging-with-the-times when I fish out my singing set from the handbag and then stylishly flip open the clamshell (for that's what the sleeping tortoise shell on top is called in mobile parlance, I just learnt).

I cannot say if it is an old model or a latest one in the market, and I don't wish to know. The previous one, it turned out later, was such an archaic model that its production had stopped at least a couple of years before I bought it! I have dedicated one Slice piece to it in the past, hence, this is not about the old one. But it is important to mention, in a passing breath, that on several occasions I had offered to pass it down to my domestic aide, but she has always politely refused saying it is too bulky, and heavy, and everyone around will think she was walking around showing off her TV remote. And so the mobile continued being with me for as long as I can remember.

There may not be a need to compare this new one with the previous one, but I do it all the same. This one is half the size of the other, but aesthetically, it looks twice as horrendous. While my earlier one looked more like a walkie-talkie (given its size and 'built'), this one looks like a hammered flattened mouse, with its tail tucked in, like one, almost too scared to squeak. It is jet black with a silver rim around the corners. The brand name is mentioned in silver too. And in place of the antennae, the way you and I know it, there is a delicate bar over the hinges of the top shell. I have been asked categorically to treat this bar with care, because apparently, this is what breathes life into my mobile. I, on the other hand, am often tempted to swing it, and dangle it holding it between my fingers. The movement makes it look like a silver-faced limbless black baby orangutan that has lost its direction and purpose in life. That is the ONLY way I will see my heart starting to feel for it. So I swing it and force myself to like it.

Now that there is a new mobile at home, it is only natural that I learn how to use it. There is, however, a slight problem there: I am not an instructions-manual person, and as such, have little clue about what to do with a mobile that looks less like a phone and more like a lethal contraption in James Bond's archrival's den. And so, you see, I am left with a complicated gizmo in hand that I can scarce make sense of.

To be honest, there was very little of the previous one too that made sense to me. Until a few days ago, I did not know that there is a way of getting around the problem of my impudent mobile suddenly calling up a third person on its own while lounging in my handbag, or while hitching a ride in my jeans pocket. The keypad lock, of course! That elusive one-key solution to all my mobile woes! Chanced upon it accidentally when my son pressed it on while making his dummy call to his teacher!

Armed with this newly gained knowledge, the new mobile did not feel all that intimidating the first day I held it in my hand. In fact, the first skill I wanted to demonstrate to The Hubby was this. But true to the anti-climactic twists in a funny plot, the comedy of keypads unfolded without a trace of mirth. And it stopped being pleasant when I realised that in a bid to locate the right key, one of the buttons peeled off partially! Well, it later turned out, that the new set comes without a keypad lock (blame the unappetising shell for that).

Since that initial debacle, I have steered clear of tinkering with the settings. I hate the ring tones it has come with, and the volumes they have been set on. But I have vowed never to change the default settings. As a result, important alarms have gone unnoticed, the rings have often failed to register, even as the still unfamiliar mobile rings have been assumed to be coming from the other lady's bag. I also have a sneaking feeling that I hear a different ring tone each time the mobile rings, but I may be imagining things.

The same way my son has been imagining things at night. On the first night, my son mistook its neon blue flashing lights (which come and disappear in waves when the mobile is being charged) for the glowing eyes of a monster. The second night, he sat up excited in bed thinking he had just spotted the UFO!

I miss my previous set. I miss its feel between my fingers, I miss its normal ringtone, I miss the sheer familiarity of knowing its keypad inside out. What's worse, that unlike all this while, when using the outdated model showed me up as a quirky woman with near-iconoclastic (!) potentials, this one leaves me with a neither-here-nor-there feeling. Neither is it fit enough to be donated to museum, nor is it trendy enough to be sported with aplomb. But alas! The Hubby can't be made aware of this. He will be heart broken to see his gift being discussed thus.

Sorry students, now even that lens like sensor is gone.

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