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     Volume 5 Issue 98 | June 9, 2006 |

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Upwardly Mobile!

Neeraj Sinha

I went to the market the other day to replace my old mobile phone which after years and years of loyal service finally decided to call it quits after I accidentally dropped it in a mug full of soap water. The instrument had weathered years of rough handling and like some legendary king come alive from a forgotten History Book, had several wounds, both fresh and ancient, to show on its person. In all these years of relentless service, the old faithful had remained witness to the most private and intimate aspects of its master's life, seen the outlines of near-affairs and suffered the trauma of separation from dear ones. It was therefore not without a touch of nostalgia that I placed it on the bathroom shelf for final disposal as big, rainbow hued soap bubbles formed at the base of its keypad.

The end had been imminent for some time now, though friends and well wishers had long given up on the possibility of my ever getting rid of what they thought was a public nuisance. Their formal education prevented them from being upfront about it, but I once heard some of them debating the desirability of calling me to a 'celebrity do' they were planning, if my social embarrassment of a mobile phone had also to be suffered, as a result of it.

"Don't you realise you could be denied entry at the bigger restaurants where gatemen could take you to be what you are no good at and direct you to the kitchen area instead of the dining lounge…?" said one of my closest friends Given my 'off the street' cut in the looks department and a carefully cultivated casual approach in matters of grooming, I could not but agree that this indeed, was a genuine possibility.

It was this spirit of enlightened social responsibility coupled with perceived threat of being seconded to the kitchens of the world that saw me pacing up the stairways, of one of these nicely glitzy shopping malls in the heart of the city. At the Mobile shop, there was a huge crowd of curious onlookers. If one didn't know better, it would seem that instruments here were being given away for free. No where have I seen a more complete adoption of the Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius" or Faster, Higher, Stronger than in the market for mobile telephony, if only one replaced 'Higher' in the said dictum with 'Smaller'.

It was apparent that the shop owner was more accustomed to dealing with shoppers who were complete pros. My longing for a down-to-earth phone from which I could make calls and receive a few, service provider willing, elicited near or no response. I have no clue as to what the right answer was to his query of the 'features' I wanted on the phone, but my reiteration that I wanted the phone basically to communicate with people, left him cold and suspicious. Meanwhile from the kind of queries that were being directed at the harried shopkeeper, you could be pardoned for assuming that we were in a shop selling photographic/camera products!

Technologically challenged as I have been for the better part of my life, I could hardly make sense of letters from the English alphabets that were being bandied about in an apparently random fashion. The one set that particularly stood out had something to do with G…P…R…S and reminded me of a time when fresh out of college, one ran from one examination hall to another satisfying the whims of examiners as they tested one's ability to complete a so-called logical sequence! It was also a revelation to learn at the shop that not all of God's creations are endowed with a set of white pearlies and that there were some hitherto unknown beasts that had 'blue-tooth'.

By now the shopkeeper had lost all interest in me. I stood there in one corner feeling just the way Akbar (from the Mughal era, no less!) would have felt, lost and lonely, were he to take a stroll one of these days, down any of the cities that once dotted his vast empire. Except, that I was determined to shake off the tag of medievalism so lovingly affixed by friends and well wishers alike. Mustering whatever courage there was left in me, I approached the shop keeper and uttered the four letters that seemed to be enjoying such reverence among the mobile seekers.

Hardly had the magic words left my mouth when I found I was suddenly the focus of everyone's attention. One person got me a chair while someone else offered a couple of cheerful leaflets which featured well toned men and women photographed in tourist-brochure grade settings, as they spoke over brightly coloured mobile sets.

All eyes now turned to me as I prepared to make a choice. Trouble was, to my untrained eyes, all the sets shown in the photograph looked the same and there was nothing to distinguish them except for the male and female models featured. My eyes riveted on to a bright looking model holding a particularly small looking set and by the look of things, she seemed to be having the time of her life while conversing on the said phone. She was also wearing nice looking ear rings on her person. My choice was made in a flash.

Friends I now have the latest model (mobile instrument, that is) in town. To be honest with you I still have no clue what the G…P…R…S stands for. But my reputation as a connoisseur of cell phone instruments has spread. And I confidently advise all those who come to me, to buy only phones that feature a G…P…R… whatever!

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