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    Volume 8 Issue 59 | February 27, 2009 |

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Love You Hate You

Aasha Mehreen Amin

I can't live without you but sometimes (more often nowadays than not) I feel like smashing your smug little face and cute, tight body, into pieces.

Sounds like a psycho lover or deranged spouse driven to violent thoughts after years of mental torture - the constant nagging, whining, interrupting, the insufferable controlling. Well, in many ways it is like a long-term relationship, one that starts so shiny and new, when you discover all the wonderful features of this object of desire and then the inevitable wear and tear of aging comes, vital pieces fall off (don't let your imagination run too wild), the flush of newness wanes and you are stuck with this sweet old thing that you grudgingly keep, trying your best not to let your eyes rove to greener pastures.

These are not the confessions of a demented, cold-blooded other half but a victim of that contraption that has taken over so many million lives, ensuring life-long dependence. The cell phone.

Of course we can't do without it. Every step we take seems to be monitored by this rectangular or oval piece of plastic and metal. I mean, why strain your vocal chords to scream at your child for listening to loud music? Just call her, or text message "TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!!!!" since her hearing is probably too diminished by now to hear your sweet, salsa ring tone.

It is amazing the way we use this gadget for every little thing, to tell your friends you have started, then that you have arrived, that you are right in front of them, that you can't go near them because some odious relative is lurking behind them, to summon the chauffeur or the husband, whoever is driving you.

Many parents allow their pubescent children cell-phones in the hope of keeping constant tabs on them. Kids use it as a status symbol to show off their latest nth series, to take random pictures, play games and of course dupe their parents into thinking they are at the coaching centre while they are halfway to Jatrabari.

Walkers on their daily diabetes/heart disease induced jaunts, talk their heads off screaming into the phone -- the real-life ghar ghar ki kahani, to demand when the latest shipment will arrive, why the bank did not honour the cheque and where the hell is that (expletive) er bachcha who was supposed to bring the money today?

Obviously we cannot leave out the use of this device that got Cupid fired ages ago when it became the ultimate 'love connection'. Romance could not have become any easier. Gone are those gruelling days of waiting for the blue (or pink?) envelope that would invariably end up in some irate parent's hands. Forget the bribing of minors with candy or coins to deliver that love-soaked note to the dear beloved. Even those sickening days of whispering sweet inanities into the mouthpiece of the analogue phone only to be unceremoniously cut off by a cross connection, those days are long gone. Now courting is as easy as texting ‘i think u r 2 qt 2 b tru’.

But what is the price of this constant companion that is impossible to shed off, even when you're in the shower? Is this kind of dependence healthy? Without your cell you can't wake up in the morning, remember to take your antibiotic or buy a present for your friend. Appointments cannot be kept, deadlines cannot be met and whole events cannot be planned let alone executed without this
addictive machine.

The worst part is that your cell becomes the Control Freak from hell, forcing you to be constantly available. And make no mistake, there is a conspiracy, to drive you stark, raving mad, by making sure that the cell bleats like a goat (an innovative ring tone) in the middle of a speech, or pierce your nerves as you are in deep sleep (because even if you turned it to silent it's still on 'vibrate if silent'). You may think you're clever by not picking up calls from relentless stalkers, but then they are on to you, calling from other numbers that you, just out of curiosity, answer. You may be doing some exceedingly important task such as scraping off chewing gum from your shoe or bursting zits on your face when that blasted thing will ring. It's your boss demanding why you got some VIP's designation wrong when writing the report. You try to explain but the words come out like gibberish, as your baby has decided to stuff her soggy chips into your mouth. It is when your employer cuts off the line with obvious fury that you realise the tyranny of this little device. Remember Chucky in Child's Play?

It is a moment when every instinct in you cries out to chuck the diabolic thing out the window or stamp it into granules. You look at it with disgust- the right button has disappeared making it look like a one-eyed pirate, the down button doesn't work, the screen has remnants of chicken jhol, it's pathetic, revolting. You feel it is almost time to let go. But it looks back at you sadly and your heart wrenches. You just cannot do it.

At least not until you get the next sleek, sexy substitute.

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