Somebody in a moment of frustration once said that a woman is something you can neither live with nor without. They can be annoying, catty, impossibly impossible, the wearer of unbearably strong flowery perfume and the reason of all your distress. They can also be your confidante, truly understanding and a breath of fresh air especially when the perfume is light. And that's a view held by men and women alike. Surprisingly or maybe not so, the same isn't felt about men. Even men feel they can live without men.

Cell phones receive a similar sentiment as that warranted by women. They have become such a big part of our lives that we can't live without them even though at times we may want to. Phones can be truly annoying just like members of the opposite sex and at the same time be the very thing that makes our existence more bearable. Luckily, all that comes without the strong flowery scent.

Getting Connected
Anyone who has shifted to a new house in a new location knows just how difficult it is to transfer the telephone number. The lineman who handles the 'maintenance' of the land-based telephones is the king and all mortals must pay homage (in terms of hefty bakshish) to him.

Samiha Rahman of Dhanmondi moved five houses down the street and had to wait about a month for the lineman to come and shift her phone. She ended up buying lots of extra wire and doing the job herself. Unfortunately most people end up moving much farther than five houses length and would need truckloads of wire to do the same trick.

Without greasing a few greedy palms your phone will take anywhere from 5 months to 2 years to move. That's where the cell phone comes in to save the day. Connection takes about at most half an hour. Getting connected isn't any easier. Of course, whether you can connect after dialing is a totally different matter. The ease of acquiring a cell phone makes it simple to stay in touch. What hurts is looking at the bill at the end of the month.

The Ultimate flash
The saying 'clothes make a man' should be replaced with a reference to cell phones. The mobile device has become the current bling-bling flash gadget. There used to be a time when men would extend their arm to show off an expensive watch while pretending to check the time. Now they do the same thing albeit fishing out the cell phones from their pockets. You show your wealth by owning a phone with flashing lights that can put a glittery 80's Amitabh disco scene to shame. Phones that flip open are commonplace. Everyone who is anyone has to have a phone that can rotate, swivel, pirouette, form a cross, open up to show a keyboard and also make the coffee and tie the shoelaces.

Thanks to the cell, lovebirds never had it so good. In fact many affairs begin by random messaging. Wait a while and you will see Hollywood making a film called “You've got SMS”. Cell phones are a hot gift item in a couple's hamper. A few of the cell phone service providers are offering free airtime after midnight and these connections are selling like the proverbial hotcake. An insider of a major telecom company informs most of the customers are students who usually buy a package containing two phones. Just look around you at the young people walking around bleary eyed and you will know what they did last night. A nation of zombies will be created thanks to cell phones.

Get away from it all
Son to parent: Hey dad, I am at the coaching centre and will need another couple of hours.

This is how the conversation played out between a young man in front of me while standing near an amusement park in Ashulia. I looked around for the aforementioned coaching centre and surmised it must be a high tech centre that remains invisible presumably to avoid becoming a target of the local bombers. Cell phones allow parents, lovers and bosses to keep a tab on their respective children, partner or employee. Whether the report coming across the airwaves is the truth or not is a different matter.

Smile or frown, you're on candid camera
Have you ever given someone your cell phone number and then asked to pose for a photo shoot? That's what most people with camera phones do. They want to attach your picture to your number. As if rejecting the call by simply seeing the number isn't enough they now have to reject the call by seeing your face.

New services are being offered where you can send pictures simply by using your phone. One reported benefit of this service took place in the US where a shop owner was robbed. Another customer in the shop managed to snap a picture of the robber and sent it off to the police HQ who then nabbed the perpetrator around the corner within minutes.

Unfortunately camera phones also serve as a tool for voyeurs. While sitting in a train bound from Sylhet I watched as a young man was using his videophone to capture a few precious shots of unsuspecting women passengers.

In Mirpur a couple of young boys were blackmailing a young married woman by having managed to take a rather compromising photo of hers using a cell phone. They did get their deserved punishment a few days later in the form of broken bones but the point is you never know who may be recording your private moments. It's hard to notice when someone is taking a picture using a camera phone.

Miss-call mania
Nothing irritates more than a missed call from an unknown number. Some enjoy the matter as they desperately try to answer the call before it ends. It's a cat and mouse game that will play out as long as the service providers keep charging such hefty rates.

It does have its benefits though. Chauffeurs with cell phones are directed to approach a pick up point the moment they get a missed call. Same goes for friends who come to your home and wait downstairs.

Alternative uses of cell phones
I have a one year old cousin who won't eat unless distracted by his mother's very expensive flashing light equipped singing dancing, magic trick performing cell phone. The kid knows his phones because he flicked his father's cheaper set into the bowl of gooey cereal that babies are usually offered.

Cell phones can also be used to send out distress calls although not the way you may think. Many people resort to this method when they are waiting downstairs ringing the bell but there is no electricity. Simply call up the inmates using the cell phone and someone will come downstairs.

A colleague was once spotted using her cell phone to take a picture of herself. She then looked at the picture, readjusted her hair and took another picture to check the results. Who needs a mirror, eh?

Bling bling ring tones
One of the hottest online businesses is that of selling ring tones as well as other ways to customise your cell phone with wallpapers and downloaded games. It is slowly starting to catch on in Bangladesh as well where a few entrepreneurs have set up shop to download all the glitzy accessories for the craving customers. Weird ringers are all very well especially when a laugh is needed to lighten the atmosphere.

Several statistics have shown that about 25 percent of accidents on the road are caused by drivers who are busy yapping on the phone. On top of that Bangladeshi drivers can't really drive. Just look at all the cars and count the scratches, dents and missing trim. Would it really cost that much time to stop by the roadside and talk? It's weird how time saving gadgets actually end up cutting up more of our free time.

Parting shot
Once upon a time people lived in peace and solitude. You had to travel miles to annoy someone. Then someone invented the phone that was attached to a wire and everything wasn't so solitary anymore. But then someone else went ahead and cut the umbilical cord that let loose the cell phone upon an unsuspecting world. Now you can annoy anyone anywhere by pressing a few buttons. Cell phones can be both a boon as well as a bane. It all depends on how you see it or rather use it.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo: Munem Wasif
Photo Direction: Khaled Mahmud, Head Office

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