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Dial in for a life without cellphones

Ankit Varma pores over his worn out, slightly yellowed diary, tracks his own smudged handwriting for a number and thumbs in the digits on his wired landline.


Representational pic

For those glued to the cellphone - and, mind you, there are over 850 million such connections in India already -- it's hard to fathom why anyone would not want to use the digital device when it only seems to be getting cheaper, snazzier and better.

But in this day and age when our dependence on the cellphone has crossed all boundaries, adding to our vocabulary words like nomophobia (read: no-mobile-phobia), there are a determined few who buck the trend.

"It interrupts my thought process. The ability to think deeply and concentrate on a subject," says Varma, a writer.

"The landline and e-mail work well enough for me. I don't need a constant distraction in the garb of being tech-savvy," Varma, who parted with his Nokia two years ago, told IANS.

In this day and age when smart phones have changed the way we work, interact and consume information, when any idle moment is immediately replenished with a futile SMS, when a mobile theft is dramatically mourned, there are a few committed to their privacy.

In this day and age when dead batteries lead to withdrawal symptoms, when even bathrooms are not spared the screaming ringtones, when deals are closed on the move, when trains, streets and parks are filled with a thousand clones happily chatting to themselves, there are a few who refuse to bow to technology.

Incredulous as it may seem, there are people who survive without mobile phones, and happily too.

While distraction is one of the biggest problems of the mobile phone, self-reliance is no less a casualty.

"I have friends who turn pale if someone plays a prank on them by hiding their phones. They don't remember their parents' number, friends' number, birthdays, it's as if you've mortgaged your memory to a device," says Janaki Ramkumar, 23.

"I don't feel the need for a personal phone. After all, people have lived all these years without one. It can be done even now," Ramkumar, a student in Chennai, told IANS.

Then there are those who believe the use of cellphones make people less appreciative of other's time.

"No one takes your time for granted if you are not carrying a phone. No one calls you half an hour before the scheduled time to meet and says 'sorry, I am running a little late'. They try to be a little more punctual," says Meera M., a web designer in Delhi.

Adds Vinay Dhamankar, an architect in Mumbai, "I am not an ATM machine available 24/7. I need my space, I like being unavailable sometimes."

Then there's the doing of scientists who have pointed towards a definitive connect between tumours and cellphone radiation, creating enough scare among a few.

"You can't ignore such reports, there's obviously some truth in them. I have given my office number to my friends and family and bought headphones to take calls on mobiles, which I take only in emergency," says Leena Aiyer, an interior designer.

"My dependency on mobile phones has reduced a lot. A little planning, like making all necessary calls before leaving home, calling my mom before leaving office, goes a long way in reducing usage. I hope to chuck it soon," said the 35-year-old.

But not all have been able to observe this technological celibacy without succumbing to temptations. Take for example Himanshu who treaded the landline path for three years while preparing for the civil services, only to give it up at the crucial moment.

"Though it was 2003 then and not every Tom, Dick and Harry had one, I still felt I was missing out on something essential. I started using it just before my preliminary exams...you see, not a very wise decision," says the IAS-aspirant-turned-journalist, laughing to himself.

"I can't think of giving it up ever again. The profession I am in just won't allow it," Himanshu told IANS.

Azad Khan, a student in Pune, echoes similar views.

"It's absurd to deny yourself something as basic as a phone. I mean, forget the privacy and self-reliance part, you can't ignore its benefits. Imagine, you've met with an accident, are stuck in a jam, caught in a sticky situation...what do you do?" Khan says.

To each his own, but people like Ankit Varma and Vinay Dhamankar would not have it any other way.

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