My pal Mahesh Bijlani carries two phones – a Blackberry, an iPhone 5, plus a massive Samsung tablet — marginally smaller than one of Moses’s ten. “Why do you need two phones, Bijli? Just keep one, and get two SIM cards.” “Tu nahin samjhega,” he replies, cryptically. “Arre, how will people know who I am? Two phones, they will respect me.”
Mahesh is my one friend that straddles both sides of the law. If you live in Mumbai, you need that one slightly shady buddy. The dude that bails you out of jail, if you fail a 3 am breathaliser test. Two “drinks down” he will confide that his BBM machine is his hotline to the underbelly of the city – con men, cops, chief ministers...all on speed dial. The iPhone is for his family. “And the tablet?” “Style, ya, that is my toy.” As a result, Mahesh’s face is always buried in one of his trio of handsets.
At a movie, at a meal, at a mall, at meetings, at marriages, at muhurats – he is always furiously typing or talking, his furrowed face, tense and teched. So you’re sitting opposite him at a restaurant, he gets a call, and you think, any normal person would say, “I’m busy, I’ll ring you back.”
No such luck…
He answers the phone, “Haan Shailesh, nahin nahin bol, yes it is a good time to talk…” And I’m just gobsmacked. Ten minutes later, he emerges maybe a little less in the red, but me definitely red-faced.
Bijli isn’t principally a rude guy. It’s just that the mobile phone world has spawned new rules of etiquette. When did we become so person insensitive, so phone obsessed? This small black object has become a crutch, an appendage.
And then you think back to the era of no cell phones — our friendly neighbourhood Irani cafe, our lifelines in emergency. We roamed free with no roaming facility bogging us down. We looked at the blue sky, not a blue screen. We spoke, no SMS. We engaged each other, we expressed. We used the language, didn’t abbreviate it — what’s with inane words like, dat, wot, whn and u.
Look, I appreciate the cellular world for its connectivity. But I’m terrified that its creating a nation of phone zombies. Entire generations are going to get Vodaphonitis, go Loop Immobile or develop an addiction called OverReliance.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.