Hold you tight, never let you go

Published: Jul 21, 2019, 05:49 IST | Paromita Vohra

A credit card that upgrades your limit when you say you don't want it anymore. A time-share for couples, though you're single

Hold you tight, never let you go
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraEvery morning he calls me from a different number. Sometimes, he gets a colleague to call me. I used to tell him to leave me alone, at first politely, then screaming in frustration. Then I stopped answering. The calls dwindled. I relaxed and began answering unknown numbers (I mean, what if it's Shah Rukh?). As if they knew, the calls begin again. "I have a plan for you. Take it, no?" "Leave me alone," I scream. "But things were so good between us for two years. What happened? I won't let you go." The calls never stop.

I am not talking about an ex-boyfriend or aspiring lover. But I am talking about a stalker. Mine is called Hathway Internet, but I'm sure you have one of your own. It could be a bank that refuses to shut down your account. A credit card that upgrades your limit when you say you don't want it anymore. A time-share for couples, though you're single.

The internet guys and us, it's true, we had a perfectly good working relationship. Then something changed: my office address. They did not service our new neighbourhood. So, we told them to close our account and found someone new.

The calls began. "It's about renewing your plan." We repeated the story over and over, more hysterical with every call. We began blocking numbers. But they have infinite numbers, which flashed on our screen: several times a day. Young women cajoling, "Plan renew karo na." Young men shiny with faux innocence, acting wounded when you yelled, as if they hadn't confessed their love, yaniki, harassed you a hundred times already. Finally, one honest person admitted the calls could not stop. "That's a separate division. Once your number goes there, we cannot recall it." Hello, Kafka.

Six months have passed. Every day the text, "Gd mrng dear," as in "Just '599 a month plan," yaniki tum meri ho, sirf meri. Every day the calls.
I might have to change my number.

When we tried to break up with our earlier service provider, Tikona, a man who sounded like an ominously wry villain from an Anurag Kashyap film began calling and threatening us with legal notices from Tees Hazari.

Broadband cable companies might be the Kabir Singh of marketing. But no one is a slacker in the controlling-love game. Should you casually check the price of a ticket on a travel site, a fake-ly breezy email will follow fast: "Hey, didn't you want to go to Shillong? We're holding your booking." Yet, book a ticket on this lover boy site, then try cancelling it. There will be alimony to pay and emotional damages to bear. Shoes, saris, petticoats: smile at them once, be stalked by their website forever. Idly opened Tinder at the traffic signal and did not keep swiping? Omigod. "Keep swiping to avoid making your account idle," they will say. Yaniki, come back or I'll kill you. And surely Uber has lied to you and stood you up more than any lover. Oh, surveillance and threats, those weapons of toxic lovers, state control and the free market.

Maybe woke vids about toxic masculinity will smash the patriarchy. Who will liberate us from the obsessive stalker economy with its promises of choice and freedoms, its plan to hold us tight and never let us go?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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