Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cell Phones

My cousin’s children were to come over to my house in Bombay for the weekend. I’ll call them jack and Jill in this narration. Jill lived in Bhayander and Jack in Churchgate. For those who are not familiar with Bombay, Churchgate is the starting point of local trains and Bhayander is way out beyond the suburbs and is the terminus for many trains. I lived in Parel, closer to Churchgate than Bhayander.

Jack and Jill called me up separately to say they’d start by four o clock. SO I expected Jack by five, and Jill after 6.30. I prepared their favourite dishes and waited eagerly for them in my house from where my children had flown away across the seven seas.

By seven, the doorbell rang. I opened to find both of them, with cell phones glued to their ears, muttering ok, huh , ok huh rather unenthusiastically into it. Then they cut off the phone almost simultaneously and looked at each other, shaking their heads in a resigned manner.

“What’s up, guys, I asked”

“I wonder who discovered this cell phone”. That was Jack. A very soft-spoken refined guy.

“How did your parents manage when they sent you to hostels, Mollyaunty? There were no cell phones in those days”, asked my gentle niece.

“Oh bliss it must have been to live in those days”, said jack, his eyes raised to the heavens.

“Hey hey, what’s happening”, I asked.

“Mama has been remote controlling me and appa, Jill”.

“Oh”, I said.

“She called me at 2 o clock and asked me to start only after 5.30. 'Jill ought to be given a head start so that both of you can reach the Sewari station at the same time' ”

“Appa had been tracking me even since I left the hostel for the station”, said Jill.

“And mama would tell me where she had reached. They were calling both of us every fifteen minutes”.

“Are they in their respective offices?” I asked.

“No”, said Jill. “Both are at home. It’s Saturday today, and half day”

“I see”, I said. I imagined them sitting in the drawing room, each with her/his cell phones tracking the train journey of the offspring from two ends of Mambai.

“When I reached Sewari Station, mama asked me where I was waiting. She asked me for a landmark. I told her I was waiting near the step in front of a huge Hutch hoarding”.

“And appa called me around that time and told me to head for the steps and look for Jack in front of the Hutch hoarding”.

Together they got into a cab and around the time they reached my apartment complex, each got a call from the parent. They wanted to know if Jack and Jill had reached their destination!

“Really, Mollyaunty, this is too much”, said Jill. “How did your parents send you to far off boarding schools and hostels in those days when there were no mobiles?”

“Not just, mobiles. There were no STDs in those days. One had to book a trunk call and wait for the call to be connected. Most hostels did not entertain calls from home 24x7. There was a fixed time once a week.”

“Were your parents scared?”

“Don’t know, my dear. You guys will understand only when you become parents”.

This episode takes my mind back to a little incident. Once, I had gone to Mumbai to take care of my son who had a stretched ligament. His leg was in cast but he couldn’t miss classes and sessionals. WE were accommodated in a guest house a stone throw from his college.

It was a public holiday and he was free that day. We got into a discussion about over protective parents.

“I really don’t understand why you guys have to call me so frequently. You know I’m capable of looking after myself?”

“WE came to know about your ligament problem because we called you. You were keeping it a big secret.”

“That’s because I knew both of you’d freak out at something so small”

“Small, eh? You heard what the ortho said”

“Listen amma, I am an adult. I can look after myself. You guys pray such a lot. So why don’t you trust God and just believe that God will take care of things?”

We went on for some more time but I kept silent. It becomes difficult to counter the logic of our children.

The same evening, I went out to Fashion Street and Colaba cause way. I told my son I’d be back in two hours but in two hours only half the job was done. Exactly one minute after two hours, Mathew called me.

“Am not yet done, math”

“Ok”, he said.

Exactly fifteen minutes later, he called again.

“Finished, amma?”

“Heavens NO”

Another quarter of an hour passed. Then he called again.

“Almost done?”

“No”, I snapped into the phone.

“Hurry up. It’s getting late”

“I’m not going to hurry up. I’ll take my time”.

Another 20 minutes and I get the irritating squeal of a text message.

“What on earth are you doing, old lady? I’m getting worried”, it said.

I didn’t respond. I was really irritated.

Five minutes later, he called again.

“Amma”, he sounded tense. “Please stop for the day and come home”.

Annoyed, I decided to call it a day and hailed a cab.

“What was all that about, math”, I asked as soon as I reached home. “It’s totally inconsistent with you high flown discourse this morning?”

“You are an old lady (and I was still a few years away from fifty then) and have BP and the streets are crowded and you are absent minded and careless. So I’m justified in getting worried”!!

My mind now goes further back to those days before cell phones took over our lives. Those were the days when all human beings were compelled to give each other that space into which the cell phones now invade so oppressively.

Are we living in a topsy turvy world where the wise saying of our forefathers are being reversed? Do we live in times where invention is proving to be the mother of necessity, instead of the other way round?


  1. hehe..same story mom freaks out if i dont call home for 2 days..and it has been 7 years since i left home working in different places...;-)

    recently i mentioned that the lake in our city was frozen i was going to walk on top of it..along with 1000's who were already there...well she absolutely was aghast and was pleading with me not to go..only if i had called her after goin..;-P

  2. oh my- this was an excellent post!! So often I wonder if the cell phones are a blessing or a curse. I can't go anywhere to get away from them :)

    I was smiling about what you told your cousin's children about how we used to have to book calls- I remember when I went to university- if I got a call from my parents that meant something was terribly wrong!! ha ha- long distance calls were only made in extreme emergency situations!!

  3. dear kpj
    a sweet post. i am not much of a cellphone user now but i will be once the kids hit adolescence and start to detach from me and unfortunately for them, probably into their adulthood:-) my 82 year old mom got a personal mobile recently so all of us can reach her any time anywhere!

  4. My cell phone goes blank sometimes these days due to some loose contact. I have to say, the feeling is liberating:)

  5. LOL KT! You know what in my case it is the other way around. My Mom tells the same line Math does: "you are absent minded and careless. So I’m justified in getting worried".
    And all my I-am-an-adult-now lines loses the effect.

    But cell phones - I hate those things! I recently went around without one for a couple of months but mother pushed hers into my hands. Sigh. And after I chose journalism, there is no way I am allowed to live without one. I hate technology! Uh except blogs. :D

  6. nd how did one live without a mobile in the good old days?

    guess one was worried even then but chose to trust in the Almighty and dialled the important number instead :)

  7. I think this tracking thing is a nature, when there were no cell phones it might not have been so often but it was still there, and its such a pressure to be calling your mom or dad from every possible phone booth on your ay to some place and heaven forbid if you missed, I have faced it, and thats is one thing I promised never to do to my kids, and wonder of wonder, my daughter doesnt rest unless she informs me of all her whereabouts, and she is the tracker in our family, nervous agitated until she knows where each of us is!!

  8. This gives me some what of an insight to what would have happened in my mother's head not long ago. Amen to the role reversal too

  9. Craft comes naturally to you and that is something that impresses me every time I read your articles.

  10. poor kids ! Can't blame them for feeling like being electronically tracked wild animals!
    cell phone makes life easier a lot No doubt !
    but its the user's (the caller)common sense alone that can ensure his/her over enthusiasm does NOT metamorphose into nagging breach of privacy !
    It is understandable one gets concerned about the safety of dear ones that go out into today's wild urban primitiveness, where any given moment a probable bomb can possibly explode in your face.... BUT, ONLY GOD IS YOUR SAFETY NET! SO, better establish a hotline with Heavens;-)

  11. Hope things are going alright with you, Kochuthresiamma. It's been more than a few weeks since your last post.

  12. Use of cellphones for every youngster has become an obsession. Our new generation has taken it quite seriously. Cellphones are ubiquitous. Our youngsters squander their time by surfing the Internet, messaging and talking most of the time on cellphones.

    There are numerous network connections which perpetually offer the cheapest packages. The mushroom growth of such packages has made lives of parents vulnerable.

    Especially the cheapest offers, which start from the midnight, have entangled our young children to waste their time on such unhealthy activities. Our youngsters, who once used to work hard on education, are now believed to have been wasting their precious time on mobile phones.Many lives have been damaged.Parental anxieties grow understandably.
    Excellent post.. Your inimitable style in every word.

  13. Very pertinent topic you chose to pen.
    The first thing children of this day look for when
    they get out of bed in the morning is to hunt for their cell phones and not the tooth brush

  14. hi, you have nice blog.. u can view also mine..

  15. haven't seen a post from you for long. this is unusual. hope you are ok and everything is ok.

    or is it that you are blogging in another place?


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