March 30, 2020
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Won’t Miss The Calls

Landline phones, the mobiles complete the unholy triad

Won’t Miss The Calls
Illustration by Saahil
Won’t Miss The Calls

A few years ago, when I was expanding one of my stories into a possible screenplay, I introduced a character who was so attached to his mobile phone that he insisted on it being buried with him when he finally exited this little old world. His wishes were faithfully carried out. The beloved mobile phone was placed in his coffin, and you could hear it ringing away as he was lowered into his grave. One way of achieving immortality—as long as the battery lasted.

But my producer-director didn’t find it funny—he was a cellphone addict—so I wrote him another scene in which an overworked surgeon leaves his cellphone in a patient’s abdomen and then sews her up. Every time she burped, the phone would ring. My producer didn’t find this funny either, so out went the scene. Someone else is welcome to use it.

I find that habitual cellphone users are apt to lose their sense of humour. It has happened to a number of my friends. They begin to wear an anxious, harassed look. They are only too conscious of that little instrument nestling in that coat or pants pocket, ready to explode into action any moment, and put an end to an interesting conversation or ruin someone’s dinner party.

How do people get in touch with me? Through something more advanced than mobile technology: Telepathy.

But I don’t find a worried or anxious look on the face of the young man leaning against a lamp-post a little way down the road from my place. He is not making a call, but he is totally absorbed in his mobile phone. He does not even notice me as I walk up quietly behind him. I look over his shoulder, and the wonders of modern technology are revealed to me in the form of a hard porn movie at its most explicit. Far from resenting my intrusion, the young man offers to run it again for me—for a fee! No wonder cinema audiences are in decline.

I know mobile phones can be useful when travelling. But last week I made a hurried trip to Ludhiana and back to Mussoorie (eight hours by road each way) without once having recourse to a cellphone. True, the taxi driver had one, but he hadn’t paid his dues and it wasn’t working. No problem. When we wanted to locate our destination, we simply stopped and asked people on the street and they were very helpful. There is nothing to beat direct human contact.

To tell you the truth, I hate all phones, landline inc­luded. When my old landline goes out of order (as it frequently does), I leave it like that for days, weeks. Peace, per­fect peace. Better than having a fond parent looking up my number on the internet and phoning to ask me if I could help her little boy with his homework. Thanks to the busybody internet I have had to change my number twice in the last three years.

The mobile phone has now turned into every user into an amateur photographer, with further intrusion into my privacy. “Can I take your photo?” asks a well-intentioned tourist. “I’m not dressed,” I say. “It doesn’t matter,” says he and before I can throw him out he has taken my picture, preserving for posterity my ample figure resplendent in kachha-banian.

So how do people get in touch with me? Well, there’s something far more adv­anced than mere technology. It’s called telepathy. You must try it sometime.

(Author Ruskin Bond doesn’t use a mobile phone)

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