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Friday, March 17, 2006

Cellphones

I miss not having a cellphone, I do. When the cellphone first came out in India, I remember my uncle had bought a NOKIA handset which was ...ahem....as thick as a brick, for which he paid....hold your breath... 40,000 Rupees. It looked very cool for the time, and the fact that you had to stick your head out of the window to make a call, and that you couldn't use it in most parts of Madras didn't rob it of all the coolness it's price tag demanded.

Then a cellphone tower (base-station) came up near my house in Kottayam. For some inexplicable reason I felt damn proud of it, and I even remember referring to it as 'my cellphone tower,' although I was still half-a-decade away from getting a cellphone of my own.

I had a friend who used to crank -call people whom he knew had a cellphone, to make them spend the 8 rupees per minute that was the charge for incoming calls at that time. Oh yes, outgoing calls were 16 Rupees per minute and incoming calls were 8. This was called 'airtime.'

In college, around second year (2000) a few people started getting cellphones of their own, and these were the outrageously cool people with money to burn. I even remember a discussion I had with my room-mate about whether a cellphone or a car was a greater luxury (laptops didn't even figure in the same league). We proceeded to do a census and the car won by a whisker, with 5 people having cars and 8 people having cellphones.

Stories abounded about embarassing attempts to show off cellphones, including the one, which I am sure you have heard, about the guy apparently talking on his cellphone, and the phone ringing in the middle of his 'conversation.' There was another one about this guy who stopped wearing his watch so that he could whip out his cellphone whenever someone asked him the time.

Then pre-paid cards came out, the gray market started to flourish and prices of handsets began a steady decline. More and more people started getting cellphones, and the queues outside the hostel phone booth started getting shorter. Shouts of "*insert name*....PHONE CALL" became less frequent in the hostel. The people who earlier used to earn glares of irritation mixed with envy, when they hogged the hostel phone, could now spend hours talking to their sweethearts in the comfort of their hostel room, without offending anyone.

And then incoming calls became free, handset prices dropped even further and somewhere along the line, even I got a cellphone. A cheapie Motorola that would be a shoo-in for the "worst-designed cellphone in history" award. It refused to leave me. I left it behind in a restaurant and got it back, I've left it behind in people's rooms and I've got it back, it still lives in my cupboard as my backup phone. In the meanwhile the cellphone slowly and surely became an essential part of my existence. Communication, reachability, the feeling that you're never alone, the hours of mindless conversation with countless people, all these things became an addiction.

But somehow I yearn for a cellphone less world. Where I can sleep without being woken up. Where you can't reach me if I don't want you to. Where ICICI Bank doesn't want to sell me credit cards every other day. The grass is definitely greener on the other side...I am POSITIVE!

13 comments:

Boomsa said...

But, Mr. Smith, if you didn't have a cell phone, what would you do when you've just ordered a meal at a restaurant?
You and I would probably never speak, if not for those moments when the beef/mutton is still on its way.

N said...

*sigh* I know what you mean.

Smith said...

@boomsa - damn...i am getting a reputation aren't i? everyone is on my case for calling them while waiting for food, even the people i don't call while waiting for food (or otherwise)!! i still see it as a win-win situation, i get to keep in touch with people, and kill time while waiting for food....and the people at the other end, like you boomsa dearest, enjoy the privilege of talking to me ;-)

@anindita - i am dreading the day i get a blackberry (if ever that day is to come)...

scout said...

I hear ya... when I was in India, I got my first phone in 12th grade - a sick looking Nokia 3315. I think I got addicted to snake. But now, the cellphone is the only way to reach me. My apartment landline is hardly used, and though the phone is newer, sharper looking and doesn't have snake - I miss the days of mtnl phones and no text messages.

simmi said...

I only got my own cell phone in 2001...and that was only due to the dangers of South African Society...and being very pregnant...and 'forgotten' by my father who was suposed to pick me (us) up...so there I was, sitting in the middle of nowhere, heavy and huge and extremely tired...waiting....and waiting, afraid to move incase he drove by...eventually as darkness descended, I maneged to walk up the road and catch public transport to my dysfunctional (x)boyfriends sisters place (this was done within relative safety)...before it dawned on me 'padre' that he had forgotten his pregnant daughter, in a very dangerous area of durban......

Since then, I have had fones, some given to me,and some bought, but I must say that I agree, with the compulsive addiction that one develops, and I really did believe that life would terminate with out a cell fone, only to find my self so much more aware, and focused in the present...without one I must admit that I am hectic , and give my sons school all the numbers of friend and 'non'friends whom I might be around...

...cant live with them, cant live without them...

But seriously...I dont fuckin give a shit about design...& according to all the fone-sluts/nazi's my motorola was very sexy.... but im a good girl, and dont use my fone for its abillity to vibrate

Smith said...

@scout - my motorola had a terrible version of snake, and an unusably small keypad, so i didn't get the opportunity to develop a snake addiction like all my nokia friends did...but on the 3310/15 i much prefer that Space Invaders game..

Smith said...

@simmi - how will my blog get that 'U/R' certification now? drat...family audiences alienated forever :-)...PG-13 at least!

longblackveil said...

Ye gods! I started with a retro-classic Motorola as well[Hello, Moto!]. The model wasn't even on the market by the time I got "brand-new" one of the same. Have now upgraded to a better version of Motorola. Brand loyalty like anything.

Smith said...

i think it may be the same Moto as mine....actually no...mine was the ECONOMOTO....and then I switched to Samsung....and about the same time, coincidentally or not, Samsung overtook Motorola as the second largest manufacturer of cellphone handsets....i think Motorola took it back from them subsequently....but I was impressed at my influence on global technology markets :-)

maverick said...

good one. i wish i cud throw away mine. i really do. but i just can't. its a love-hate kinda thing. sigh!

simmi said...

gosh, im so sorry...just had to vent i guess.
am I forgiven?
U could use the comment authorization.

Smith said...

hehe, not at all, that was in jest....vent away...feel free.!!!

JoanOfArc said...

Imagine, no cellphones would mean no way to call me for a nice, mallu lunch... (it's another thing that you had bad timing!!!) Well, think about it... it's the cellphone that helped us bond:) So I say YEAH to cellphones...:)