Articulating on the wild-spread use of cell phones in India, one may parody Churchill and claim, “Never in the history of human communication have so many with so little to say, have said so little to so many”. A friendly people, Indians love chats, with the barest of intervals possible. Cell phones that permit multi-tasking, that is gossiping when engaged in another activity, is a dream come true for many and one sees its joyful consummation in co-berthers on trains, co-bathers at river ghats, table sharers in tiffin rooms, co-mourners at funerals and co-viewers in theatres. As a country with 1,635 spoken native languages, with more than 2,000 dialects this keenness for tongue-rattling should not be mind-boggling. And it should surprise nobody that with many Indians, silence is a challenging act that has to be willed, and happens only when it is a religious imposition (mounam).
In India, we have 900 million cell phones, 20 million land phones in use, and 140 cell phones are added every minute. A recent U.N. report said there are more cell phones in India than toilets. This has saddened but hardly startled any of us who travels around Indian countryside, or enjoys a look at rural India through a train window, around dawn. One sees the landscape dotted with people engaged in morning expurgation. A closer look will reveal that many a squatting man is talking into his cellphone, most likely with his friend squatting on the shady side of a yonder hedge. Cell phones offer two main attractions. Firstly, one does not see the person one is speaking to and so one carries on talking, unaware of any negative physical and hostile facial response, that usually abort further talk.
Secondly, cell phones allow multi tasking. Whereas the ancient non-mobile land phones are used only for exchanging essential information, cell phones are perceived as instruments for incidental vocal activity. In what one could be dubbed ‘Parkinson’s law of Private communication’, chat expands to fill in the minutes available under the latest scheme.
Against this cacophony of rap, it blows one’s mind to think that we Indians taught the world the power of silence and meditation! But then, aren’t we the ones that also said the Universe originated in sound?
There is an old wise saying: “More important than father’s call and mother’s call is Nature’s call”. It highlights the importance of responding to rectal rumblings at the earliest, to promote a lifetime of regular bowel turnover.
Today, it should perhaps read “More important than spouse’s call and nature’s call is telephone call”.
Rather ironically, surpassing the original axiom in utility, cell phones lead to verbal diarrhoea.
Maybe with such abundance of cell phones, we should put them to some additional non-conventional uses in our cash starved nation.
The following suggestions are based on the personal experience of the author.
1. Stress buster: Use Vocal Catharsis Therapy (VCT) . When annoyed by a party for whatever reason, get out of the house, dial the number of your ‘annoyer’( husband, wife, boss, neighbour, judge or whoever), hold the cell phone to your ear, start walking briskly. Give a bit of your mind in most unmistakable terms. Don’t mince words. Take your time to choose your choicest expletives. The walking lends muscle to aggression.
You will be astonished to see how your stress is gone in a few minutes. Only DO NOT press the talk button at any stage. Unless you want to invite ‘Chatricide’.
2. Escape Channel: Perfect to make an unambiguous exit from boring meetings, unending cultural events, pointless wedding receptions, etc. Walk out holding the phone to the ear appearing agitated. If emerging from quiet groups, squiggle a bit initially, hinting that the phone was on ‘Vibrator’ mode.
3. The potty-talkie effect: Many train their bowels to respond when sitting on the toilet seat and engaging the phone (triggering an audio- rectal reflex). Dial a humorous pal. Belly laugh helps literally.
4. A weapon: Women walking alone could keep talking into undialled cell phone to use as handy weapon against chain snatchers. Target forehead. Stuns briefly. Bleeds profusely. He may leave somebody else‘s chain with you! Keep it.
G. Lakshmipathi is a doctor with two cell phones, one mostly used to locate the other.