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December 30, 2007

The happy go lucky CELL times

Not so long ago, in a land that is ours.... there was a world without the ubiquitous cell phones, around each corner and in every pocket... Statistics, especially at this time of the year come out with reports of Indians are overtaking just about everybody and have more cell phones than X country or more cells than land lines and so on.... Each day, we are bombed by this image and I have seen many die hard opponents falling to the lure of cell users, who had claimed that over their dead bodies will they use cells... Now you see them, and I happen to be joining those ranks even as I write, strutting around with the phones and raking up more talk time than regular users, perhaps to make up for the lost time.

What I am interested in and it is always easy to forget about the past is how the culture came up to signify what it is today and I have spent several weeks recalling those moments when these phones entered our world.

It happened in early 2002 when I was in the third year of college. it was during now, that people started talking these phones, bulky and more like the walkie my father uses in the mines. But this was immediately after the internet had arrived in our lives (that is another story worth writing another time) and we were all ready for massive changes in ous social lives. However, no one I know really came to own any of these phones, with the cost being a major deterrent and the sheer bulkiness being another. That year passed and in 2003, I found myself in IIFM, Bhopal with cell phones in the hands of the people in posh markets.

Prior to that, I had seen some people with these phones in Delhi way back in 2000 or so, where one gentleman in Priya Cinema was ostensibly speaking over a phone but then it RANG!!! leading to laughs amongst those who were gawking at him and he escaping somewhere...

Yes, at Bhopal which is not a big city in 2003, I started seeing these phones with amazing regularity - in markets, at workplaces and above all in educational institutions where no one seemed to know what was happening.

In my case, the first regular cell use came into view in late 2003 and early 2004, though she had the phone with her from the time she joined IIFM, in June 2003. She had a Motorola or a sony, can't remember which and to her credit, she never flaunted it in the classes. In fact, no one knew that she had a phone, gifted by her brother from Japan...

In December 2003, we went out for a two month long field trip and when all returned in January the next year, whoa, there were 6 phones int he batch and all were sleek and less bulky than the ones I had seen in Chandigarh. SIX phones... that was January.... By the time I left IIFM in April 2004, there were 35 phones in a batch of 45...

Now, it is 2007 and I do not live in a city, in fact, I live in an official Third grade village panchayat... where you wouldn't expect technology to prevail.... But as you guessed, everybody I see has a phone, almost all staff who are tribals have phones, some people whom I know to be not very well off financially still have a phone, I know of people who spend up to 30% of their salaries on phone bills, I see people who talk for up to 6 hours in a day, I see traditional non users now junkies. Man does have the wherewithal to declare a judgment and I am allowed the excuse, cells have come to pervade the way of life we live in, whether in Delhi or here at Kotagiri, it has supreme advantages... but what about being connected all the time.. I remember my childhood when my father used to receive all these calls in his PABX and he used to get fed up with being connected all the time, why then are people making a conscious choice to remain connected, is the consequent stress not visible.... Dont know the answers but it is worth your effort too.....