“‘I need a mobile phone,” I repeated for the third time to the L&M.
He was fiddling with his new gadget, the size of a decent sized brick and trying to punch some numbers on it. It was the initial days of the advent of the mobile phones in India and he had got one – a Siemens S3 model, if I remember right. Cost a packet too. One of the brats can confirm, knowing the L&M’s notorious memory.It cost an arm — no make it two arms and a leg – to make even local calls.
So his next question was logical: “Why do you need one?”
I found that one too absurd to merit a reply. Why didn’t I need one? I was a woman on the go – to the market, to the bank, to the temple, to the library, to a friend’s — and I needed to keep in touch, didn’t I? What if one of the brats wanted desperately to contact me? (‘Ma, where is my white T shirt?’) or the L&M might need to give some urgent instruction? (‘I have an upset tummy and will only eat khichdi tonight.’) Or what if my best friend had something of earthshaking importance to tell me? (‘There is a sale at Fabindia. Where are you?’)
I need not have worried though. The L&M is one of those guys who loves changing gadgets and appliances. It is like this. If he looks contemplatively at any one of the above said things for more than half a minute, one can safely assume that its days were numbered – in single digits. It could be any white good which normally has a decent life span.
And everyone knows that technical gizmos become obsolete faster than you can say ‘obsolete.’ True to his nature, I caught the L&M staring at his first mobile phone reflectively one day. I did a handstand and a cartwheel for good measure in the next room. I was going to get it now!
Sure enough, he spotted something smaller and sleeker and the brick found its way to me. Hand-me-down, but what the hell!
If looks could kill, my handset would have done it any day! It resembled the cordless handsets that we see today, complete with a small antenna and all. In fact, a slightly longer antenna would have made me look like a policewoman in plainclothes carrying a walkie-talkie! Its thickness was how much the size of many of the handsets of today– about two inches! The menu functions were a pain – you had to go through so much garbage before you reached what you wanted, for instance, to type a message. One thing was certain: even if its looks didn’t kill, it could still have done the job– with its sheer weight!
Still I carried it everywhere with me, my already heavy handbag weighing even more with the handset! In those initial days of the mobile phone not many people had one and so every time I took it out, (mostly to admire it and show it off than actually making or receiving a call), I had several bystanders gazing enviously at me. The problem was, I didn’t have too many contacts to send SMS to and so ended up sending them to the L&M. Never mind that I had to press the keys a zillion times to type a simple message, since predictable text had not made its debut.
So while I still bravely lugged my brick around using it more than before since the rates had reduced slightly, newer models flooded the market at a mindboggling rate. The yuppies and puppies were holding their palms against their ears and whispering sweet-nothings into their tiny handsets and here I was pulling out the brick and shouting into it (the battery probably had weakened). From eliciting envious looks I had been reduced to drawing amused and sometimes irritated glances from the above said audience.
The next handset was slightly smaller but still not so sleek. But at the rate new models kept flooding the market, I soon realised that barring the L&M going crazy and changing his handset every month, I would always be a several steps behind in the world of the Ys and Ps.
Still I managed to find new uses for the handset. And one of the things I discovered was games. Not for me the frenetic zapping and annihilating of sundry creatures. I loved the languorous ‘snake’ – still do in fact. I don’t believe in engaging all my digits maniacally in destroying things. Instead I use just the left thumb to make the snake eat its food languidly. It almost became a pet – I would suddenly wake up at night thinking that my snake must be hungry and start feeding it. It also made me feel very protective to prevent it from bumping into its own tail. The clicks would wake up the L&M and he would demand that I stop that very instant. Height of heartlessness, I tell you.
I think it is a very healthy game, one that fosters the nurturing instinct in the player. I can’t tell you what satisfaction it gives me to see the snake grow, much like I used to love watching the brats eat and grow into strapping young lads.
Coming back to the story, over the years the L&M also lost his penchant for new phones and so by inference I am stuck with an old handset.
Recently when the younger one saw me with an old handset, he decided to buy me a new one with many new features. He asked me my preference and I said, “I need Snake.”
“What?” he said, unable to believe that his old woman had finally flipped her lid. The salesman and the brat tried their best to convince me of the features of each funky new model. A desperate brat even tried to overshoot his budget and get me a one-touch phone. But I stood my ground. In disgust he had to hunt for the only model of Nokia that still had the game! And I am now happily feeding my pet all the food it wants, day or night!
I am told that one can download games in the latest phones. I wonder if the much praised OneTouch Net phone from Tata DOCOMO has this facility. Once I am satisfied that I can download the latest in Snake, I can start plotting of ways to make the L&M get interested in it.
I know you are thinking that it might be forever before I get it, considering it is so good. Pssst, let me tell you a secret about the L&M. He loves to own new mobile handsets but uses the same basic features that were there in his first Siemens! I am banking on his getting frustrated by its smartness.
And guess what I would do then? Well, I would offer to ‘take it off his hands!’ Ingenious, aren’t I?
Don’t go revealing my plan to him, will you, now?