A group of youngsters in cool cafes and swanky restaurants sitting with their frothy cups of cappuccino and nachos. But their eyes are lowered and their fingers are in a ‘fast and furious mode.’ You might think that they are the future Einsteins and Newtons all set to unravel the mysteries of the universe. They are all together but not a single word is exchanged. Their silence is intriguing. But their silence has a reason. They are all hooked to their smartphones. You wonder why did they all come out in a group? They could have actually stayed at home and done the same (alone). Welcome to the new age Mobile India. Phubbing is the buzzword of urban India vocabulary.
India has been seized by a mobile revolution. Believe it or not, the mobile phone users in India are pegged at one billion. We might not have access to safe drinking water and toilets but there will be more than one mobile phones per family.
In the beginning, when mobile phones came to India in the late 90s (actually those days the mobile phones looked like those boxes you need for your geometry classes, some even looked like tiffin boxes), it was like caviar. Very few had it and the majority only mastered the art of ogling at the caviar from a distance. Today, mobile phones are as common as idli, vada pav or even paani puri.
Before you think that I am ‘immobile’ or anti-mobile, I must say that I love the way mobile phones have changed the way we communicate. In times of a crisis or emergency, mobile phones come as a great blessing. I love the way mobile phones act as a great democratic agent of change. I love it when the young girl who helps me at home comes, plug in her mobile phone and attaches it to the speakers and put on Rihana’s ‘Monster’ or Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and then goes on the cleaning spree. Well, I find it cool when she uses the bluetooth for ‘transferring’ songs from my playlist. She loves it when I play my age-old favourite ‘Katra Katra’ song from Izzazat. Today she told me, “My sister doesn’t like this song. But I think, she doesn’t have emotions.” She says with a smile, “Didi, accha lagta hai yeh gaana sun ke. (It feels nice to hear this song).” When she decides to take it easy, she sends me a message on whatsapp, “Didi, not coming.” Quick communication at its best. On my birthday, she changed her DP to a photo taken with me. Her ‘smart’ way of celebrating my birthday.
But there’s another side to this ‘mobile’ story. India is hooked to the world of touch. Everybody is in a rush to upload their holiday photographs, nuggets about their love life. From your break-up to make-up, everything you can upload in the virtual world by just the touch of your mobile. The art of conversation in India today is on life support system. India which was famous for its oral traditions may soon have to mourn its death.
WhatsApp has become the cool word. Everybody is on a ‘mobile’ high. You are smart only if you have a smartphone. The buck stops there.
India is hooked to its mobile phones but the users have very little or no knowledge of mobile manners or etiquette. So, in the darkness of movie theaters when you are lost in the magical world of celluloid fantasy, you will be ruthlessly pulled back to this not so pleasant real world with a loud voice telling, “haan bolo (Yes, tell me).” I have actually heard people yelling at their top voices and telling, “Woh share bech do (Sell that share), dusra kharid lo (Buy the other one).” You see, I live Ahmedabad, the city of bulls and bears. Sensex is orgasmic in this part of the country. Where does the celluloid magic figure, actually?
Even as the sound of people munching their caramel popcorns from their paper buckets slows down and you breathe in a sense of relief, you suddenly hear a woman telling, “Haan, dinner mein roti aur aloo gobi bana dena. (Make dinner for us).” You don’t curse your destiny, you curse that little smartphone and the hands holding that sans any etiquette.
Mobile phones have become a status symbol. You got to flaunt it. Your cool quotient is directly linked to that little one. The ones owning these little ones are on a rampage. They have seized urban India (including real and virtual world). Thanks to mobile phones, in India every Tom, Dick, Harry (or to be fair, say Sunny, Bunty, Pintoo, Chintoo or Jayesh, Jignesh) is a reincarnation of Henri Cartier Bresson. And not to talk about selfies, welfies and the never ending vocabulary of all ‘fies’ coming together. All the while, you are seeing somebody or the other pouting like Kim Kardashian and clicking a picture of their own or a group. It has become a menace, if you can allow me to say that.
Every other guy aspires to be a Salman Rushdie or should I say Chetan Bhagat (he mints a hell lot of money). And you actually thought, writing or photography is an art? You gotta be joking.
Just grab your smartphone and take a walk. Welcome to Mobile India..