That Stupid Thing
name is … ah ! who cares about my name in the Chennai city holding
more than 7.5 million individuals, including the yesterday born
grandson of my friend, Srinivasan. Even the one day old cute kid
whose feeble cry from his teeth free empty mouth making his rosy
cheeks red, will not care to talk to me one day. From the one day
old kid to people who have only one day left to live in this funny
world, nobody wants to know about me. The 7.5 million individuals
in this Chennai city, some percentage of whom I witness daily, some
other percentage I witness rarely and the majority I never witness,
to me appears like 7.5 million individual societies. All because
of that stupid thing.
The basic principle of human society is to interact and cherish
relationship. Every individual influences the society. The society
is run by the response of each individual to the responses of other
individuals. Everything was fine till few years back, until the
stupid thing made its presence in the peaceful Chennai. From dawn
to dusk, even while sleeping, people need only one thing, that stupid
thing, that hand-held stupid mobile phone. Nowadays, I’m not seeing
people around; I just see 7.5 million mobile phones roaming around
holding human beings with it. Earlier, 8 out of 10 people I encounter
used to greet me, but now; sometimes even I wonder whether I exist
That day I really thought the guy has gone insane; what else you
think about someone who talks and laughs by himself without anyone
around in the middle of the road. Another day, when I went to milk
booth, the person filling the decade old broken chair inside the
cash counter asked, “ya tell me” and I replied “two packets”.
He started shouting,
“I don’t care who you are and let me see how you get it”. I was
stunned and twisted my complexly entangled brain cells to think
what the problem in buying two packets of milk is. Thank god! Only
then I realized that he was talking-to someone through his mobile
phone. Everybody everywhere is busy talking to someone nowhere in
mobile phones. The whole world looks like a lunatic asylum where
every individual confines to himself, an aberration in the society.
But, since the whole society is behaving like infinite individual
societies, only I look like an aberration for them. The black colour,
grey colour and many other coloured plastic boxes with rubber buttons
and a small screen have eaten away all my friends and relatives
It’s long since I’ve talked even to my daughter. Normally when she
comes home, she complains about the weather and also grieves that
she had to walk a long distance. Compressing her big eyes, her cute
little face wrinkles when she complains. I love to see that expression
and often tease her for that. She’s indeed beautiful and like her
mom, she’s a chatter box. During dinner, we sit together and we
listen to her while she narrates incident by incident since that
morning. Whether it is a quarrel with her classmate or an appreciation
from her teacher, her food won’t digest until she completes the
whole days stuff. The practice continued for years even after her
joining the job, but until recently. Nowadays, she enters answering
a call, later get hooked up in another call and responds to some
other call even while dinner. No more narration from her and no
more wrinkles over her face. All because of that stupid mobile phone.
I feel like puking over it.
The worst part occurs
during my daily travel to office. I use electric train for commuting
to office. It’s a half an hour journey and I used to enjoy it very
much. We, the co-passengers had formed our own local groups. The
first one of the group will reserve seats for people boarding in
subsequent stations. Our group mostly comprised of old men, Mr.Sankaran
whose pot belly hits the passenger in opposite seat, the bald headed
Balakrishnan who have never missed the sandal scratch on his forehead,
a proud symbol which he used to portray that he is a keralite and
Shyam, smart and handsome, an odd man in our group used to discuss
about varied topics.
Though we had never
been to each others houses, we knew all of our relatives, functions
at our homes and everything personal about us. Similarly, there
were other groups; those who play cards and makes lot of noise,
who sing film songs using compartment walls as drums, who stands
on foot board to look around girls entering each station and so
on. Basically, people of similar interests got together and enjoy.
But, now, everything has changed. People are idle. Though they travel
together throughout the year, they don’t even know each other’s
names. They are always busy talking to someone or other in their
stupid mobile phones.
Another group of people sit idle like Egyptian mummies. Yes, they
are listening to FM radio in mobile phones. They sway gently by
the cradle vibration of the train and I think they liked it as the
swaying is sometimes coherent with the rhythm of the music that
stupid mobile phone vomits. Once, I sat in between these swaying
people, suddenly when one started talking to some stranger. He didn’t
care about his neighbours and was revealing all his personal details.
From his monotonous conversation (believe me, its killing to listen
only one half of conversation), I understood that he is a diamond
merchant and is going to Europe next week. Had my dad not inculcated
some good value system, I could have used the free info to own few
diamonds. If I go on listening to such numerous one sided conversations,
I’m sure I will go mad one day. Already, my wife complains that
my behaviour is awkward.
But one relief is that this train trauma will last only this Thursday.
Tired of this old man who still uses his secretary to check email,
my company thought that they should get rid of me at the earliest
opportunity possible. Though I would have loved to work for some
more years to avoid being with my wife for the whole day, the very
thought of everyday train journey made me love my wife.
The most awaited Thursday also came at last. Since nursery school,
I’ve been a part of many farewells. Every farewell is associated
with mixed emotions, a grief of losing the past and excitement of
entering the future, like a cup of water after eating gooseberry,
a sourness mixed with sweetness. Relishing the past memories and
expecting the future moments, I was experiencing the last official
30 minutes train journey. The train stopped in between at local
stations and the railway platforms exchanged passengers and all
the passengers with stupid mobile phones. A lady clad in a bright
yellow saree reflecting the morning mood was standing near the entrance,
perhaps for getting down in the next station.
The breeze, which
remains still at railway station, gushes with heavy force when the
train moves blowing the lady’s yellow saree exposing her waist.
Sweat dropped from her first waist tire to the second, slowly, very
slowly like the collaboration of left over water droplets on an
automobile windscreen after rain. But this sweat is an irritating
feeling, especially in places like Chennai, the sea water provides
enough liquor for the sun that the atmosphere is always fully drunk
unable to suck even one drop of sweat from us leaving all the salt
laden sweat to trip over clothes making us embarrassed with white
Everyday, I face the
same problem. My loving wife always have something or the other
to tell me in the last two minutes before I leave and I have to
run from the railway gate to platform within 30 seconds at least
to push myself into the last compartment in font of the white uniformed
black skinned guard. When I force myself to equilibrium holding
the passenger rails, I gasp severely accompanied by wild oscillation
of my drooping belly like the bellows of a harmonium. My heart beats
rapidly pumping through all possible blood vessels and spit sweat
on my forehead and neck. The sweat collects and flows down through
the side and reaches my earlobes. I feel tickled, try to wipe it
off and I drop my bag in the attempt.
The pot belly compels
me to get my trousers stitched with the only known tailor Manickam
as there is no standard size that fits my disfigured physique. While
gasping, my belly pushes my trousers and the white lining peeps
out. I can’t see it as y belly prevents, but can realize it by the
teasing half-lipped smile from some teenage girls opposite to me.
Being the last day,
I started early and escaped the embarrassment of white lining from
the teenagers. But, today the teenagers were replaced by the lady
inside yellow saree. She was deeply involved in her mobile phone
that she was not even aware or didn’t care to be aware of her waist
getting exposed. But some college guys who were swaying to the music
inside the stupid mobile phone were fully aware of the lady’s exposed
waist. I felt sick, but soon forgot about it as I entered my office.
Evening, my office
staff hosted a farewell for my retirement day. All of us assembled
in the conference hall and for the first time, I took the leading
chair in the dais. Most of the people gathered 5 minutes before
the scheduled time. Perhaps, the aroma of cutlet behind the dais
might have attracted them. We heard some unheard music when one
of the guys excused himself with his mobile saying, “hello, ya Ravi
speaking”. Soon, one more lady followed the same way. By now, Ravi
had come and Gopal received a call. I’m sure it is his fiancée.
Despite his dark skin, he blushed; but I had been to his engagement
and I personally feel that she’s just an ordinary looking female
and doesn’t deserve so much blushing. Within 5 minutes, everyone
around me was talking to someone who is not there then and I stood
aloof experiencing the unfathomable truth of my loneliness. Under
some strange permutation all the potential friends of the gathering
were silent for five minutes and hence could finish my farewell.
First our G.M spoke and was followed by many others, my bosses,
peers and subordinates. As a custom, they all spoke nice about me.
I felt proud despite my complete knowledge that all these are alive
only for few more minutes and will vanish like Cinderella’s chariot
the moment I get out of the dais. Before that moment, my G.M garlanded
me and gave me a nicely packed gift box wrapped in satin ribbon.
I was so delighted, especially at the packing and satin ribbon.
With so much of excitation, I slowly opened the box. There was a
small greeting card signed by all saying “you will be with us always”.
I slowly took the greeting card and found a … god !... the stupid
Contributing Story Teller
I was born in 1982 in southern tip of India, Kanyakumari district.
I'm an engineer by Profession. I work for "Ashok Leyland",
second largest Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers. I'm currently
residing in Chennai, southern part of India.