Saturday, July 26, 2008

Horizontally mobile

I believe in progress, because it opens up new opportunities. Since I am a supporter of progress and opportunities, I suppose that makes me progressive and opportunist. I wonder why some people take exception to being described as opportunists, when there are people who feel no stigma on being called "backward" and in fact they agitate for inclusion among the ranks of "backwards".

Similarly, a therapist should not mind being called therapist. Problem arises when it becomes "the rapist" due to a typo. But then that is an occupational hazard for a profession where you designate yourself in this way. A librarian too runs the risk of being called a bookie instead of a book keeper. But I have no sympathy for librarians considering how I saw a librarian stocking books on radioactivity on the shelf marked "Radio and TV". I have not seen a bookshelf where books on sussex,middlesex and essex have been put on the shelf marked sexual literature, but it is always a possibility with such bookies, err librarians, don't you think ?

But I am digressing. Where was I ? Yes, I was on to progress and opportunities. And we have certainly seen lots of progress in the fields of telecommunication. The fact that every Tom, Dick and Hari can now afford a mobile phone is nothing short of miraculous. It was just one generation ago that we needed to have a long waiting list if we wanted to have a landline connection. Of course, the technology for mobile phone itself was non existent.

I recall what happened when the mobile phones first arrived in India. It was too expensive, where you had to pay through your nose not only to make a call, but also to receive a call. And what did the people talk? The caller only talked about the fact that he had a mobile phone, and how nice it was to have a mobile phone costing a fortune, and about the pros ( no cons) of having a mobile phone. All this conversation was in a loud enough voice to ensure that everyone knew you had a mobile phone, and felt suitably jealous of you, and yet admired you too, for your prized possession. Some people carried pagers, and many people who did not know the difference between the two, actually thought pagers and mobile phones to be the same.

Mobile phones, which were the size of a brick when they first came up ( and laptop computers were the size of VIP suitcase) soon became smaller and in fact mobile phone ads would advertise this fact as a feature. There was one ad some ten years ago in which a lady ( Kavita Kapoor) is talking sweet nothings and the bearer thinks she is addressing him. When he approches her, he is mortified to see that she gives an order for some refreshments("one black coffee, please"), and her sweet nothings were being talked into a mobile phone that was too small to be visible outside her palm.

I recall the days before mobile phones when I was undergoing training. As a trainee you are obviously supposed to have a diary/ notebook where you would note down whatever you learnt, and then produce this diary as a proof to show what you learnt. Now everyone had notebooks of the size of a tile ( 5" X 7" or so with 250 pages). I had a notebook/ diary which was 2" x 1" with 100 pages, neatly leatherbound. One of the fellow trainee became so impressed with my notebook that he suggested me how to present the notebook for inspection. Keep the diary in the right palm, and shake the hand of the person saying- "Good morning Sir, I am Atul", and then rotate the wrist clockwise 90 degrees, open the palm to reveal the notebook and say "And here is my notebook,Sir".

In fact, that is how secrets were exchanged by spies in old movies. In James Bond movies,secret microfilm would be transferred by the lady spy through her mouth to James Bond's mouth while ostensively kissing him. One can try the idea of exchanging 2" X 1 " diary containing the names of villain's contacts ( like it was in Don) through a handshake even in Bollywood movies. Of course, do not forget to credit me for this idea.

In earlier days of mobile, mobile phones were unaffordable for common people, so only people with deep pockets owned them. Now that even those with holes in their pockets have mobile phones, we have seen the tendency to save even the last paisa. People would give you a missed call and expect that you would ring them back. It is all right if you know the person, but what about strangers giving you a missed call and expecting you to call them back ? What about wrong calls ? They were there on landlines too, but there at least you have no caller ID in most phones, but on mobile phone you can very well see what number you are dialling and what number you are receiving.

On mobile phone I would receive wrong numbers. As I attend the phone, the person would ask- "Kaun (who)?." Well, it is I who should ask this question. The person calling me should know whom he/she is calling. Ringing without checking the number and then checking from me who is it at that number reeks of poor etiquette.

And then there was this wrong number that I was receiving for a long time. But the caller wanted to save call charges too, so she would not allow me to reply and ensured that the phone stopped ringing by the time I reached it. If you are that desperate to talk to me, then atleast make sure that you are not stingy about paying for one call. Fed up, finally I rang back, and what do I hear- "Kaun (who)". What should I have said-"Silly woman, you are repeatedly giving me missed calls, and you are not aware whom you are calling?". Of course, I do not talk like that to anyone. I just told her curtly to check the number she was dialling.

People have time for idle chitchat on phone, but on the other end of the spectrum, there are those cases, when you want to make urgent calls, but the person refuses to receive the call. It is strange that people will not attend calls on official hours, and during unofficial hours, they will tell you- "but now the office is closed. You should have phoned me during working hours.". Technology may have changed and advanced, but the tendency to pass the buck and shirk work remains intact.

You find that people do not attend your calls? I have an idea. Phone them when they are driving a two wheeler or a four wheeler. People who have no time to talk on mobile while in office would readily take out their mobiles and talk while driving. Four wheeler driver will have his mobile in left hand and steering wheel on right hand. And he would not stop by the side. He would continue to drive and talk. And two wheeler guy will contort his head and shoulder in a weird position, with the mobile precariously nestled between the two, the eyes pointing dreamily towards the heaven, and he will have no clue where he is going on his two wheeler. The worst part is, these people are not even aware how unsafe this is. These people do not know/ follow basic driving rules, and the fact that talking on mobile makes a driver more at risk than a drunk driver is not even known to these people. And if there has been any effort to educate them on traffic rules, chances are that the educators themselves are not very well educated in these matters.

There is this saying that a fool and his money are soon parted.Most people would seriously mind being called a fool, but it is an old saying that continues to be proved right. And interestingly enough, the ways to fool people have become more and more sophisticated. It will take many many lengthy posts to explain how people are taken for a ride ( euphemism for being fooled) in day to day life. Here, let me confine myself just to mobile.

Calling on the mobile is the basic use of this device, and you can also use it as a phone book. But there are so many features on a mobile phone. There are so many features in a computer as well, but no one is after you to use all these features. But when it comes to mobile phones, people like service poviders, TV channels, banks, insureres etc want you to make use of all the features that your mobile phone may have. You are repeatedly asked to download the latest ring tones. TV channels with their competitions encourage you to vote for your favourite participants as many times as you want.Even I keep myself updated with cricket scores by SMS.Mind you, all these sevices cost money to you- something like Rs 5 to Rs 8 per SMS or so.These small looking expenses mount up. One individual may not think much of his three figures bills, but there are millions like him/her doing the same, and that results in 9 figures (100s of croresof rupees) revenue for the mobile companies.If anyone does these maths, the mobile service providers have reasons to laugh louder on their way to the bank, all that by taking you for a ride, which you may not have intended to take in the first place.

Making you buy things which you do not need is a standard practice used by salesmen and mobile service providers are no different. The fact that people lose their ability to think independently, thanks to their repeated exposure to TV contributes in a big way. Radio was different, there you had to make some effort to follow the broadcast that exercised your mind. On TV, you do not even have to do so, and the TV channels find millions of sitting ducks, all vulnerable to any kind of addiction that these channels may serve up- cartoons, cricket, soap opera. If you do not realise them as addictions, then chances are, you are addicted. Personally, I admit that I was addicted to cricket, but seeing how BCCI was taking the Indian public for a ride, I am trying to get myself deaddicted from cricket.

I loved finding about all the features of computers and even tweaking any software and hardware features of my computers.But even I cannot keep myself abreast of the advances being made in mobile technology. And honestly, I do not feel that I need to use all these features. For instance, why do I need to use a mobile like a camera, like a radio, or like a MP3 player,to play games, or to watch movies. Using a mobile to listen to music is a waste of your battery power, if you are on a journey and you do not have charging facility.Why not use a dedicated MP3 player instead ? And why watch movies on a puny 2" x 2" screen ? Have a dedicated equipment custom built for that purpose, if you must watch movies or must play games.

Of course, these are my views and my rants. I do not expect others to do and think like me. After all, the mobile companies,TV channels,BCCI, private banks etc need to make profits, don't they ?


Raja Swaminathan said...

Very funny....and very typical, Atul. :-)

Bahut mazaa aaya. And you have captured the behaviour of the public with regard to mobiles very well.

And it is true that there are lots of suckers out there who are the primary target of all these sales people. Some of these people do not have enough money to take care of their family's needs but they have the money to send SMS messages to vote on TV programmes.

Very nicely written.

squarecut.atul said...

The post, I thought had become too long. But what to do. Once I start banging on the keyboard I type so many things and soon it becomes a big post.

And it is good that I am able to recall some funny incidents from the past. I was a funny man, a true muppet, I tell you. Not that I have changed much.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Waiting for more such, Atul....bring out the funny side of you. :)

squarecut.atul said...

I am pleased that you liked it, Corinne. Keep encouraging me, and I may come up with some more such posts.;)