The Dominion of the Mobile Phones

Smartphone addiction cartoonWatch out, folks. Mobile phones are taking over our world. Our life. Everything that used to be pure and sweet.

I see people sending messages on WhatsApp in the movie theatre—a place they are supposed to immerse themselves in what’s transpiring on the big screen in front. They are incognizant not only of how they are wasting their ticket money but also of how their illuminated screens are spoiling the experience for others. “Are you watching this film for the first time?” That was what someone asked me when I requested them to turn off their screen. Are you guys habitual repeat watchers of movies in theatres? Have I been living under a rock?

Mobile phones are on the table as couples go out on dinner dates and sit by the candlelight. The screens continue to flicker on and off even after the selfies have been taken and the mandatory checks-in on Facebook and Instagram are complete. Whatever happened to looking into each other’s eyes and holding hands?

Little children, it seems, cannot live without mobile phones. They need screens while they eat their meals. Parents turn on those cutesy videos whenever they want the kids to keep quiet and let them completes chores around the house. You take away the screen from the infant, and the withdrawal symptoms are terrifying: bawling, screaming, and wailing until the tears run dry.

People in mobile marketing are doing everything they can to cement the dominion of the mobile phone. There are addictive quizzes you can win to earn a few bucks, to say nothing of streaming videos and playing your favourite music. Advertisements reach you through your phone, and some of them are so spot-on that you are overwhelmed by how well these guys know you. You can turn on sleep music on your phone at bed-time. You can use apps to help you concentrate. Even attempting to wean from this frightfully useful device seems like a foolish venture.

I don’t claim to be an outcast who lives away from the realm where mobile phones dominate every aspect of life. I carry my phone wherever I go and look into it more often than I care to admit. But I find it upsets more than just my eyes. I dislike how phones vie for our attention over everything that used to be beautiful and untouched, like a favourite film, the stars reflected in the eyes of a loved one, or time spent comforting an infant with teddy bears and rattles.

Like the mythical land of Atlantis, that time when phones were used only for calling people is buried under the ocean. If I try to unearth it, I will also dig up entire bucketfuls of debris, obsolete technology, strange stares from strangers, and allegations of being “too old school for your own good”. The Dominion, it seems for now, is here to stay.

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Ministry Shares Tips To Cope With Depression, and I’m Fuming

In my professional capacity as Editor, I have worked with a fair number of writers: in-house, freelancers, agencies. I have fought over word counts, especially with the last two on that list. Some writers send in desperately forced 500-word-pieces to meet their targets; at least 200 words are mere fluff. In the health and wellness space, there are two “fluff” pointers that I’ve seen many writers champion.

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits

Ah, the miracles of rest and fresh produce. There isn’t much that they cannot cure, it seems, from stomach problems and skin conditions to quarrels with your husband and coming to terms with the loss of your pet.

Thanks to recent communication from the Indian Ministry of Health, I’ve discovered yet another superpower these two goodies have: curing depression.

Yes!

Here’s how it works: If you are depressed or going through a “period of low mood”, don’t fret. Don’t listen to all those know-it-alls who recommend you talk to a loved one or a therapist. Don’t give it any more importance than you would to a sad evening when you’re upset because you ran out of cookies.

All you need to do is sleep for eight hours and eat fruits.

Check out, if you haven’t already, this insightful poster the Ministry recently shared on its Twitter handle.

Continue reading

Trust Me, This Little Habit is Truly Life-Changing

It’s unlike me to propagate life-changing advice. I usually turn up my nose at anyone who does, for come on, everyone has a life that is diametrically different from yours, unique in a manner unknowable by a generic life-coach.

But then, I am not a life-coach. I am only someone who has recently picked up a habit and is all aglow with its miraculous power.

Here it is: Continue reading

My Sleep(y) Resolution

Tomorrow, I will wake up before the sun.

I will make myself a cup of steaming, fragrant coffee and drink it sitting on the balcony, listening to the early risers among the birds. I will let my mind fill with beautiful thoughts about the dawn clouds, a little blue, a little white, just like human existence. I will have a whole hour or two to myself before I need to delve into the sweaty, rushed world of making breakfast, getting ready for work, and hoping I could instead lounge in my armchair, reading the eager book sitting on my bedside table. Continue reading

I Love, Hence I’m Insecure

I had read in a psychology journal long ago that the insecure at heart also tend to be defensive. When we lack conviction in something – a project, our beliefs – we compensate by being extra stubborn at standing up for it. Around me, increasingly, I see this in action every day. 

R went last week to get our Aadhaar cards linked with our new phone numbers. He was told there’s apparently a “drawing of lots” that happens, with only 20 people getting through at a time. It was the only day-off in the week that R could get this done, and turns out, it all depended on luck. When he spoke about the incident to some acquaintances, he was given the full dope about how “India was a large country with millions of people, and things took time”. India’s “large population” was also the reason we didn’t have better traffic management, better waste disposal practices, and better-behaved people.

India was a great country, and everyone’s heart was full of goodness, but the abuse, pushing and groping you encountered in public transport or the streets was because of “population”. Or, “geography”. Or “people like you who leave the country and then don’t come back”.

Calvin and Hobbes

Today, it is only “traitors” who criticise their country. A true patriot lauds his country, rapes and all, even if that means trampling on the feet of all other “Western countries devoid of any culture”. People who date in high-school are uncouth and animal-like, but rapists who assuage their animal lust on babies are extremely civil. Continue reading

The Gawkers

Koregaon Park, Pune

I wonder he didn’t fall off his bike. He had stopped it an abrupt motion, and his pillion rider was also falling over in excitement. It didn’t matter that the two of them had on civil clothes and were riding an expensive-looking bike. It was not beneath them to gawk at the foreign girl walking on the pavement – shamelessly, if you please.

The two guys ran their eyes all over her, and, as she hurried past them, burst into guffaws and would-be cool jokes. They had met a foreigner that morning, thank you very much. A foreigner wearing jeans and a tee and carrying a bag of vegetables was naturally a bizarre sight, because, hey, Indian girls don’t do that! Continue reading

A Spitting Image

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Spitting habit in India

I love my country, they say. Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. I will beat up anyone who criticises this country. And then, they spit. They make the streets of this country they love one big, dirty spittoon.

They spit while walking on the pavement; they spit while driving their car. They spit near the neighbour’s gate, never mind how they completed all their ablutions two minutes back at home. The roads are littered with disgusting, gooey spit, right outside a flashy shopping mall or a fine dining restaurant. There is spit lining the walls of a public monument – some of it is even paan-coloured. You walk two minutes in any direction, and your shoes are sure to encounter someone’s spit. Actually, forget the walking, you can be showered by spit even if you are peacefully riding your bike. The spitters don’t see who’s ahead of/behind them. Continue reading

The One Threat That Lurks Unnoticed Inside Our Homes

“Oh, you’re from Delhi! How on earth do you manage to BREATHE in that city?!”

This was an acquaintance, sipping coffee while sitting in the chair opposite me, airing her views on everything about the world around her. She had lived all her life as “an international citizen of India” and really wanted nothing to do with the “filth that lurked everywhere” back in the country where she was born.

She displeased me – oh, a lot – but somehow, I couldn’t think of an appropriate response. What she said wasn’t untrue. Over time, Delhi had become this potboiler of dust, chemicals and grime; it had achieved notoriety as the home of all things evil – from air pollution to crime. And yet, it didn’t seem all that long ago when the air in Delhi had been fragrant with shiuli flowers on Durga Puja, chicken cooking deliciously in the neighbourhood, fresh leaves sprouting in spring.

I came back home that evening and looked around my home. My conversation with that irritating acquaintance had made me feel unsettled. But now I was home. And home is where nothing can get at you, right? Not the monsters who lurked in drains, not the smoke that lurked in Delhi’s air and triggered hateful diseases. Home is safe…

And yet, every other day, I hear of someone suffering from a disease triggered by pollution, when many of these people spend most of their time in the safety of their homes. Women, little children, senior citizens. Scores of people coming down with an eye irritation or a nose congestion every now and then. Nursing an allergy or a flu. Getting hospitalised for bronchitis, pneumonia and even heart problems. People who don’t walk around in traffic and on crowded streets, or inhale the smoke from factories. Continue reading

This Is Why I’m Giving Up Scrolling

Keep scrolling

Tap, tap, tap.

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

A friend checking into a shopping mall. A marriage. Baby’s first birthday. An advertisement for an Indian restaurant in Vienna. Random philosophical quote with a spelling error. New brand campaign, meme or GIF on the latest trending subject. Some food that’s bright red. A shocking video or two. A dozen pictures clicked with the same background and people starting petitions (oh, not for the dozen pictures). Continue reading