Rushing out of the radio cab at the Hyderabad Airport, I barely realized that my mobile phone was slipping out of my grip. It fell on the grey tarmac below and all its components got dismembered. I picked up the disassembled parts of the lifeless phone, put them in the travel bag, settled the cab and proceeded towards the departure gate.
Check-in was a breeze. The security check was also quite swift. In a short while, I found myself in the waiting area near gate 25B. I glanced at the boarding pass to re-confirm the departure gate. It was correct. Soft music was playing there. People waiting to board the aircraft were busy with their phones and other hand held devices. The LCD monitor hanging in the waiting area displayed the arrival and departure time of the various flights. It told me that I still have few minutes before the boarding gates were opened.
I had unfinished business on my phone. These devices have now become a part and parcel of our lives. Few minutes or hours without them, one feels as if one is cut-off from the world. There is this unknown attraction of the beep of the notification from face book, email and various other apps, which keeps us guessing and hoping - guessing on what the update would be; hoping of something to turn out the way we want it to. The ringing of the phone has an even greater impact on our psychology. The phone ring re-assures us that we are still needed and valued by others. We feel honored when we realize that someone is trying to reach us.
Fishing out the parts of phone from my travel bag, I got on to assembling the unit. I would have done the same hundreds of times and I knew exactly which part went in where. Basically, you have to place the battery correctly in the phone, and then slide the external cover softly so that the bottom pair of latches clicks to set. Finally you need to press on the top of the cover to lock the third latch. The phone looked smug and good. I loved my phone. I had got it only a few months back. It was pitch black in color with a big display as most smart phones have. There were shiny metal parts on it like chrome on a car engine grill. The other day, a friend had compared the look and finish of my phone to a luxury vehicle; black, sleek, and exotic. Though I realized that it was the height of flattery, I liked it anyway. I was happy with my choice of the phone. My reverie of indulgence over my phone was cut short with the announcement that the boarding for my flight has started. Airline regulations do not allow your mobile phone to be switched on while in the aircraft. So, I restrained myself from switching-on my phone for a few minutes.
The flight to Indore was at best staid. There was nothing special or remarkable to write about. The airlines crew went on about their duty in a clinical manner. The pilot mumbled something incomprehensible on the speaker. I looked for something in the seat pocket to read. There was none. I thought of the next day ahead and wanted to prioritize the things to do. But laziness got the better of me. I slowly snuggled into a sleep like state.
Indore Airport was a small nondescript patch. There was just one ATR standing in the airport. Few ground crews were moving about. There were a couple of vehicles to haul the luggage-boxes. The passengers deplaned and took a short walk across the tarmac to enter the airport building. In a few minutes, the luggage started tumbling on to the carousel in the baggage claim area. After collecting my suitcase from the lone baggage belt, I took my phone out which was still lifeless and pressed the shiny metal switch on the top to bring it back to life. It made the soft buzzing sound as it makes when it springs back to life, calmly re-assuring me that my trusted friend is at my service.
Modern day devices have idiosyncrasies of their own. My phone takes its own time to get ready. It has to complete various tasks before it can actually be of service to me. It has to boot its Operating System, prepare the SD card, search for a friendly network, initialize the phonebook and perform numerous other things in the background including transmitting my location to various service providers and satellites around the world. What a remarkable device. Small and handy, but can track you down anywhere on the face of earth.
I waited patiently for my phone to complete its rigmarole of routine. But then, unexpectedly, it let out an unfamiliar wail of pain and went blank. I was puzzled. I tried switching it on again. It showed signs of revival. But no sooner than it got to the operating state, it died down again, emitting the same high pitched siren to signal its death. As users of modern day gadgets, we all know how our lives are dictated by the juice in the battery. Muttering something under my breath of taking things into my own hands, I started walking towards the Airport exit.
I did not have to walk further. The airport ended as soon as it started. There were very few people waiting outside the airport. Some of them were having placards in their hands to receive guests. I scanned the placards in the hope of finding my name written on one of them. The exercise went in vain. Without a working cell phone on me, I was wondering how I would contact the person who would have come in to receive me. A smart thought lined up to my rescue. The plan was to look for a pay phone booth and call up my contact. I looked around; there was none. The plan B was to borrow someone else's phone and make a call. This was a feasible one. As a knight in shining armor, I myself had lent my phone a few times to damsels in distress in desolate airports. So, it was my turn now to reap the benefit of the good work I had sown earlier. Providence should be with me. But alas, how do I get the number of my contact? The number was stored in the phone memory, which had by now, in spite of all my cajoling and caressing, completely refuted to get back into action.
While these thought ran across my mind, I felt someone gently touching my shoulder. I turned around and found a big and tall man smiling at me. He introduced himself and we exchanged pleasantries. I was relieved.
On the way to the hotel, I asked him how he could recognize me. He had been trying to reach me on my cell phone several times, but he was told that it was switched off. So, he was checking all passengers who were walking out of the airport building and saw my travel bag which had my organization logo. Using that as a cue, he approached me. I thanked my stars for having carried that travel bag. I told him about the state of affairs of my beloved phone. Assured him that the next morning, I will have it fully charged and it will be up and running.
The Sayaji hotel was great. I liked the ambience. The room was spick and span. Post dinner, I retired to my room in order to make a few phone calls to inform folks of my whereabouts. I brought out my phone and dug out the charger from the bottom of the travel bag. Found a socket on the wall, plugged in the charger in the socket and other end of the charger wire to my smart phone. The phone made a whirring buzz signaling that it was getting ready to spring up to life. I let out a sign of relief and left it on its own device to get a bit charged.
I switched on the TV and rummaged through the various channels. There was an audio channel playing old songs. I could set up a play list and it fascinated me and I was lost in that. When it was time to sleep, I checked my phone to set up the alarm. And lo-and-behold the phone was still dead. I tried all tricks that I knew. I pulled out the charger. Dismantled the phone, re-assembled the parts, and plugged in the charger again. It still did not buzz. I tried pressing all the metal switches at the same time. The phone showed a little flicker of hope. But then it died even before the hope registered on my mind. My dream machine, the so-called exotic luxury car had at the right moment decided to ditch me. I was dejected. Few thoughts went through my mind. May be the battery is gone. Someone had told me that reliability of smart phone battery is really dubious. When they fall down, they have a knack of going out of order. I silently re-counted how many times my phone has fallen down from my hand and from others hand as well. May be I should change the battery. Or has the operating system become corrupt by the fall. Or some circuitry has broken. …
I used the old fashioned land line in the hotel room to announce my plight to my wife. I remember her number anyways. For the others, I was incommunicado.
Mobile Phones are not only instruments of practical communication; they have evolved over the last decade or so also into instrument of emotional satisfaction. For some, they are basic needs and for others they are status symbols. But in most cases, they tend to fill in a gap which I realized only after I was forced to stay without a working phone. Without a phone, we lose the sense of being in touch with others. We lose the feeling of being in control. We basically feel naked and open to the vagaries of the world. We feel insecure. We feel that there is no way to connect with others and re-assure ourselves of our worth. How is it that our sense of security has been changed by the ubiquitous presence of this little device? This is a thought that we all need to think through.
I made through the rest of the 3 days without having the cell phone. I worked in the old fashioned way of using the land line whenever needed. There was no hurry to see the text message or the face book update. I re-lived how corporate world worked years ago when there was no cell phone and instant communication. Life did not change much in those 3 days. People understood and I was able to communicate whatever was needed. Those who had to contact me found out other ways of getting in touch: sending a message through someone or via scheduled calls over a landline which I had sporadic access to. Their messages reached me. If I had to reach someone, I could use the landline.
Back in Hyderabad, I tried one last ditch effort to revive the phone. I did something which is known as a hard reset. And surprise of surprises, the phone muttered, quivered and in an all out effort inherent to all living beings with love of life, it blinked, buzzed and resuscitated back to life.