Friday, 2 September 2016

Hemantha Kalam - 38 'Virtually' Dead - Really 'Alive'

Well, I am one of those who do not hesitate in taking pride of being a technical noob and saying so! This belligerence emanates probably from the reason that I am born and brought up in times of almost ‘nil-technology’ (well, so to say in today’s parlance) and was happier. Most importantly, I survived to write this now.

So I was one of those who have been very reluctant to have a hand phone (call it cellular or mobile phone too, if you wish) and am always looking for an opportunity to get rid of one; soon as I hang up my boots for good and done for!

I have been quite happy with the simple instruments that I have been using but my first daughter, who is a sort of a gadget freak, felt that I do not possess an instrument befitting my professional stature (whatever it is). So there was this one time when I had to reluctantly go in for quite an advanced model (for that time) of Nokia, shelling out a small fortune and after using it for over 6 years it died naturally. By the time it died, I did not know functions other than storing my contact details, making and receiving calls, sending and receiving Short Messaging Texts (SMS) and filing them in folders and an occasional clicking of a photograph. I was given to understand that that machine had some infinite functions, but till the end of its life, I was as ignorant of them as I was - before having it.

Then I got my Nokia Asha 200 model and I was quite happy with it. But soon all hell broke loose in the form of ‘Apps’ – an app for this and an app for that. Still I was untouched by them. But then as I do consultancy work for my daily bread, I needed to work with my client, represented by a very young gentleman who swears by technology – even in his deepest slumber. He was virtually nagging me to go in for a more advanced system! Apart from interacting officially, this interaction became a part of our daily communications.

And when it came to hiring cabs through aggregators the rules of the game changed. Slowly one after the other, the cab aggregators stopped taking in calls for requesting cabs and started asking to download the apps and hire the cabs. Now my poor Nokia Asha 200 was not apparently meant for those myriad useless apps and so it did not support any or hardly any apps.

Every month there were times when I needed to hire a cab and I had to depend on somebody, mostly my wife, who is technologically more advanced and sophisticated than me, for booking my cabs for me. Though she always obliged me for this chore, without a protest, apparently it was becoming more and more of an inconvenience for her. So she and my daughters conspired and got me an Android phone! The purchase was ‘on-line’ - again using technology!

One fine afternoon, the ‘damned’ thing was delivered to me and I changed my sim into it and first thing my wife made me do is downloading the apps for the cab aggregators and the ‘WhatsApp’!

My wife’s circle is larger than mine and many of them are in ‘phoren’ countries or visit ‘phoren’ countries from India, as they have a son there or a daughter here and so on. Most of these people inevitably land up in the US of A, as many Indians seem to have made the US of A, an ultimate and must attainable destination in their life. I do not know what is in store for me as I am having children of marriage age and it is anybody’s guess where they will land up!

Well, coming back to the point, since the time difference could be as much as 10.30 hours between India and the west coast of US of A, some of these visiting characters will wake up in the morning and after having a sumptuous breakfast and sending their children to offices, would hardly have any work. They fill their time by systematically forwarding the ‘sermons’ and general gossip on ‘WhatsApp’ as if it is a vow and must be fulfilled on the pain of some deprivation. Now the problem is that the receiving time in India would be bedtime, due to the time difference. There have been any number of times I felt like telling all those characters to ‘shut up’ the ‘WhatsApp’ as it disturbed my sleep and the worst thing was the alert sound of a message. The signature sound of the ‘WhatsApp’ alert can really be irritating; to say the least. How I loathe that sound, bah!

If you are connected to some groups and members of each group are connected to members in other groups, the network shortens and the same message is forwarded some 6-8 times within a few minutes, among all groups – and many a time you will be receiving the same message or ‘share’ or ‘forward’ from so many groups that you are connected to or a member in.

On one hand it drains your battery cell and you need to keep on charging the system and on the other hand you need to constantly remove the received messages to free storage space. And then the answer came in the form of power banks which was another expense.

And what are you getting, for all this trouble taken? You are getting messages which you hardly have any use for, and in any case, most of them are ‘sermons’ which nobody follows but expects the others to believe that they do follow. Wastage of time, wastage of electricity and wastage of money! The only thing I enjoy are some good photographs and jokes through these ‘shares’ and ‘forwards’ and once in a way, some worthwhile information / news – Period!

Coming back to my mobile, it worked well for some time and then I had to upgrade to a 4 G micro-SIM! The moment I put it in, the mobile phone spewed it out and refused to read the SIM card. I took the system to a couple of service centres and nobody could diagnose the problem. Having bought the system ‘on-line’ and being a ‘technical noob’ I could not find an authorised centre. I also had lost the purchase invoice for the same.

Over a period of time, I got fed up and started using it only in my house where it got connected to the Wi-Fi internet, even without a SIM and thought that’s fine! But my dear wife could not allow good money to go waste and after skimming on the internet, latched on to the call centre and traced out three authorised centres in our city. One centre told me clearly that they will look only after the warranty period is completed and the service will cost money. In the other place, it took me a couple of days’ efforts even to connect on the phone and finally when I landed up at the service centre physically, they demanded the invoice which I did not have. However, one guy in the centre was pally and gave me the toll free number of the ‘On-line’ service provider and also added that till the time I provide the invoice my phone will not be attended to.

I was very skeptical in making the toll free call as I have been continuously bitten by the useless and faceless service many of the bankers offer in our country. But surprisingly this faceless girl was of immense help and sent me a copy of the invoice literally in less than a minute over my e-mail which I had forwarded to the service centre.

The service centre took a couple of more days to diagnose and finally declared that the “mother” (board) of my mobile is dead and they needed at least a fortnight to get the mother (board) replaced.

Let me tell you something. That fortnight had been heavenly for me.

When I got my mobile back after service, I was forced to again install several apps including ‘WhatsApp’ more for professional reasons and I noted that within about half an hour of installation, some 155 MB stuff has been downloaded comprising of some 3,000 messages from about 8 active groups (needless to emphasise that almost 90 MB of it has been sheer repetition). It took me some 3 days to go through the messages and to delete them – the pictures, the sermons and many useless videos.

And let me assure you that less than 0.5% of that stuff was relevant and there were hardly any business related information for all the trouble taken.

But worst – not a single inquiry, not a single wonderment as to why I was suddenly off the air! For all that mattered, I was ‘virtually’ dead for all the connections I had! Yes, there were a couple of murmurs, later when I resurfaced, that I was missed; but it was just that low key!

So ladies and gentlemen, for those 15 days maybe I was dead ‘virtually’ but I was so ‘alive’ really - in a true sense! No sermons, no useless sharing and sheer bliss!

I know I am day dreaming that people of my country will use mobile phones only for emergencies, as they were intended for – but, like hell, I can only dream!          

Well, folks, what do you think? Please, do let me know! Yes, I am still on ‘WhatsApp’ for whatever it is worth!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India