November 25, 2017
9 pm. Dinner time.
Sitting at the egg counter at Nescafe, I was on my phone, scrolling through Facebook as A.R. Rahman’s melody soothed my ears.
Two people came in and sat on the table next to mine.
They were here for the six-month Armed Forces Programme. A few days ago, my friends and I had bumped into one of them in the mess and had an interesting conversation about student life at IIMA, different professors and their quirks etc. So, I took off my headset to strike some small talk.
They were nice people. But I was eager to get back to the new meme I had seen.
So the moment they turned away, I got back to my phone.
And then it happened. One of them walked up to the owner and asked him, ‘How many eggs do you sell in a day?’
One seemingly simple question.
And yet, as I silently eavesdropped on the answer, a thousand more arose in my head. Why had I never asked this question? At the end of six months, this man will know more about the campus and its people, than what I will know even at the end of two years. Had I ever walked up to a stranger to know more about him/her in the months that I had been here? A conversation out of which I had nothing material to gain?
And why not?
Because I was always on my phone. With my headset on.
An article I was reading recently had said that headsets are the best way to send the message that you are not to be disturbed.
Well, guess what? I was not getting disturbed.
And I wasn’t meeting new people either.
That night, I was sitting at that cafe long after the two men had left. I didn’t strike a conversation with the owner. But I didn’t pick up my phone either.
And I discovered a whole new world.
I had never known that the sound of a spoon hitting against a pan could be so peaceful.
I had never walked around the campus for an hour without my phone.
I had never paused to notice the sound of crickets.
Or the faint noise of blaring horns from the outside world.
Or the soft roar of the car passing nearby.
Or even the hushed voices of people about.
That day I decided.
I can do whatever I want when I am in my room. But whenever I step out, I will leave the phone in my pocket and the headset behind.
Someone correctly said,
‘Long before iPhones, the cigarette was the companion of choice for fidgety hands. And, long before Facebook, it was tobacco that promised to enhance your social life. Now, quitting smartphones has become the new quitting smoking.’
It has been 60 days since that night. And I am a whole new person.
Try it for yourself sometime.
And thank me later.
By the way, I am now friends with that cafe owner.