Sorry, the mean headline is there just because it rhymes. Why would poor Bell uncle be in hell, though he must be writhing in his grave seeing how we turned his really useful invention into a portable version designed to exhibit a gross lack of etiquette.
You know, I keep bumping into many of you who are nice enough tell me that you are big fans of this column. Today I’m seeking a favour from those of you who may be lawyers. You have to save me from the murder charge when (and note that I’m not saying ‘if’) I end up killing some etiquette criminals, especially those whose modus operandi involves a mobile phone.
I’d written about the exact same thing earlier but the latest outrage stems from an incident for the nth time when someone’s phone went off during a music concert I recently attended. The pianist had the patience to compete with the shrill Aa Ante Amlapuram ringtone but I felt like banging my head on the wall, seeing the blatant disregard some people have for basic courtesy. I would like to think of Indians as an intelligent species but it pains me to say that nowhere else in the world would people be so pig-headed when it comes to silencing or not using their cell phones in certain situations. Being addicted to phones, otherwise, is a universal phenomenon. Last week, Eva Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles announced that it’ll offer a discount to those diners who would agree to depositing their cell phones at the reception while eating, so that they can enjoy the ambience, the food AND the company, in peace. What a lovely step, though I’m not sure if it work in India, with most of us having taken a ‘till death does us apart’ vow with our cell phones. Vaise you never know, discount ke liye hum kuchh bhi kar sakte hain. Anyway, coming back to the etiquette bit, I wonder if people do not realise that their phones could be a nuisance to others or that they do know it but don’t care, which is worse. For those who just don’t get it, I’ve decided to adopt the in-your-face and on-your-conscience approach, and have drafted a pledge. It’s my humble request to everyone who is sick of cell phone abuse to bring it to the notice of the offenders and urge them to take it.
I <name> take this solemn pledge that starting the Twenty sixth day of August, Year Two thousand and twelve, that…
— I shall discover and start utilising a facility called ‘turn on the silent mode’ which is available on every darn model of every mobile phone, before I enter a cinema hall, a conference room, a lecture theatre, a concert...and a place of worship.
— I shall enjoy the benefit of the doubt and not put a stamp on my foolishness by taking a call in the middle of a movie or performance and then loudly saying ‘sorry I can’t talk right now. I’m watching a film.’
— I shall not rush to take a call while I’m having a meal unless President Obama or Mukherji has confirmed in writing that he shall be calling at the appointed hour.
— I shall not justify my over-dependence on mobile phones by citing the ‘safety’ argument. I shall remember that most people did reach their intended destinations safe and alive even when cell phones had not been invented.
— I shall politely remind my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/mom that calling me every ten minutes to find out where exactly I have reached will not add to my speed of travel in any way. It may just, in fact, delay it.
— I shall not interrupt and insult an on-going conversation with a live human being in front of me by taking a call and starting another conversation with a voice from a distance, unless that voice happens to be that of the boss or the wife. Or the President.
— I shall not disturb friends and colleagues by incessantly pinging them on their mobile chats by misassuming that ‘jo tera hai woh mera hai’ also refers to their time.
— I shall not harass or emotionally blackmail friends by cribbing that they did not take my call. Also, I shall try to understand the logic that if someone has not answered my call for a reason, calling again the very next minute will not magically make them change their mind.
— I shall not celebrate my immense happiness at possessing a cell phone with FM radio or 2000 songs in the memory card by turning myself into a self-styled DJ in metros or buses.
— I shall not take punchlines such as ‘stay connected, anywhere’ literally and not keep updating Twitter/Facebook statuses by the minute describing the lovely breeze even as I’m sitting on the potty.
— I shall realise that God anyway shrunk my thumbs to half the size of the fingers and I can’t punish them further by incessantly punching on the keys just to please my BBM/ WhatsApp contacts.
— I shall gift myself and my family, a ‘hands-free’ hour everyday. And by that, I will not mean using hands-free headsets to use the phone. It would mean keeping the phone away and out of reach for an hour.
— Lastly, at any given point, I shall give more importance and precedence to people rather than gadgets in my life.
Sonal Kalra would like her calmness tips to be handy for you. She’s thinking of getting a cool mobile phone app for that. Oops.
Tell her if you took the pledge today at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13
Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra