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The road not taken

The mobile phone is slowly becoming the most-preferred partner for many. Unlike your spouse, the device is with you 24x7, doesn’t mind you jabbering endlessly.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2007 11:32 PM IST

The mobile phone is slowly becoming the most-preferred partner for many. Unlike your spouse, the device is with you 24x7, doesn’t mind you jabbering endlessly (as long as you pay for as long as you talk), reminds you of all that your brain refuses to store and gives you the option of participating in push-button democracy on issues that are actually non-issues. As if this were not enough, it now has the power of playing e-nanny. A private cellular operator has launched a new navigation application based on the global positioning system (GPS) that will help customers find their way around. And, since all good things come in small packages, but only after you sign fat cheques, people owning a certain high-end device will be e-chaperoned.

For those who have failed to keep pace with the rise and rise of that constant companion of our times, technology, here’s a quick lowdown: subscribers can avail map information and area coverage details of certain cities in India. The system will provide its users with continuously updated, real-time content and geographical data via the wireless network. Untangle the jangled wires and this is what you will get: information on routes to your destination and places of interest even before you can shout ‘taxi’.

Undoubtedly, this new service has many positives, and will end the ignominy of your going around in circles and approaching strangers for directions, in search of your destination. Or indeed, being trapped by some shyster taxi or scooter driver who is determined to take you for a ride. But sadly for most men, it is also the end of the friendly fire that’s exchanged over the belief that women have little sense of direction. And, out will go that thrill of exploring a new town and city and stumbling across unexpected places. The new scenario looks pretty robotic: you get off the plane or train, fish out the phone, look around to enjoy envious glances and then even before you can savour the sight, sound and smell of the new place, the system will jump into action and tell you the shortest road to your destination. And then, armed with newfound knowledge, you will drive off to your destination, leaving behind places undiscovered.

There are, however, other dangers: If you are in a city like Delhi where all positions are relative, the device has to keep pace with the civic corporations’ penchant for digging up roads and altering the routes faster than any system can update its database. So, just when you are almost there and silently congratulating yourself for buying this expensive service, you are suddenly confronted by a signboard saying very helpfully ‘Men At Work’. So dear readers buy it if you want but remember what you always knew: “… if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”.

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