HT Brunch Cover Story: Reimagining the now

Present: Here’s how one crashed phone led to a brighter future. Starting off with a trip to the mountains
Smartphones are an unnoticed part of life, until you don’t have access to one (Parth Garg)
Smartphones are an unnoticed part of life, until you don’t have access to one (Parth Garg)
Published on Dec 26, 2021 01:01 PM IST
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ByKaruna Ezara Parikh

I recently experienced a horrifying thing. As I departed for a vacation after two long, soggy, batshit years, my phone crashed. It capsized as I dashed hysterically towards Majnu-Ka-Tila to board a bus which would deposit me in that stoner-struck town that rhymes with the word “banally”. After that I’d trot off on a trek to Paradise. Now, I thought, as I vigorously stubbed a screen as viciously unalive as shark-eye, I would have no photos of Paradise. We arrived, tortured by a night of sleeping upright just for fun, and I immediately dragged my exhausted husband off, not for a massage or momos or beers, or whatever the kids get high on these days, but to a phone repair store where the most interesting thing was a couple of dogs I suspect were carpets because they slept through everything, even the holiday revellers screeching behind bobbly children in lurid puffer jackets over a proliferation of tights.

Quick questions with Karuna
Quick questions with Karuna

We spent several hours waiting upon the miracle of jugaad-tech, our aching bums getting progressively icier on a metal bench as we watched honeymooners, distinguishable by the brides’ heels in a town 98 per cent slanted, and spirals of blood-toned bangles wrestling with sweatshirt sleeves as sindoor-drenched selfies were taken. Far off, I spotted the edge of a goddamn brilliant sunset, but first, a selfie. That night, over stiff whiskeys drunk beneath the soothing pat of live music, after many ghost-limbed dips into my empty pocket to record the guitarist for an imagined future where this video would matter, I succumbed. My phone—each day’s first greeting—wasn’t going to make it. The next morning, valiantly, I set off over the hills, Decathlon’s blessings upon me. You know the end of this story already. There is no profundity in it, only a blazing common sense we seem to have lost, possibly the same day we took our first selfie, diving into some inability to ever truly look inward again. Of course, I adapted. Humans do. It’s how we’ve aligned to the insanity of the scroll, where our brains are stabbed every few seconds with glossy, jagged new information, all unrelated and somehow parading as necessary.

Karuna Ezara Parikh is the author of The Heart Asks Pleasure First (2020) and Where Stories Gather (2021) (Vidushi Gupta)
Karuna Ezara Parikh is the author of The Heart Asks Pleasure First (2020) and Where Stories Gather (2021) (Vidushi Gupta)

Cheesecake/ Manmohan/ #prayfor/ Madonna’s nipple/ Scottish castle/ new book/ AI/ rape/ Dandan noodle/ Succession. This was my brain. Then, suddenly it was whale-song: moooooountaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnn/ treeeeeeeeee. It was slooowwwwww and BIG and very gentle. It was amniotic. When I returned to “civilisation” post the dusty wilderness of the off-grid, I found nothing changed. I hadn’t missed a single thing. Everyone was still outraged or pouting, things had been launched and cancelled, governments had not fallen or stooped further. The ouroboros status quo I had died from briefly, continued. When that electric tapping connection to the world spluttered off under offensive html, I had called it a faithless blindfolder, but in absentia it became a door to the ‘now’ I was desperately missing by constantly watching. I’m aware of piling irony so high here (disconnect to connect/ plug out dive in/ stop watching start living) I risk becoming a luxury township advertisement, but isn’t it precisely, that, when we reside outside the present to witness “real time”? Somewhere, we forgot that ‘post’, means after. Switched off, my device became a time machine, a pair of spectacles, maybe a tight smack—the kind mothers want to give our consistently bowed heads. As for the trek—I have pictures. They are unphotoshopped, full colour, 3D and profoundly indelible.

Karuna Ezara Parikh is the author of The Heart Asks Pleasure First (2020) and Where Stories Gather (2021)

From HT Brunch, December 26, 2021

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022