End of the Day

If he hasn’t called, he must be dead

No, mom... The chapatis weren't cold. Image credit: sxc.hu  

I remember how as a child of about six, late evenings were a stressful affair for me. I lived in Saudi Arabia back then and I until my father was back home safe from work, I'd worry. Having heard stories of public beheadings in the country, my worst fear was that my dad would one day get pulled over by a brutish Saudi policeman in a bad mood for not having his seatbelt on or something similarly trivial (of course, my dad would never break any serious law) and publicly executed.

Thankfully, before I became victim to juvenile hypertension, mobile phones were invented. No longer did one need to worry about the whereabouts of a loved one. Surely, if my dad was about to be publicly beheaded, he'd find a way to sneak a farewell call to his only daughter... unless of course they confiscated his mobile. Or maybe he did try to call me and got caught and now was getting beaten up for his audacity! Oh no...

Mobile phones haven't really done much good to our nerves, after all.

Today, it makes us uneasy to think about travelling without our cell phones, or letting the ones we care about do so. Nothing sends chills down our spine like "The number you've dialled is currently switched off", and parents get seriously miffed with kids who don't remember to charge their phones.

It’s quite natural: like not answering the doorbell when you're home, it's considered irregular to not attend to your mobile phone. The immediate instinct is to assume something is horribly wrong.

I wonder how our grandparents managed to keep calm when their kids travelled alone overseas to study. Did they cease all activity, sit and nervously bite their nails for hours until they received a call on their landline from the hotel/ airport? Did they keep checking the TV and radio for reports of plane crashes?

The entry of mobile phones to the scene should have made things a lot easier for us. We can stay calm knowing that our family and friends have the opportunity to call us if something is wrong. However, somewhere along the line we began to assume that the converse is as true: if they haven't called, then something's wrong.

A lot of us, in the beginning, were so grateful for our first cell phones that we willfully participated in the process of pacifying this parental paranoia. We called to tell them we're at the railway station (read: not kidnapped by auto driver), and ten minutes later to inform them that we have found our seat (read: did not chase running train and fall) and commenced our journey.

The trouble with starting out compliant and not cutting the cord soon enough is that both the protector and the protected have a unnecessarily hard time. “Give me space!” is tackled with an equally angsty “It’s only because we care” or “you won’t understand until you have kids of your own”. Paranoia has become synonymous with love. Before you know it you're 25 and getting yelled at for not phoning home the entire day. Natural progression dictates that you end up a middle-aged parent with really bad nails and a pissed off teenager. Or worse, you end up with a congenitally stressed out child who, unless you call, worries every evening that you may get publicly beheaded on the way home from work.

[ Disclaimer: The characters in this blog are fictitious and any resemblance to persons who share my DNA is purely coincidental.]

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 8:21:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blogs-end-of-the-day/article5728780.ece

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