Monday, December 20, 2004

Out Of Range 

Okay, so I'm not alone! Robert J. Samuelson writes this piece: A Cell Phone? Never for Me, in which he says, Someday soon, I may be the last man in America without a cell phone. Next time someone asks me why I haven't bought a cell phone yet, I will thank you Mr. Samuelson, cos I want to be the last man in the world to own one! Maybe we'll compete on that.
I'm a dropout and aim to stay that way. I admit this will be increasingly difficult, because cell phones are now passing a historic milestone. As with other triumphs of the mass market, they've reached a point when people forget what it was like before they existed. No one remembers life before cars, TVs, air conditioners, jets, credit cards, microwave ovens and ATM cards. So, too, now with cell phones. Anyone without one will soon be classified as a crank or member of the (deep) underclass.
Back in India, I think we're already there. People look at you quizzically if you don't have a cell phone. And then there is a breed of zealous cell phone proselytizers who would chip in with, "See, if you had a cell phone today, this wouldn't have happened". Most of the times, they don't want to see, that I didn't particularly seem to have minded that this not happening! Myopia I tell you. Cellular Myopia. Grow up guys, there is a world beyond the range of any cell tower. As yet ... And I don't particularly mind that either.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Remember Me? 

That has to be the questions that I dread most: "Remember me?".

People, I've learned over the years, have amazing memories. Especially people from your hometowns! More so, if your hometown is same as mine. I come from ***, a once quite little town of Maharashtra. Now, I'm no genius. You know it, and I know it. I have a suspicion even guys back there know it too. I mean, it's not like I struck an evolutionary lottery -- and the whole of my school would know me because of my brilliant curricular and extra-curricular record (or just great looks :D). Nothing of that sort. I was never a topper, and more never an extra-curricular kinda guy, unless you count reading books -- but you don't get popular by reading books! How I wish one could, tho.

In fact, when it comes to remembering faces, I'm probably worse to none. And when it comes to remembering names, I'm sure I'm worse to none. So, even an elementary knowledge of probability (independent events and all that) would tell you, that remembering faces AND names together is squarely difficult for me. People, on the other hand -- yes those same ones from my hometown -- have no problems with it at all!

Like when I was still doing my post-grad in Mumbai, I was boarding on a local from Dadar, when a guy jumped in. "you're from ***, right?", "yes", I nod, trying to recollect who this could be. "from *** school, right?". Another nod, and more frantic attempts at remembering something about the guy, "you were in X division, right?". Another helpless nod and "yes", but still no sign of any recollection. In fact, I had given up completely by then.

"We beat you in Kabaddi game in eight's standard".

I swear I'm not making this up. At that point, I went "wow". I mean, yes Kabaddi is probably the only game in which India wins consistently and all that, but with all due respect to the native games and all, Kabaddi is the last thing that generates passion when you're back in school -- cricket? sure; football? maybe yes; but Kabaddi? The only reason why I was playing Kabaddi was that that's the only team I could possibly make into (that too -- the class team!), owing to the same lack of glamor of the game. And probably the fact that, that was the only field game where you could beat people stronger than you. With my tiny frame, guys would think that I'd not have a good grip and come closer, making my job that much more easy. In field games like football, you could never take chances with bigger guys (I have learnt it the hard way!). Kabaddi is different. Once you get hold of someone's leg, there is generally help around.

But then I digress. Not that I mind doing it. Holden Caulfield for one would be with me. At times, digression is good, he would say. Like when I do it, for instance. But at times it's good to get back to the point too. The point, then was Kabaddi. Or rather insignificant a Kabaddi match between Division X and Division Y (I incidentally never asked him which division he was in), in rather insignificant a school, in rather insignificant a town... Still, after ten or so years, this guy remembers this match, the result of the match. And I cannot even recall where the hell had I seen him before (or if I had seen him before at all). Wow!

"Remember me"? That's a million dollar question if there was one. Like the other day when I was walking with my wife when someone called my name.

"How are you?", he's all excited that he ran into me (yes, some people do get excited after running into me, too. Especially, if it's been years!)

"I'm fine, how are you", there is no way I'm going to remember his name in time.

"Oh, I'm fine. I though you won't recognize me"

"Come on! How can I forget you!" (who the hell is he?)

There is no way I'm going to introduce my wife to him. What do I tell her -- this is someone from my school or college probably? One of my friends is good at such one sided introductions. I avoid them altogether.

How do people remember my face? Do I look like a cartoon? Maybe I do. But so do some of these people. And I don't remember them. I don't remember even having seen them!

The next time someone asks that question, I swear I'm going to say "No, who are you?"! I don't care what I do to their self-esteem. It's time they learnt that the more forgettable you are, the better. And if possible, could you please forget me too in return? At least I would be spared the embarrassment!

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