I hurriedly hailed into an auto and tell him “Bhaiya, station”. He nods. A universal signal here to get in. He reaches for the ignition, turns it on, and we are on the way.
A routine begins here, usually. I reach for my phone, check my e-mails, read the daily news, reply to “Gm” messages on WhatsApp, WeChat, and other 100 other social apps (they were meant to make us more social by the way, and all we have managed is get into a relationship, with our PHONES)
Today, I felt a jolt. My phone, when I reached for it in my pockets, was missing. I felt confused for a moment. I was sure I had carried it. But then, I wasn’t too far from home. So I couldn’t have lost it. I jogged back through the trails of my memory. Retraced my steps in my mind. And then I saw it happen, in my memory. In my quest for that 100% battery before I left for work, I had kept in on charge. And forgot to retrieve it. Damn.
I was in half a mind to tell the auto driver to take me back home, but I was already very late. If I missed the train, I would get extremely late to work, tempers would flare, shit would hit the fan. It was going to be a long day. But I will manage, I thought. I was wrong.
Having nothing else to do, literally, I focused more on the ride and the view outside. I heard the birds chirp as well as the traffic horns that blared, even at that time of the morning. I noticed the bumps and the potholed roads for the first time. The shops I knew on the streets had changed hands (more than once maybe), new shops lined the once familiar streets. More people were on the road than I could remember. The city had changed.
It took a long 20 minutes (It wasn’t that long when I had to reply to 3 e-mails) to reach the railway station. Time crawled today. A faced a bigger quandary when I got into the train. Over an hour of travel – and no e-mails, no internet, no music, no Twitter, no Facebook, no chatting apps, no nothing. Having really nothing to do, I decided to catch up on my sleep. Zzzzzzz.
I woke up to an announcement at a station.
“…se aane wali local aath (8) bajke…..”
I looked at my watch. My watch felt important today. Maybe after ages, I looked at it. Today it was not just another office wear. Today, it told me time. According to my watch, I still had about 40 minutes of travelling to go. I knew time was going to be a drag today.
And yet again, I knew not what to do. The brief nap was refreshing. But I could nap no more. I stood up and stretched my legs. Offered a stranger my seat. Maybe didn’t get a profuse thanks, but that wasn’t the point anyway.
You don’t need something, you give it to someone else.
I think that point has been lost on most of us.
I stood rest of the way, but I wasn’t tired or bored. I actually enjoyed watching the world pass by, as I stood by the door.
Thankfully I reached office on time. And soon, boredom started to kick in. There weren’t messages to disturb you or calls to interrupt your work. We might actually have become people with no sense of priority or to put it in a better way, belonging. We don’t belong to anyone at any given point of time.
In a very connected world, we are all very disconnected. We have our personal lives intrude and interrupt our time (May I mention ‘paid’) in office. And let office work enter our homes with us.
Surprisingly, I got much more work done today. It was a great thing to actually get into the flow of things and not get distracted by a ‘ping’ every minute or other. And spoke more to colleagues whom you hadn’t for some time, despite being a few cubicles apart. Ofcourse, they suspect the sudden friendliness. Tell them you forgot your phone and the ladies will reply with an all encompassing “Awww” and the guys will just laugh at your face.
Oh, it isn’t easy though. Every once in a while you look around to find your phone, just to realise you forgot it back home. There is that feeling of emptiness around you. Suddenly you don’t know what to do in those little breaks you take from work.
And as the day ends, you dread the long travel back home, without music, without internet, well you know the list by now.
The return journey was equally uninteresting. Didn’t find a place to sit obviously. Just stood listlessly looking around, observing others - heads down, their bright displays lighting up their ‘android’ faces (No, I am not referring to the OS, but the word itself).
15 years back, all would have been as listless as I was today, people interacting with each other - talking, crying, fighting, and beating up some (at times). But still not as aloof and cold like now. Maybe if there is a fight now, it will be all over WhatsApp and Youtube before I reached home and told my friend. And a few funny jokes made out of it too. And status messages.
As I climbed the stairs to my home, I was feeling a little different. When otherwise it would have been to charge my phone, now it was of something else. Something like serenity. I wondered if today was a sign of things to come. Whether I could do it for a longer period, say a week, or ambitiously, a month? Would I be able to live thus. Disconnected from everyone, but connected to life.
I entered home with these thoughts, the experience of the day weirdly invigorating. But then, as my eyes fell on my phone on the desk, the Gollum in my heart whispered “Precious, my precious”. And I succumbed.