Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It’s just too complicated

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It’s just too complicated

By: Shefali Tripathi Mehta

She’s taller but that’s not why I have to make do with the hand-me-downs. It’s because she’s smarter. She learns of and adapts to up-to-the minute technology too quickly to stay awed with what she owns.

This is especially applicable to life-saving devices. Topmost on the list — the mobile phone. The doting father believes getting her the latest is just keeping her grey cells recharged.

But all grouse on that account aside, this way, I too get an upgraded version of the cell phone, year after year. The one she has no use of. The nerdy, geeky genes that were mutated to mute in me have resurfaced daringly unmuted in her.

But last birthday, perhaps just to make me feel like one of them, the significant other and the daughter gave me an iphone. iphone to me till then was no more than bad English for ‘my-phone’. Plus it was heavier, difficult to hold, difficult to pocket, difficult to carry, especially in those little colour-coordinated clutches I so covet. But this was just the horn on its head.

Soon I discovered that it had a life of its own and no intention whatsoever of being at my fingertips. It always called the wrong people. And always texted wrong messages to the right people. Touch and go! Oh stop! I’d shout and plead, ready to run after some invisible cord that could be pulled apart. ‘It’s touch ONLY, does not respond to voice commands,’ I’d be admonished by irritated voices.

But even before it did all this, there was the problem of moving my contacts from the lighter, handier, friendlier, familiar old one to the bad English one. The two heads came together again. I hovered, trying to involve myself in what was after all the problem with MY phone. There are compatibility issues, they discussed. I pulled up my chair.

Finally, they were taking interest in the affairs of the world. Poor dears looked so careworn mulling over the marital discord of the newlyweds next door. I nodded in support and leaned closer. Such propensity needed positive reinforcement.
But soon it was all Spanish again. And I realised it was the phone they were referring to. But they are not to live together, not even be in the same handbag, I intervened. Shush! Shush! mother/wife, they were afraid the walls grown geeky with them would hear. An entire weekend was spent opening and staring into two and three cell phones, computer screens, googling, researching, trials and… obviously ERROR! They lost and could not ‘retrieve’ my contacts!

I cried rivers. Then shouted at them. Then stopped speaking with them. But none of it brought back my contacts and so I gave up being normal. First, I returned their present. They could have it for all it was worth. Bad English wasn’t such a concern with them, anyway. Then promptly, I wrote an email to Dear ALL, asking them for their phone numbers. I tried to hide my geeklessness behind the freshly acquired ‘not retrievable’, ‘incompatible’, ‘no back-up’ and suchlike.

Now keying in a large number (as I had unwittingly expected) of names and numbers into the old reliable would have been a massive task so I wrote to Dear ALL to text me their names.

Smartypants that I am, I had clearly imagined how this would work. I would receive a text message from a ‘number’, open it to find the sender’s name, and save the number in that name. So simple… it wasn’t. People just emailed me back. And not their cell phone numbers. Their names!

Being the board mother

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Being the board mother

By: Shefali Tripathi Mehta

The end of the academic year requires me to relinquish my title. Surprisingly, I am reluctant to let go of that which I was as reluctant to assume. That of a Board Mother.

No mistake here. Not ‘bored’ mother. Yeah, I know many. I’m them plus this — Board. This title came by virtue of the daughter’s appearance in her first Board exams.

I laughed off the initial dose of friendly dos and don’ts. A fellow Board Mother was getting the house painted before the academic year. In other Board homes birthdays were being celebrated, relatives being visited, vacations taken and books read — all a year in advance. Never were life’s forever-pending joys and jobs so readily and hurriedly being checked off.

During the early part of the session, we took a few breaks. Now and then. On weekends and on longer weekends. It’s easy to lose count when you’re a Board Mum. You can’t be bothered with the small stuff. And it’s ALL small stuff compared to the Boards. Then a friend enquired if the breaks and travels were not ‘distracting’ for the daughter. Distracting from? Nitwit that I am, I shot off before I could gather my Board motherly persona. Now she thinks my long-term (Board results stick for life, you see) memory loss is a definite distress signal.

I must be doing something dreadfully wrong! The thought engulfed me ominously. Visiting the other board homes, I realised that ours was acutely devoid of a broad Board feel. Giving myself to hyperventilate every now and then, I tried to uphold an alarmed air about the house. Only the air was alarmed. No movies, no celebrations, no eating out, the teacher told me in the raised-index-finger tone after the pre-pre-pre Boards. She also set a strict study schedule for daughter. Eight hours of study every day. There are eight hours in a day? This time, I kept the trap shut.

My days dragged. I lapped up film reviews not worrying if they revealed too much. No way was I going to catch a movie. Television-watching was restricted to the news, volume to a suggestion. It’s another thing that the Board daughter took a 15 minute break from studying every five minutes and watched TV. Needing fresh air, she strolled out for a couple of hours every evening, while I made badam shake and besan ladoos. Don’t shout at her, she needs all the TLC she can get, the grandmums reminded in glaring-eyed tones over phone. And the phone! I was allowed to hide under the covers and talk only if my withdrawal symptoms threatened to come between my daughter and her studies.

I never really chummed up with neighbours. Actually if they wanted to, with me, they’d need nice, heavy ice picks. But suddenly, I was so exposed! Every time I stepped out and noticed a movement at a distance, it quickly metamorphosized into a neighbour outfitted with a triumphant smile and walking straight up to me. So what if I didn’t know them from their block — Pine or Needle, or by face — the fighting fellows of somewhere upstairs or the barking dog dudes from somewhere downstairs. They knew me. Board Mum was an invisible marathon bib I was wearing at all times.
“Not to be seen?” I would smile. “Busy with daughter?” I would smile more. Keep it short. Showing teeth would be asking for it, I’d calm myself. Knowing-full-well-but-getting-to-it question, “Which class?” What now? I’d weigh my one option. I could dash back indoors and pretend I never met them. But it would only ram the rumorang. It’s certainly getting to her, they’d declare. “Tenth,” I’d say as naturally as I recited ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ in class three. “Boards, eh?” they’d lean over to dig in their teeth. Duck! I’d break into cold sweat. Phew! Just another sympathy hug.