In college, only iPhones could be cooler than my mobile phone. However, Steve Jobs was still working on them so they were yet to hit the market. A Nokia 3220, it played the snappiest ringtones and lit up with the lights circumferencing its frame. I carried my discotheque in my pocket. Whenever we needed to let our hair down, my roommates and I would play the tones on my phone and jiggle our necks to the jazzy beats of my phone. Don’t call me lame – watch the videos of this phone on YouTube and I dare you to not sway.
Then, I grew up.
The day I held my firstborn in my arms, I put my phone on silent. A demanding, colicky baby who refused to sleep ever was keeping my head and hands full. I didn’t want the world breathing down my neck, too.
An initial maternal instinct to preserve the sanctity of my newborn’s sleep schedule turned into something deeper that dictated the preservation of this resolve. I hated to be that person who responded to every blip, every tinkle that the world demands out of us, taking its pound of flesh daily, slowly.
It has been seven years since I have heard my phone ring. Privileged as it sounds, the habit has got me in trouble more times than I care to count. Parents, friends, bosses, colleagues have misunderstood me at some point in time – believing that I am wilfully ignoring their calls rather than believing that my phone doesn’t ring. Relationships have soured and got better – some even see the logic of this. Some of those who agree have gone as far as to incorporate a silent phone in their lives.
But what have I achieved by this, you ask? Nothing, if you want to quantify it. However, if you deal in quality, I have some to share. I have spent evenings oblivious to professional emergencies. How do we even have professional emergencies? Why do the boundaries between professional and personal merge so much in the Indian work culture?
Stories around me have unfolded without a pause because the phone did not screech. We have slept, we have eaten, we have listened to each other – we have held each other’s attention in a world that is built on mirages. No one is indispensable – the work always gets done, people find a way. But a moment lost has dissolved into time. I have collected, funnelled those moments, and let them drip into the tapestry of my life’s story – there are no knots, no incomplete sentences, no unfinished tales. More than anything, I have addressed the world when I was ready for it, game face and all.
Justin Bieber has stopped carrying a phone, the media says. He deals with his professional commitments through his iPad. Even if I don’t agree with his music, I understand why he has done that. Access to our energy is a privilege. We should have a right over whom we allow that access to and when.
Putting my phone on silent has been an act of preservation instead of rebellion. And for those who ask why, here is my answer. I have owned my time. If that isn’t much, nothing else is.
Pulkit Singh is the founder of Blue Sunride. Her articles have appeared in The Tribune, Deccan Herald, Spark The Magazine and The Curious Reader. You can find her on Instagram @BlueSunride.