Mobile phone while travelling in India? No,no—–

By Kanwalpreet

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Mobile phones are dear and so is all the information that they provide us with the click of a button; connectivity, news and snippets regarding sports, Bollywood, Hollywood and anecdotes that bring a smile on our faces. In a nutshell, our mobile phones offer entertainment at all places if we have an internet connection. And that is a big ‘IF’. So, instead of getting into the habit of being dependent on our phones, let’s wean ourselves away by keeping our identity separate from our phones. We can do this gradually. I would recommend keeping your phone handy but away from our eyes while travelling. Well, that can be a good start. How?

Let me tempt you. Indian roads are the best entertainers. Yes, they can be dangerous but if you , children, look around while the elders are navigating the chaos, it sure can be interesting. Remember, once you start driving you won’t get this privilege of seeing, staring and smiling. For the beginners, when you are on the highway, remember to read the one liners behind the trucks. They are hilarious. Some examples besides the usual: ‘ Buri nazar vale, tera muh kaala,’ ( May your face be blackened , you , possessor of evil eye)or ‘ Nazar laga, Joota kha’( Glance with an evil eye and I will hit you) are like ‘ Iraq ka pani, aur kitna piyegi raani?’( How much oil , fuel are you going to drink, dear vehicle?) or ‘ Amiro ki zindagi, biscuit or cake par, driver ki zindagi, clutch aur brake par’. (The rich indulge in biscuits and cake, the driver’s meal is clutch and brake.)And don’t be surprised if brake is spelled ‘break’.

Driving inside the city is another experience. My lasting impression of New Delhi is one particular traffic jam where I had plenty to gaze around. When I peered outside the car window, I found one man sleeping soundly on his ‘charpoy’ amidst all the din of the honking and impatient people. As I watched him amazed, I saw three cows plonked comfortably on the pavement while commuters took the brunt of inconvenience. A man stopped by and even fed the cows ‘rotis’. As our car gradually moved, I saw children enjoying a game of cricket. They were of all age groups. While some were involved in the game, others were running around, enjoying themselves in all the heat. They were sweaty but happy. While the children played dangerously close to the moving traffic the women sat gossiping while their hands were kept busy chopping vigorously. It was a world in itself. Very different from ours but it was a complete one. And they seemed happy too amidst all the squalor, poverty and heat. A lesson learnt!

If you want more convincing to stay away from your phone, make it a point to read the sign posts, banners and the boards on the shops. Internet Surfing takes a new dimension when one finds the board proclaiming ‘Internet Suffering,’ or dye your hair is translated to ‘Die your hair’. Your appetite can either go for a toss or increase manifolds when you read ‘Deliacieous Burjer’ instead of delicious burger. Grocery shopping is boring when Zucchini becomes ‘jugni’ , Avocado is pronounced as ‘Acado’and bell peppers are called ‘lal aur peeli hari mirch’( Red and yellow capsicum). You have to suppress your smile at the comfort of the shopkeeper for clubbing all the varieties of capsicum together but quoting a very high price for the ‘rang-birangi’ (coloured)Shimla Mirch (Capsicum). ‘Badi mehengi hai, madamji,’ he tells your mother.

Lost in the city? Leave the GPS system and ask directions from the vendors and shopkeepers. They are precise with their own unique, local landmarks which can be someone’s house or a famous shop. If you go to a rural area, especially in the rural areas, strangers go out of the way to see that you reach your destination. And the gossip on the way is mind boggling. Details of your family and to whose house you are going are shared unabashedly. Once you reach the destination, your self-proclaimed guide cum saviour does not turn back but accompanies you into the house whose occupants go overboard to thank him. You feel foolish making the long journey to be neglected and ignored. But once you notice the camaraderie , you are amazed at the strong ties and bonds.

You, usually, don’t find people gossiping by the road when you travel abroad. But in India, people meet by chance and end up exchanging the well-being of each other’s families . If you happen to accompany the elders of your family for a walk, you get a peep into another aspect of their personality. They make you notice things which you considered frivolous till that moment. Their chat with the cobbler, the vegetable vendor , the ‘dhobi’ etc. are an eye opener. This is what makes our society a close knit community which is being eroded by too much technology in our lives.

I agree technology has brought entertainment at our doorsteps but let us not allow it to dictate us. Let us enjoy some moments sans technology. Capture moments with the camera in your phone but do capture some moments with your naked eye. The memories that I most cherish are those of the long walks in which I accompanied my maternal grandfather listening to his stories of the city, his life in the army during the World War and how he made me notice houses on the way. Each abandoned house had a story. His narration fed my imagination that translated into my essays and poems that I penned in exam. And I passed with flying colours with my essays and paragraphs being read out aloud in the class to the envy of my competitors. So observe, understand and enjoy! We are lucky to have theatre play in front of our very eyes. No ticket to be bought, no internet connection to be paid!

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