THE ACCIDENTAL PHONE CALL
Wake up Anish, you’re getting late for work”. “No, mom, I still have time, the alarm has not gone off yet.”
“The alarm has already gone off thrice, it’s halfpast eight.”
With half open eyes, he reaches for his iphone and unlocks the phone. “Oh, no! I’m getting late!” he exclaims, rummaging in his wardrobe for clothes and rushes to the bathroom.
“Come downstairs, breakfast is ready,” his mom’s voice echoes in the bathroom.
“This is the second incident in two days, you are a grown-up, son.” Anish agrees, his mouth stuffed with food. “You should be happy that I listened to you and not to an alarm,” he gets up and kisses his mom on the cheek.
She looks at him and then looks at the garlanded photo in the hall. ‘Oh, he’s become just like you,’ she smiles contentedly, brushing her tears away.
Ishwari Varma lives with her son at the Inland Avenue apartments, located in the upper middle class neighbourhood at Malad West, Mumbai. Her husband passed away five years ago owing to leukaemia. Her son, Anish, is a software engineer in a leading company. After the demise of her husband, Ishwari’s bond with her son strengthened.
Ishwari goes to the kitchen to heat the food for her breakfast. She opens the refrigerator to look for something and finds out that she has run out of vegetables and other food supplies. ‘It’s only 10 am. I can still go to the market and then have my breakfast.’ She goes to her room and grabs the keys. She straightens herself in the mirror, her eyes fall on her son’s childhood photos on the wall. She misses him already.
“Madam, I remembered you when I saw this
“Good morning, aunty.” She hears someone calling her name, interrupting her thoughts. Ishwari turns to find Shalini, her neighbour next door.
“What is an app?” she asks him, not being able to comprehend. Anish takes his mobile out and explains, “This is the official app of the BMC to pay utility bills. Look at the various buttons here such as payment, helpline number, and feedback,” he tells her hovering over them. When he finally removes his hand, she sees a brand new LED TV erected on the wall. “This is my birthday gift to you, mom!” he exclaims. “Today’s not my birthday. How can you forget my birthday?” she asks, looking hurt.
pumpkin and specially ordered it for you. Please buy it.”
“Are you telling me that I resemble a pumpkin?”
“No madam, don’t get me wrong.”
“How much do I have to pay for all of this?” Ishwari asks him.
“Hundred and fifty rupees.”
She hands him the money and sets off towards home. Her mind is already thinking about the dishes she needs to prepare for lunch.
“Good morning, aunty.” She hears someone calling her name, interrupting her thoughts. Ishwari turns to find Shalini, her neighbour next door. “The apartment maintenance fee has gone up. It has become ` 4500 compared to the last year’s ` 4000.”
“My goodness! I wouldn’t have remembered, if I hadn’t seen you,” replies a perplexed Ishwari.
“You better pay it fast, or else you would have to pay the fine for late payment,” she replies and both part ways.
Anish is typing vigorously, sweat beads forming on his neck. His work station is pasted with reminders all over. He glances at the framed photo of him and his mom. The photo taken on his graduation day, with the ambitious Anish and his mom giving her best smile. He smiles and continues his work.
Ishwari goes to the ATM to withdraw cash, she suddenly remembers that she has also forgotten to pay the monthly utility bills. She comes out and gestures to the auto rickshaws to stop, but to no avail. Ishwari is in a dilemma as to which task has to be completed first. She sets out towards BMC to pay the utility bills.
“Can you guide me to the utility payment department?” The watchman scorns at her question and his eyes fall on her grocery bag. He gestures towards the left, clearly showing his disinterest to help her and busies himself with the newspaper. She spots the office, thanks him and sets off towards it. She reaches the hallway of the corporation office, the office bustling with people. She stands in the queue.
Ishwari sees the person in front of her slipping a wad of cash to the clerk. When it was her turn, the stout man behind the desk smiles and asks for her details. He turns the monitor by an angle of 180o, hands her the keyboard and mouse. When he asks her to click on the pay option, she struggles to hover the cursor on the screen. The impatient clerk takes the mouse from her, asks for Ishwari’s credit card number and completes the required transaction.
She halts an auto from the main road and asks the driver to take her to ‘Inland Avenue’ apartments.
She swiftly walks towards the apartment office in the scorching sun, her pupils dilated due to the scorching sun, dirt sticking to her Kolhapuri sandals.
“Good afternoon, ma’am, how can I help you?” asks the receptionist, with a slight accent.
“I have come to pay the apartment maintenance fee,” answers Ishwari slightly puffing and panting. The receptionist hands her the receipt. When she extends her hand to receive it, her surroundings become blurred and suddenly blacken out.
“Mom, can you hear me?” she slowly opens her eyes and finds her son, watchman and receptionist beside her. “Why am I on the bed? What happened to me?” she asks looking at everyone, expecting an answer.
“You were found unconscious at the reception. I got a call from the guard who told me about your condition. Where have you been today?” her son asks with concern evident in his eyes.
“I had just gone to the market and BMC office to pay the utility bills.”
“Don’t tell me that you have walked to those places.” Ishwari nods feebly. “Why didn’t you take an auto.” he asks, the tone of his voice slightly higher than usual. “I didn’t find an auto. I went out around 10 am in the morning, thinking that I would finish my work fast and return.”
“If I’m not wrong, you have your breakfast at that time, that is, after I go to work. You could have asked me to pay the utility bills,” Anish says, clearly showing his displeasure at her actions. “Then what will I do? I get bored at home, there is nothing on television
other than daily soaps and I don’t like watching news,” she replies with a weak smile.
“Mom, there’s an online app to pay the utility bills and also the apartment maintenance fees.”
“What is an app?” she asks him, not being able to comprehend. Anish takes his mobile out and explains, “This is the official app of the BMC to pay utility bills. Look at the various buttons here such as payment, helpline number, and feedback,” he tells her hovering over them. Ishwari exclaims like a child, visiting Disneyland for the first time. “I have some unfinished chores to attend to, I’ll see you after an hour. You take good care of my little girl,” he tells the receptionist.
Ishwari stood on the balcony, watching for her son’s car. He had been out for almost four hours. She was relieved when she saw a white Mercedes taking a U-turn towards the basement, her son talking over his phone.
“Hello, mom, how are you feeling now?” he asks, looking pleased.
“How many times have I told you not to talk while driving? I have even read somewhere that 25 per cent of accidents happen due to this.““Mom, you always tell that I’m the apple of your eyes and that you cannot live without me. Even I cannot live without my Apple,” he says cheekily flashing his phone at her.
“What are you doing, Anish? I cannot see anything.” “Don’t open your eyes,” he says not removing his hand from her eyes. When he finally removes his hand, she sees a brand new LED TV erected on the wall. “This is my birthday gift to you, mom!” he exclaims.
“Today’s not my birthday. How can you forget my birthday?” she asks, looking hurt.
“I know that your birthday is tomorrow. But as tomorrow is Monday, I won’t be there to celebrate it with you.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” she says, overwhelmed by his gesture. “Wait, it’s not over yet,” he tells her with a smirk.
“These are the DVDS of the most popular mythological shows, you can watch them when I'm at work.”
“I don’t know how to use this kind of TV, you didn’t have to do so much for me,” she says, tears welling up in her eyes. “Don’t worry, mom, I'll do the required settings before I go to work,” he says placing his arm on hers. “I almost forgot, I've also purchased the latest version of iphone for you.”
“Anish, you have bought a smartphone to a dumb person,” she remarks jokingly.
“I forgot to add gently, then, do you see my name here?” She nods in the affirmative. “Now click on it.” She presses the icon with less force.
“See I told you, you’ll get used to it. I have already saved the contact numbers of the maid, milkman, security guard and Apollo Hospital.” “I have also downloaded your favourite
bhajans. You can listen to them with these earphones. Plug this end of it to the slot on top of the phone, then insert two ends to both ears. Here I'll do it for you,” he tells her and inserts it to both of her ears. “Now let’s have lunch, this way, ma’am,” he shows the way like the manager of a restaurant.
Anish makes Ishwari sit on the chair and hands her a laminated card. “Which one would you like to order first, ma’am?” Ishwari chuckles at the sudden transformation.
“Paneer tikka with naan, then,” Ishwari says. After they are done, she says, “It was really delicious. Thank you for this. By the way, when did you have time to arrange this?
“I was really busy yesterday,” he replies with a twinkle in his eye. “Oh! I see,” she replies, realisation dawning on her. The mother-son duo share a good laugh.
At night, Anish is rudely woken by the blare of music. “Mom, what is that noise?” he asks, rubbing his eyes. He gets up and walks to the living room.
“Anish, why is this so loud?” I have not seen anything like this.”you have forgotten to insert the cord to the topmost slot of
A phone ring is heard and he adjusts his Bluetooth headset and starts speaking. “I have almost finished it, it will be ready by tomorrow.” His conversation is interrupted by the rain, he continues talking despite this.
“I'll teach you and you’ll get used to it soon,” he assures her. “But first, let’s take a selfie. Say cheese.” “Cheeeese.” they repeat in unison.
“Okay, now first I'll teach you to call using this phone. Do you see the contacts button, click on that.”
Ishwari presses the icon with force.
the phone,” he tells her between his chuckles.
“He-he! How dumb am I?” she says and joins in the laughter.
“Happy birthday, mom!” he says wishing her with a kiss on the cheeks. Anish freshens up and tells her that he’d have breakfast in his office.
Anish grabs his car keys and goes downstairs to the parking space. When he starts his white Mercedes, he’s greeted by the glances of the onlookers, who never forget to see his car take off. A phone ring is heard and he adjusts his Bluetooth headset and starts speaking. “I have almost finished it, it will be ready by tomorrow.” His conversation is interrupted by the rain, he continues talking despite this. “How about having lunch in Mainland China? I heard that they serve lipsmacking momos.”
He doesn’t realise that front reflection on the glass of his car is blurring. Anish hears a loud honk. He turns off the Bluetooth headset. He turns pale when he realises that a truck is approaching towards his car. He tries to steer with his trembling hands, but the truck rams the glass and Anish falls towards the glass due to the impact.
Ishwari decides to surprise him on her birthday by preparing his favourite
kheer. She inhales the smell of the kheer before keeping it in the refrigerator. Ishwari decides to call him and ask him to return home soon. She takes her brand new iphone, murmurs the steps taught by her son and does accordingly. When Anish’s phone flashes his mom’s name, he is lying on the dashboard, the earpiece covered by blood.
‘I guess my son was telling the truth that he only listens to me,’ she chuckles. There was another call on her phone from an unknown number. “Are you Anish Varma’s mother?” the voice on the other end enquires.
“Yes, may I know who is speaking?” she asks.
“I’m calling from Sarojini Hospital. Your son was brought to us around half past 10. He was declared dead on the spot. We also found a Bluetooth headset
plugged to his ear.”
Ishwari is devastated and gulps air to breathe. Her mind echoes with his words, “I won’t be there tomorrow to celebrate it
with you,” repeatedly. She stares at the bitten Apple logo on the back of her phone and felt that someone had bitten off a part of her soul.
At times, technology acts as a friend and at times as an enemy. It’s a good slave but a very bad master. It’s great having a gadget as your friend to lighten your life. Make the gadget a part of your world but don’t be a part of its world. A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
You are a grown-up, son.” Anish agrees, his mouth stuffed with food. “You should be happy that I listened to you and not to an alarm,” he gets up and kisses his mom on the cheek.