THE AC­CI­DEN­TAL PHONE CALL

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Woman's Era - - News - Aparna Prabhu

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.

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