What get­ting what­szapped in the mid­dle of an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tions feels like

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Ecstasy Of Ideas - Bikram Vohra

Peo­ple use What­sApp to make the world a global vil­lage. My wife uses it as a weapon. A sort of mix of a blud­geon and a ver­bal sledge­ham­mer. There we are sit­ting around chew­ing the fat in a friendly group and i am gal­lop­ing along on one of my favourite hobby horses and en­thralling my au­di­ence when the phone will light up. There is a mes­sage.

It is from my wife who is sit­ting 4.5 me­tres north north east from me and she is now stu­diously on her phone and pre­tend­ing she is on an­other call. So i pick up my phone and it will say, can you shut up al­ready, you are mo­nop­o­lis­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. Or, do not tell that bor­ing old story again, ev­ery­one has heard it.

It is easy to be un­sad­dled by What­sApp which be­comes more like what­szapped be­cause it stops you in your tracks. The other day we are hav­ing this an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tion and the mo­bile makes that chirp­ing sound and i see my wife put her phone down and look away and i know there is some­thing whizzing down the ether and the mes­sage says, that’s Mani’s wife Leela, you are mis­tak­ing her for Fred­die’s wife Pushpa and drop­ping big bricks, stop al­ready.

What­sApp is also a great way to wrig­gle out of a com­mit­ment. Pick up phone, mes­sage from wife: I want to go home. Now. The trick lies not so much in the mes­sage as in the sub­terfuge adopted to make it look nat­u­ral. Like my wife will con­tinue to fid­dle with the phone to dis­en­chant any­one who sus­pects we are com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other, not that any­one gets fooled but the cha­rade is man­dated.

The re­cip­i­ent (mostly me) also has a role to play in that he has to cam­ou­flage his re­ac­tion. Those who have been long on the re­ceiv­ing end learn how to keep a poker face and not be daunted by the wifely rude­ness or re­crim­i­na­tion. Like if the mes­sage says, there is a spill of sauce on your shirt, you have to re­sist look­ing down for a minute be­cause that would give the game away.

Of­ten, to fill in that time gap you bab­ble, send­ing out su­per­flu­ous de­ceit. That was my cousin from Den­ver in Colorado (yes, they needed to know that). He is a doc­tor (riv­et­ing stuff, this). Lives there with his wife, she is also a doc­tor (that is an im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion, at least we are clear he isn’t liv­ing in sin).

Then, when enough time has passed, you look down and ex­press your hor­ror … (mi­good­ness, i spilled sauce on my shirt, clumsy me). And from north north east your wife says, well, clean it up.

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