What losing my phone taught me about myself

No, it’s not about my pointless Insta stories.

What losing my smartphone taught me about myself | Chai High is an Indian blog started by Shivani KrishanLess than 24 hours after I prided myself on my independence, my cell phone crashed. Ordinarily, this would seem like two separate instances—a woman’s independence and a rectangular handheld gadget—but it wasn’t quite so simple. The fleeting sense of achievement I’d experienced was entirely dependent on Uber, a car booking app, and Google Maps. I was alone in Chandigarh for the very first time, and I was relying on the good sense and navigation expertise of my Uber driver, and my ability to read Google Maps, to deliver me in one piece to my ailing grandmother. And I was mighty proud of myself at that. So, a day later, when my phone died, it took away my independence, sense of empowerment and feeling of being in control. The ground beneath my feet had shifted. And this raised a few questions in my mind about the extent to which we rely on technology today.

It’s interesting how the smart phone has enabled the independence of women. In a new city? Find your way with Google Maps. Don’t have a car? Book an Uber. Hungry? Order on Swiggy. Don’t know where to stay? Book an Airbnb. Want to pay a bill? Choose Netbanking. Unlike paper maps, regular taxis, restaurant home delivery and hotels, these “apps” are accountable if your driver misbehaves, food is contaminated, or room is dirty. And with users giving ratings and writing firsthand reviews, it only adds to the feeling of empowerment, when you make a choice based on your deduction of the average opinion of 14910 others. It’s hard to explain the feeling of elation you get on landing the ideal balance of an above average rating that also fits in your budget. Therefore, it was only natural, that when my source of empowerment and entertainment stopped functioning, I felt like a lost child.

But is this healthy? The fact that we no longer remember phone numbers, that addresses have lost their meaning, that our sense of direction is dependent on an electronic voice, that we constantly need to check our phones for WhatsApp messages and memes from friends, to validate our existence? Many would hands down say no. After all, isn’t it a sign of severe deterioration of cognitive ability to no longer be able to memorize phone numbers or recall directions? Whatever happened to the feeling of joy on locating an address based on a “landmark” from which you were to take the second left, cross the fifth vegetable seller and then look for a black gate–“no not the large one, but the smaller bling-and-miss one”—and then take a U turn to arrive at your destination? Whatever happened to good ol’ talking to people over the phone rather than half-hearted WhatsApp texts and Instagram DMs that are often “read” and not replied to?

It’s hard to argue with the logic.

Nevertheless, all the cognition required in earlier days to traverse new grounds only kept us from venturing beyond our comfort zones. For, if we were lost and didn’t have a cell phone, how were we to call for help, WhatsApp our live location to a friend or google map our way to the nearest familiar space? Unsurprisingly, rarely did women venture beyond the familiar when travelling alone, and even when they did, they’d dare not travel after sunset. Today, we travel at all hours of the day and night, within the country and abroad, and often take off into open roads and unknown streets, by Google mapping our way.

Which brings me to the “godsent” smartphone, a device I openly dissed and loved to mock, until I was left without it, in an unfamiliar city. The thing is, I had always associated phones with phone calls, social media narcissism–#ootds and #wanderlusts, and text messages, things I was happy to forgo as an experiment, for a limited amount of time. What I was unprepared for, was losing out on Uber, Google Maps, Netbanking, Airplane ticket download, E-Aadhar card and the fact that, increasingly, almost every transaction required an OTP. What I was also not expecting, was losing out on my independence.

The sense of invincibility, I’d felt as I made my way in a relatively unknown city to my grand mum’s quarters in an Uber, Google-mapping the directions, was replaced with a feeling of complete disorientation and dread when my phone blanked out. Which made it clear that I am only as independent and empowered as my smartphone. Take it away, and I am a nothing person. Does this mean, I have a false sense of self? That I am not really as independent as I think I am? That I am only as smart, independent and empowered as my smartphone allows me to be? That, by being dependent on my phone, I am simply entrusting a gadget the place previous generations granted their husbands and fathers? That it’s time to end this toxic relationship disguised as a happily-ever-after? That it’s finally time to break up?

Since I respect my phone too much to ghost it, I should probably just start getting really “busy”.

 

 

 

Dear #SomeMen, here’s why #MeToo is not just a fad

In a few weeks, cynics – men and women, will look back and say “What good did any of that do?” or “See, I told you, it was just a trend”.

I can’t say that speaking up about this on social media is going to stop rape or sexual harassment. Because it probably won’t. It might not even reduce it. But, I’d still go so far as to say, that this online discourse is good. The seeming overload of “feminist ads” is good. The “rants” are good. The “crass”ness in stand-up comedy, Aditi Mittal, AIB, and other “women oriented” chatter that offends the perpetually-offended is good.

It’s not enough.

But it’s good.

It may sometimes feel “too much” even to a “feminist” woman. It may sound like noise to #SomeMen. A “fashionable” movement. A “trend”. Something that women find “cool”. A way to grab attention. The next “in” thing. “Wannabe”. Whatever.

But it’s working.

It’s not stopping a man from committing a crime but it’s empowering a woman to speak up about it.

10 years ago, we’d think 10 times before sharing an instance of abuse. We’d hide it, repress it, ignore it, blame ourselves for it, forget it, and “move on” from it.

10 years ago, we were ashamed. Especially when an instance of abuse involved a family member. So we stayed quiet. And “sucked it up”.

10 years ago, familial rape happened and was forgotten about, never to be brought up again, save for a counselling session years later, when the incident reared its ugly head disguised as relationship trouble or depression.

But today, with #MeToo, we are refusing to stay quiet. And this refusal to keep mum is a step forward. Let me repeat – it may not deter the perpetrator just yet, but it will help us speak up, share our stories, and therefore heal.

When a stand-up comedian brazenly talks about the roadside creep, when ads talk about “sharing the load”, when “consent” is the subject matter of a feature film, we know we’re moving forward. If not in the minds of men, at least in the hearts of women. “I am not alone”, being the starting point.

Healing starts from knowing that we are not alone. 

Plenty of times, we are hurting because we blame ourselves for what was done to us. We call ourselves naive. We assume that if we were smarter and more prudent, we wouldn’t have to go through what we did. We think we “lead them on”. That we must have done something wrong to deserve this. In other words, we beat ourselves up about it. And this embarassment, this feeling of “What if it was my fault?” prevents us from sharing our stories of abuse, stops us from loving and accepting ourselves, and ultimately keeps us from healing.

With #MeToo, with the voices of everyone from celebrities to our own mothers speaking up on social media, the part of us that blamed ourselves has finally gotten the courage to speak up. To pull ourselves together, get on social media, and talk about our stories. Without shame. Without fear. Without guilt.

This coming together of women from all parts of the world for #MeToo may be presumed to be just another short-lived online cry, superficial, rootless and removed from reality. But to a teenage girl, the knowledge that she is not alone, that she isn’t wrong, and that there are others like her who are fearlessly speaking up, can come as a welcome relief. A message that one day, she will be OK. That there’s hope.

And sometimes, hope is all you need.

So is #MeToo a symbol of hope?

#MeToo means different things to different people. For some it’s a form of release, of letting off steam and pent-up anger. For others, it’s an acknowledgment of the crime followed by self-acceptance – “it was not my fault”.  And then of course, it serves as encouragement for those of us who have been too quiet for too long, to finally stand up to our perpetrators – if not in person, at least in spirit.

I don’t know what #MeToo means to men in general. The one or two friends I spoke to said they were surprised that so many women were speaking up and posting. They said they were shocked that almost everybody on their lists had put up a status #MeToo. That they hadn’t realise how messed up the situation really was.

Well, it is bad.

And anything, even a tiny hashtag goes a long way. Think of it this way – any activity that helps at least one person heal, is good.


 

If you feel you have an opinion you’d like to share please do comment. 🙂