Sunday, July 3, 2016


Ashok always felt that the Gods were conspiring against him.  He was born into a poor family.  His dad ran a small store, and he was barely able to afford a roof over their head and put food on the table.  But the most convincing factor was that Ashok was pretty sure that he was the dumbest kid in his school.  Even the simplest of concepts would fly right over his head, and his memory was the worst.  Even if he studied hard, he was sure that a few days later, he was going to forget everything.  Before long, he had dropped out of school after he failed for 3 consecutive years.

Relieved from school, he would spend his days taking long naps interrupted only by mother waking him up for his timely meals.  Furthermore, he managed to squeeze in about 5-6 hours of TV everyday.  Sometimes, he would give in to his mother's persistent rant about how he was always lying around in the house, he would try to go out to the field where his ex-classmates would gather after their school hours.  They would spend a few hours playing cricket.  While the 2 captains would choose the team members, Ashok was always the last person to be chosen.  Sometimes the captains would fight asking the other team to take Ashok in return for someone else.  He guessed they thought he was too dumb to play.  It was kind of true.  He never seemed to understand the strategies.  He always managed to screw up somehow.

A sad Ashok vowed to never go back, and he ended up just spending more of his time in front of the TV.  It didn't help much either that soon he put on a lot of weight.

One day, after about a year, he decided to go see what his ex-classmates were up to.  He had gotten a haircut.  The kind that was in fashion.  The barber trimmed his sides to a bare minimum while he left the top longer.  When he applied some oil to make them stick together, he figured out that he could make them stay up.  He had seen people on TV do it.  It looked really cool.  It was at that moment that he realized that he may be cool after all, and he wanted to go meet his ex-classmates, show off his hair to them, make them think that he was cool.

Upon reaching the field, he found it empty.  There was nobody playing cricket or football.  He saw a bunch of guys sitting huddled together under a tree.

Getting closer to them, he realized they were his ex-classmates, and they were engrossed in her phones.  He felt a sudden tug at his pride.  He had seen a lot about phones on the TV, but he never owned one himself.  Sometimes, he would notice people play games on their phones.  There was this one game that he liked especially.  It was a game where you had to guide a snake towards a tiny box on the screen, and every time it 'ate' it, it grew longer in size.  The challenge was to make sure it didn't run into its own body.  Ashok had literally begged a stranger to let him play it just once, and he had really enjoyed that one opportunity.  It had been his dream since that day to own a phone and play that game to his heart's content.  He begged his dad to buy him one, but his dad somehow didn't seem to understand the pleasure of games.  To Ashok's frustration, his dad kept asking him why he wanted a phone in the first place, "Even I don’t own a phone! By the way, who are you going to call with it?? Answer me!!"

Ashok tried not to show his disappointment and tried to talk to his ex-classmates, but they just ignored him after an irritated 'Hi."  As Ashok sat there trying to get a peak into their screens, he realized that the world now belonged to people who owned mobile phones.  If you didn't have one, it just meant that you were a loser.

Over the next few months, Ashok made a bigger fuss about wanting a phone, but to no avail.  Then, one day, after he was thrown out of his house by his mother so that he can get some exercise, he decided to go on that walk he had been wanting to take for a few weeks.  That was when he came across a black piece of plastic on the side of the road.  He knew instantly that it was a phone.  He picked it up and looked at it.  It looked beaten up and had lots of scratches.  He was sure nobody had lost it.  He was sure someone had thrown it away.

The next day, he managed to get a charger and a sim card.  He visited his friends and got their numbers.  He could almost feel their respect.  He was one among them now.  An equal.  He managed to get some money from his mother and activated an SMS plan that let him sent 100 free SMS’ everyday.  He starting messaging his ex-classmates.  He would even go and hang out with them.  It was like he was part of a mobile phone gang.

Eventually, things began to change.  It started with just one of his ex-classmates turning up one day with a “touchscreen phone.”  It had a huge screen, and his friend would operate it by touching on the screen with his finger!  It was like magic.  Everybody went crazy over it.  But it was still fine.  It was just one phone.  Everybody else still had the phones with the tiny non-"touchscreens" and hard keypads.  But little did Ashok know that it was going to be so for long.  It almost seemed as though that one guy had set off a chain reaction.  One by one, everybody started turning up with touchscreen phones.  It wasn't long before some of the them started getting “smart phones.”  As time went on, Ashok found himself hiding his phone as much as possible.  He would never bring it out of his pocket when he was around them.  He stopped hanging out with them.  And to make matters worse, whenever he SMS'ed his friends, they would not reply.  The rare times they did, they would ask him to msg them in "Whatsapp," whatever that was!  He once again ended up spending more and more time at home in front of the TV.

Then one day, his mom gave him a phone.  A "smart phone."  One of her friends had given it to her.  It was pretty old, but Ashok's happiness knew no bounds.

He got dressed up and walked over to the field to find his ex-classmates and show it off.  Once again, he was going to be an equal.

Ashok found them chatting about something.  Ashok ran to them and flashed his phone with a victorious grin on his face.  His friends looked up at him uninterested.  Not the reaction he was expecting.  One of them took the phone from him and inspected it with a smirk on his face.  He then took his own phone out and proceeded to compare them side by side.  But the color of Ashok's face had drained the moment his ex-classmate had taken the phone out of his pocket.  It was the largest phone he had ever seen in real life.  And when he had placed it side by side with his phone, it looked tiny.  Ashok's phone looked like it was a baby mobile phone in comparison.  All his ex-classmates laughed while Ashok stood embarrassed, his heart pounding.  One by one, all his ex-classmates took out their phones, and they all looked huge.  They all started taking turns comparing their phones to his as if it was some kind of a joke.  Ashok was trying very hard to hold back tears.  But then he burst out crying when one of them took out something that looked like a notebook out of his bag, and it turned to be some kind of a huge phone.  He followed suite and placed Ashok's phone next to it and it looked pathetic.  They looked at Ashok crying and laughed even harder.  Ashok grabbed his tiny phone and ran back home crying all the way.

Back home, he went back to his only solace:  TV.  Presently, a teleshopping program.  Today, the host, a pretty young lady, was trying to sell a phone.  It was a huge one, similar to the ones that his ex-classmates had. The host was comparing it to other smaller sized phones to show the viewers the differences in size.
“I guess size 'does' matter!” she said and laughed along with the studio audience.  Then she looked straight at Ashok, and laughed some more.    Ashok instinctively put his phone back into his pocket, trying to hide it, then stopped and tried to calm himself down repeatedly telling himself that it was just a person on TV and that she wasn't actually laughing at him.  But he was convinced now more than ever.  The Gods 'were' conspiring against him.


- Rejo John

No comments: