Cellphones are inevitable private possessions these days. Apart from being the convenient means of contact, they frequently make an equally inconvenient public presence. For example, they are nuisances to serious university classes. Recently, one of our senior professors in the M. Phil. class had to tell this to his grown-up students: “Please switch your mobiles off. I don’t like to seize them and never return!” Surely, the would-be graduates were alarmed: “How on earth could he warn us this way?” Whatever the reaction, thanks to him, we got rid of those occasional ‘postmodern tunes’ after that. His words indeed held justification. Some of us wondered why none of us had stopped one of our senior classmates from chatting in phone inside the exam hall before two months.

Cellphones also spoil public gatherings and performances. They keep on ringing amidst serious presentations and lower the significance of the occasion itself. Recently, in a Devkota Jayanti held in Russian Cultural Centre, cellphone users — who were themselves poets, singers, thinkers, and what not — set an example of how this new technology is leading us to frivolity. While the Great Poet was being commemorated with thoughts and poems, some thinkers and poets kept themselves busy with loud talks on their phones or among themselves before or after their own presentations. Not only were those in the audience doing this, the programme anchor was a rather distinct sample for all.

Interestingly, one of the organizers cautioned the participants with two important warnings: presenting more than one item was disgraceful, and that quitting the programme in the middle after one’s presentation was notorious. But, this gentleman, who had displayed laudable vigor in monitoring the presentations and movements, said nothing on the tones and talks which lasted throughout the programme. However, he had thrown a groundbreaking challenge to the people, otherwise a gathering like this would evaporate with such a speed that the chief guest, in his turn, would end up having just a few people to address to.

Devoted cellphone users may not consider it a big case, but their ringtones and talks can never be compatible with a profound session as that mentioned above. It may sound impolite to doubt their sensibility, but the cases like above show that they do lack it at times. If not, they don’t care it matters. Our professor may not have enjoyed talking about seizing the phones of his students. He had grounds to doubt that his lectures would go uninterrupted by ringtones and the rushes-in-and-out. Nor was it necessary for the organizers of the said Devkota Jayanti to plead the mass for commonsense. A bit of sensibility from the phone owners, yes, only the readiness to keep the phones silent or switched off for a while would help the good moment pass better. So, the fact is: it only takes us to realize that a new technology not only poses on us the question of keeping up with it, but of doing it decently.

Published in The Kathmandu Post
November 2006

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By hkafle

I am a University teacher, with passion for literature and music.

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