Where is my memory located?

There was a time, many aeons ago, when lyrics of my favourite songs roamed freely in my memory, ready to flow into song whenever I wanted.  There were ready records of phone numbers of friends and family that I could rattle off at will. Birthdays and anniversaries were etched in my grey matter, giving me the joy of wishing dear ones on their special days.

Cut to now. There is a song that has been eluding me from this morning. It sits at the edge of my memory and teases me. I know that I can pick up my phone and look for it on the internet, but just for once I want to recollect and download it from that once sharp memory. As I walk briskly, I furrow my brows, as if that act will somehow help me remember. I give up after a while.

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Has my memory been transferred to my phone? It is a shocking possibility. My phone holds my calendar, appointments, birthdays and anniversaries lists, mobile numbers, landline numbers, sticky notes, songs, voice recordings, news, weather reports, kids’ schedules, shoppings lists, book lists and many other things. Is there anything that I really need to remember on my own? Will I eventually lose my ability to remember even simple things without my phone? Seems quite plausible.

No wonder people clutch their phones as if their very existence depends on it. Wherever one goes, people are tapping into their alternative phone memories for simple, everyday tasks.

Such problems did not exist a few decades ago – a time when my mom could easily quote recipes and lists, where my dad never forgot where he kept anything, where my gran could recollect and narrate hundreds of stories from Indian mythology to keep us engaged.

Somewhere between then and now, our phones have hijacked our memories. And, sigh! The song is still teasing me from the edges of my memory.



The roads are jammed, and most drivers have switched off their engines. I stare absently at the scene outside. An old lady is standing under a bus shelter. As I watch, she pulls out something from the waistband of her saree. It is a small cloth bag of the drawstring variety. She rummages inside and pulls out a few betel leaves and pieces of broken areca nut. She patiently tears the leaves and folds them, places the areca nut in the center, and puts it into her mouth. Her eyes have a faraway look, as her hands tighten the drawstring pouch and tuck it back into her waistband. She chews the leaves, and is deep in thought.

I watch in fascination.

A young girl soon joins the old lady. She is in her teens. As I watch, she stretches her arm into her bag, and pulls out her smartphone. She is soon completely absorbed in her own world!

I laugh at this contrast.

The old lady has stopped pondering. She looks around now, and looks at the young lady, who is completely oblivious to the goings-on around her; her neck bent at an awkward angle.

This makes me think. When did we become this way? When did we stop looking out at the world? When did we trap the world into a smartscreen and start looking for all solutions in that small screen. Instead of looking out and going out into the world, we have brought the world into our palms, to the point where we don’t need anyone or anything else to keep us occupied.

Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

As I watch, the old lady chews her leaves and watches the world curiously. Her eyes fall on me. She smiles – a toothless smile, her mouth stained by the red of the betel leaves.

I smile back. There is still hope!

A Tech Tutorial for Grandma

It is late in the afternoon. My mom is visiting. My son has just come back from school. He chatters about his day, hugs his grandma, washes up and disappears to his room to change.

In a few minutes, he comes out with the iPad to play games on it – only for the 10 precious minutes that he has been allotted every evening. He doesn’t want to waste even a second.

I watch the intensity with which he plays the game. His eyes, hands and brain are all alert; his eyes flitting about, taking in all the action, his reflexes sharp. At that point, only he and the game exist.

My mom finishes her afternoon coffee, and brings her smartphone to check her messages. She swipes the screen and starts reading.

Then she clucks in exasperation. I ask her what it is. She says that the messaging app has vanished. Hearing the cluck, my son pauses his game and ambles over. My daughter also joins in. They ask her what the problem is. She shows them.

They sit on either side of her to explain the finer nuances of a technology that comes so naturally and easily to them. She is overwhelmed by it all.

They patiently teach her. One step at a time. My mom’s eyes light up! She understands more than she did before. My daughter writes down the instructions for easy reference; lest the same problems show up again.

My mom preserves the document carefully. She then asks my children all her doubts – technology transfer is happening, a tech-tutorial is in progress.

My kids are both amused and filled with love and patience. My husband and I don’t get to experience this special love; a love that is reserved only for the grandparents.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

They patiently explain the three dots on the top right hand corner of the screen. My mom’s concentration is now absolute.

She loves technology she says, and marvels at all it does. She loves her grandchildren even more she says, hugging them.

Smart Charades

My mobile phone rings, and its call is insistent. I drop what I am doing to pick up the call. It is an important call, and I settle down with pen and paper, jotting down notes, and doodling unconsciously, eyebrows furrowed and shoulders hunched forward, my concentration absolute.

Image courtesy – fotosearch.com

A few minutes into the call, I sense rather than see a presence. A momentary lapse of attention, and I refocus. In another minute, the presence becomes palpable, I look up to see my son waving at me.

And then the game begins. A game that has its own unique rules. A game that I call the Smartkids game. I am sure that most parents are familiar with this game – maybe each of us plays different variants, but the basic game goes something like this.

The parent is on an important call. The child now tries to sneak-in a request to do something that he or she would normally not be allowed to do, when the parent’s attention is fully focused on them.

So, back to my call. My son waves. I wave back, and I signal that I am on a call, as he can see. The game of dumb charades begins.

My son signals for permission to play games on the iPad.

I shake my head and mouth a ‘no’. He has already used up his quota for the day.

He shows his ten fingers and the clock. 10 minutes and makes a pleading expression.

My eyes roll an exasperated NO in capital letters, bold font!

I am trying to keep my wits about me – to hold my telecon together.

My son goes away, but he is back with a pen and notepad. He writes, “Please, at least 5 minutes.”

I scribble a hasty big NO, font size 72.

Another PLEASE…and I am teetering on the brink of an eruption.

I stand up, and with violent hand gestures, and rolling eyes, I signal a final DECISIVE NO.

I can picture myself, trying to hold a sane conversation on the one hand and trying to play a rather difficult version of dumb charades on the other.

My son shrugs and frowns. He walks away. My call ends at the same time.

Game over. Phew! I have lost a few rounds in the past, but now I know how it works

My son knows that there will be other calls on other days, when I will falter and give in.

Smart meditation

I have recently experienced the benefits of guided meditation. My smartphone’s appstore offers a wide range of meditation apps to choose from.

I settle down on my bed, lying on my back, consciously switching off the sounds around me, and retreating into the deeper recesses of my mind, my ears capturing the instructions from the phone. I breathe in, and let out my breath.

                                  Courtesy – 123rf.com
I tense my body, breathe in, relax and breathe out. I follow all the instructions and have started feeling really good.

The voice says, “Let go…and relax.”

I relax a bit too much; by stretching my arms more than they should.

 I feel it before I hear it. My outsretched left arm has sent my smartphone flying through the railings at the head of my bed and down to the floor below.

Where there were no thoughts, dozens of thoughts come invading. 

” My phone, it is new, has the screen cracked? ”

The guided voice resumes. “Take a deep breath.”

 I try to relax my mind, which is repeatedly conjuring up images of a shattered screen.

I am tempted to jump down and look under the cot. My mind reasons, “If the screen is already shattered, there’s nothing to be done. So why not complete the meditation, given the fact that my guide seems to be doing his job.”

I settle down to continue this two-level meditation. I manage to finish it.

After relaxing for a few minutes, I allow my body to leap out of the bed and crawl under it.

My phone lies out of reach. I bring a stick to gently draw it towards me. I pray and hope for the best.

My phone comes out intact. I breathe out in relief and relax truly!


I am standing at the checkout line in the local supermarket. The line snakes both in front of me and behind me.  It is the weekend after all, and people are here to stock up.

I check my phone repeatedly for want of anything better to do. I keep refreshing my facebook page, my whatsapp and the news application.  The world is quiet, no ‘breaking news’. I resign myself to the long, boring wait.

I am soon distracted by a little baby in a pram. The baby is probably just a year and a half old.  She is so pretty – chubby cheeks and huge eyes that look like black grapes. She is gurgling, and chewing on a watermelon teething toy.

She smiles at her mom, hits the pram, and babbles on.

I am totally engrossed now, my body automatically moving along the line.

And as I watch, the little girl’s face suddenly contracts in preparation for a sneeze. And before she realizes it, the baby sneeze explodes out of her tiny frame.


       Courtesy – http://www.gettyimages.in

The startled look on the baby’s face is priceless. She looks wonderingly as if saying, “Hey, what was that now?”

She continues her chewing, and I see it, and she senses it – a second sneeze is on its way. “Aaaachoooo”, she sneezes.

Now she laughs in wonder at what just happened. She claps her hands.

She is now prepared for the next one, but the sneeze quota seems to have dried up. The baby forgets and is soon rubbing her eyes.

I finally manage to reach the cashier. As I carry my bags and walk out I look back to see that the little girl has fallen asleep.

Sometimes there are more interesting things to observe than constantly refreshing one’s phone.

The Smart Generation

There was a time, long ago, maybe not so long ago, when smartphones did not exist and videogames used to be faraway things that you only saw in the movies!

There was a time when happiness could be contained within a chocolate given to you by your parents.

These days, it is difficult to motivate children with simple things, those things that made up our childhood. 

From what I observe all around me, today’s children love the games on their iPads and their parents’ smartphones. They are easily motivated and enthusiastic about these games, much like we were about chocolates and picnics.


         Courtesy – http://www.ctvnews.ca

My son is no exception. He loves this game called ‘Minecraft’ (hope I’ve got the name right! 

We spend a lot of time talking to him about the ill-effects of playing continuously (exaggerating sometimes, for good measure).

To reach a win-win without his getting addicted to these electronic devices, we have worked out a system where he gets to play the game thrice a day, for 10 minutes each. This seems to be working very well.

Last week, while we were at the airport, we heard an announcement that our flight was delayed by two hours. I went back to my book, while my husband napped. My daughter and her grandma were busy chatting. My son paced the airport floor, back and forth.

After a while, his constant pacing got to me. I called him and asked him why he was pacing?

He said, “I am actually working out how to move to the next level in Minecraft.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Is this game all you can think about?”

He knows I get irritated by game-talk, so he worriedly asked me, “If I am only thinking about the game in my mind would that count as strategic planning or as an addiction to the phone?”

Hmmm..Strategic planning eh? I quietly went back to my book.

Coffee Friends

Earlier, I had written a post about Popcorn Friends. There are many different types of moments in life that can be enjoyed with different types of friends.

Today’s post is about Coffee Friends. Simply put, Coffee Friends are those with whom you go out for coffee.


       Courtesy – http://www.ClipartPals.com

Most Coffee Friends usually have a favourite coffee outlet or cafe for the Coffee Friend meeting.

Where I live, there are many good ones to choose from.

So, last week I had a Coffee Friend afternoon. Thanks to Whatsapp and Smartphones, we could take out an  hour from our crazily busy lives to catch up.

Though we each rushed in at the appointed hour, the next 60 minutes were pure relaxation. With the smell of lattes, mochas and capuccinos wafting all around us, and soothing music playing, we settled down in our comfy seats to another wonderful Coffee Friends meeting.

As we sipped our coffee and snacked a bit, we caught up with each others’ lives – from schedules to work to children to fashion. We squeezed in a lot in those 60 minutes.

We laughed, ragged, discussed some serious stuff, ordered more coffee, discussed life’s philosophy and peeked at our smartphones multiple times to stay in touch with our busy schedules.

60 minutes that were exclusively for us. No topic was too trivial or too heavy for the Coffee Friends.

Before we knew it, we were saying loud byes and exchanging hugs. Each of us headed in a different direction, totally rejuvenated and energized.

We plan to meet soon for another Coffee Friend morning.

So do you have Coffee Friends? Would love to hear about those moments.

The Silver Smartphone – A short story

He was at the airport, at the designated gate, waiting for the boarding announcement.

He was a thief, who stole mobile phones and smart phones. His hawk-like eyes scoured malls and markets, as he glided in and out of these places, loaded with all kinds of phones.  He was part of a network of small time thieves, who specialized in technology thieving!

The phones he stole were passed on to a middle-man, who then gave him his cut for every stolen mobile, depending on its brand and model.

Like a predator that can sense its prey from far away, he could sniff out the rich, and their expensive phones, very quickly.

He had recently discovered airports;  and their mobile-charging pods for passengers. He laughed to himself as he saw the number of phones that were being charged. All kinds of smartphones belonging to smart people, one of which he would now steal.

He was very careful to steal from a boarding gate not near his own, sometimes replacing the stolen one with a dummy. He normally did this, just after the boarding announcement  for his flight was made. As people stood up in states of semi-sleep and airport fatigue, he walked to steal, and walked back to his gate; job done.

He knew the risk he was taking in the airport, but some of the best models were readily displayed in the charging pod, as opposed to malls, where he had to really pray for good luck, as people clutched their phones, as if their hearts were resident in them. Here, he could at least look at them, evaluate and then decide.

“No pain, no gain”, he muttered.

Today, he had an hour to look for the next phone. He strolled casually, stretching and yawning, eyeing the charging pods.

Then he saw it, a sleek looking smartphone, metallic silver casing, brand-new from the looks of it. But he did not have a dummy for it. So he had to proceed carefully. He walked around, waiting for his flight to be called.

Once he heard the announcement, he looked around and went quickly to the charging pod. He took out his phone and pretended to tinker with it. He quickly looked around and unplugged the charger from the silver phone, and walked away quickly, to his boarding gate.

He was sweating profusely, waiting for a hand to slap him on his shoulder. Nothing happened. He boarded and the flight took off.

He sighed audibly and asked for some wine to calm his nerves.

When he landed, he took out his new possession and switched it on. He knew better than to type the password and disable the phone. He rather liked this phone, and maybe, would keep it for himself; after he spoke to one of his friends, who could get it to work for him.

He stood in line for a cab. He gave the cabbie his directions. He settled down, more relieved than he cared to admit.

Just as the cab left the airport, a police car intercepted the taxi. The cabbie pulled over.

There were three cops, and his heart almost stopped beating. How had they known? He was bathed in sweat.

“Are you S.Neel?” One of them asked. “We have a warrant for your arrest.”

“No, I am Sid”, he said. They had the wrong man. He was sure he could explain.

“Come with us”, they said.

Two hours later he was interrogated about a bank robbery he knew nothing about. He pleaded and begged them to let him off.

Whom could he call? It was late on Friday afternoon, so bail could be posted only on Monday. Ice-cold fear, and sweat, took turns to taunt him.

Finally, they left him alone. Cops came and went. Two were stationed outside his room.

He  was allowed one call. He thought about his cousin, who was a fledgling lawyer, but decided against it as he imagined the shame, if this were known to his family.

He had to tell his wife that he was delayed on business, and would not be back as planned.

His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to sort  through his thoughts and fears, when he heard voices, presumably of the cops who stood outside.

“Looks like this guy will go in for a long time”, one said.

“Hmmm, $20 Million, wonder where the stash is?” said another voice.

“How did they pick him up?”

“Oh! The control tower was tracking the phone. At one point it seemed like the gang had been tipped off. The phone was lying at the airport unattended for hours. Then this guy picked it up…. and rushed to board his flight.”

Over-protective Passwords

I pride myself on remembering people’s faces and their names, friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, most of the time.  Thanks to smartphones, this skill is now slowly failing me.  I have relegated the power of my memory to my smartphone.  I spend time keying in friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, important events and tasks, and then all I have to do is wait, wait for the reminders that the phone will unfailingly give me.  All that my phone asks in return is for its battery to be charged, so that it may discharge its duties to me, its master.

So spoilt am I, that I have stopped trying to remember.  This is proving to be a big problem with the numerous passwords my life seems to require, to stay sane, connected and e-protected.

To be a social-butterfly, to tweet like a bird, to chat with friends, to write an email, to unlock my phone, to access my bank account, to write to my kids’ teachers, to access my blog, to buy anything, to sell anything….all of these seem to require passwords.  And then, each time I transact online, I need an OTP. Phew!

How do I remember them?  Sometimes when an application asks me to change passwords, and I key in something that I can easily remember, I get a polite reminder that says, “This password was recently used by you,  or this password is too weak, please key in another password”.

Passwords are supposed to protect, but I feel helpless.  So, recently, I created a master list with all  my passwords written down.  My husband chanced upon this piece of paper, and promptly tore and trashed it, calling it unsafe.

I have now created a digital document with my passwords, and have ‘password-protected’ this document.  I feel a lot better.  And to remember this ‘mother-of-all-passwords’, I have clues stored on my phone!

Hop, hop, hop, from one password to another, to stay sane, connected and e-protected.