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The cellphone may be ubiquitous, but many choose to do without one
The phone rings for a good 30 seconds. Time enough to lapse into a self-involved analysis of the affront that is your missed call. Ten years ago, you'd have dialled your friend's fixed-line phone and hung up without ado when the call went unanswered. Cellphones allow no such elbow room. But as one website underlining the tenets of cellphone etiquette says: "Occasionally, we legitimately miss a call. If it's a call we wanted to take, we'll return it immediately."
Most of us have embraced the profligacy of the cellphone, or at least, regard it as an acceptable ally. A cellphone subscription is a social contract. In return for the security of being constantly connected with our near and dear, we are obliged to make ourselves available at all times to colleagues, acquaintances, salesmen, and whoever else knows our 10-digit identity. But even as the number of mobile connections in India crosses the halfway mark of its population, some choose to stay out of reach.
Like Jaya Iyer, who runs the children's centre at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi. "At one level, I don't need to carry a cellphone. My family and friends know how to reach me if there's an emergency. At another level, not having a cellphone is symptomatic of owning my time, and it's the reason I am able to do so many things," she says. Despite pleas by her friends — they even did a light-hearted cost-benefit analysis of not owning a phone and posted it on the Web — Iyer has steadfastly refused to buy a phone. "By now, my friends are reconciled to the fact that I won't carry a cellphone. They have worked out their own strategies to get in touch with me—they know they'd have to plan in advance if they want to meet me," says Iyer.