It had been a nerve rattling day at the office and I was looking forward to the customary nap during the rather longish drive home. My life had been regulated in perfect harmony for more than four decades by the rule that professional work should be ‘done and dusted’ in the office and no ‘official baggage’ should ever be taken home. Then the unthinkable happened and things went topsy-turvy. My professional career took a turn steering me into the intricate mayhem of the corporate world. To my utter horror, I found that this world did not sleep, its working hours were regulated by ‘longitudes’ and speed had a totally different meaning closely related to Albert Einstein.

With typical Aquarian doggedness, I plunged into the fray, bearing weapons with names such as the smart phone, the tablet and the ‘notebook’ (not to be confused with the one made of paper). As weeks turned to months and months to years, realization burst upon me that I had become a prisoner to these devices – much like the unwitting traveller in the Arabian Nights, who piggy backed on an old man across the river only to discover that he couldn’t get his ‘load’ to dismount for the rest of his life.

It was with these thoughts that I dozed off, telling my ‘pilot’ (that’s my driver, who frequently succumbs to the notion that he is a fighter ace attempting to fly ‘under the radar’) to take it easy. Five minutes into the opening chapter of a wonderful dream that had something to do with Debbie Reynolds, I was jarred awake by the incessant ‘bottle opening’ routine of my cell phone and a voice at the other end, which my fuddled brain soon recognized as the admin guy, trying to drop a ‘hot potato’ in my lap. It took me over an hour of punching laptop keys, interspersed by outbursts on the phone to get things back on track, by which time I found that the car had arrived at its destination 15 minutes ago. Changing into more comfortable ‘duds’, I slipped out into the verandah and slumped into an easy chair overwhelmed by nostalgia.

There was once a golden time, when one went about life with nary a care. My world got up early (because it went to bed early), recharged itself through a vigorous stroll in the ‘next door park’ known to all and sundry as the Lawrence Gardens, returning to a simple yet inviting breakfast of Kashmiri Tea and ‘bakar khani’ (compliments of the shop inside Mochi Gate). The kids then went off to school (unless it was a weekend), while others headed out to their respective evocations, coming home (unencumbered by smart phones, tablets and notebooks) by early afternoon. Lunch was a mandatory family affair, followed by a short siesta and later, tea. Evenings were reserved for calling or receiving calls (nothing to do with communication enhancing devices), while the kids (joined by some adults, with the ‘child’ inside them alive and well) had fun playing games, which are now almost extinct. An early dinner, a stint around the radio (there was no television then) and everyone drifted into slumber land.

It was somewhere around this time that we received a pair of siblings from Netherlands – offspring of family friends that had something to do with Eindhoven and Phillips. In spite of my late uncle’s warnings, the young man decided to go for the celebrated kebabs of Gowalmandi and immediately suffered the consequences. We nursed him back to health with one member of our clan constantly by his bedside. It was a day before their departure that the female of the pair put the question to the assembled family. “Why”, she said “did we put ourselves into trouble and spend so much of our time in caring for her brother, when we could have simply put him in hospital”. I can still remember the young woman’s eyes cloud and spill over, when my aunt replied, “Because my dear, we have time to care”.

Regretfully enough, we have embraced modern corporate culture with all its force multiplication technology at a cost – stress and family. I for one have decided to do something about this before it is too late. I have decided to stay shy of my smart phone, my tablet and my ‘notebook’ on weekends beginning now – but hold on a second, I think I just heard a message notification on my smart phone – I’ll be right back.


The writer is a historian.