Indians have begun to use the mobile telephone in some of the most reckless ways.
As their lips brushed tenderly, and as passion was heightening, the shriek of a mobile telephone pierced the silence, playing spoil sport.
The audience roared with laughter, and a perfectly romantic moment was lost. The director, had he been among the audience, would have been livid.
The other afternoon, a cellular telephone reportedly did much more than ruin an ardent kiss. The instrument was said to be guilty of having caused injuries to 40 men, women and children travelling in a public transport bus in Chennai.
The driver of the ill-fated vehicle was seen, according to some, talking on a mobile telephone!
Worse, he was at that very minute trying to negotiate his heavy bus, crammed with commuters, through a dangerously narrow curve on a flyover at the frightfully busy Anna Road (once called Mount Road).
The bus hit the wall of the flyover (popularly known as Gemini), crashed through it and fell on the road below with a deafening sound.
However, by some strange providence, nobody died, and none was seriously wounded. For a mishap of this magnitude, the travellers in the bus were plain lucky that day.
Unfortunately, Indians have begun to use the mobile telephone in some of the most reckless ways. People have died while they were crossing railway tracks, not paying attention to speeding trains because they were busy chatting on the phone.
Some months ago, a young girl jogging on a Delhi road was run over by a car. She lost her life. She did not hear the sound of the vehicle, because she was engrossed with the phone.
In India, there are 919,170,000 cellular instruments, and the number is rising. The nation ranks second only to China with 1,020,000,000 phones. And, I would suppose that misuse of this gadget is most blatant in India.
Forget the manner in which men and women put their lives in peril by using the phone while driving or crossing a road (or a rail track). Often, the little gadget is used most inappropriately.
I vividly remember a scene in a Chennai crematorium. A young woman was wailing by the side of her dead husband about to be cremated, and just yards away, a man, oblivious of the tragedy and suffering, was merrily on the telephone discussing stock market prices! How callous can one get. How insensitive.
Mobiles are used with least care in hospitals, where silence needs to be observed. A dentist attending to a patient got so busy with the call he got that he left the poor woman in pain on the table for an hour. He forgot all about her!
Mobile instruments are used in theatres, and often some of the most vital pieces of dialogue are lost, because the guy sitting next to you is busy chatting over his cell, the conversation being so damned inane.
Obviously, like much else in India, rules are flouted with impunity, because the most stringent laws are not enforced at all or half-heartedly. The cop on the road invariably fails to fine a driver on a cell phone chat. Theatres do little to stop mobile nuisance.
If only the gadgets are confiscated and heavy fines levied, Indians would think a hundred times before using a mobile at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
More than the fine, one abhors the idea of losing an instrument. It has become such an integral part of our lives that we would die without it.
But, what is the point in dying for it?
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected] He is an FMT columnist.