Love in the time of cell phones
by ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN
The story is the same, but the rules have changed. Not so long ago, couples
treasured letters in ink and even in blood, a token of their momentary madness.
Today, chances are that if you send a snail mail to your girl, you run the risk
of being mistaken for a relic.
Relationships now are ruled, regulated and ruined by cell phones. Dating
youngsters swear by it. They wake up to a ringtone and doze off with it and
thank God for being in love at a time when these gadgets rule. For being in love
was never more economical.
"My relationship centred around the mobile phone. It was my birthday gift to my
girlfriend," says Mayank, 26, executive in a telecom firm, who married his
girlfriend after a year of courtship.
"I messaged her every morning, made sure she woke up to something nice," he
Since these devices play Cupid, dating couples show competitive levels of
knowledge about the schemes each mobile service provider offers. They compare
the offers and go by those offering the maximum free-talk time. This seems to
work, especially in long distance relationships.
"The Reliance to Reliance unlimited STD offer came as a blessing in disguise for
us," says Sanjana, a journalist.
As the 2,100-odd kilometres between Chennai and Delhi and the astronomical phone
bills posed a threat to the relationship, the scheme came as a gift from heaven.
"Earlier, we spent hours talking over the phone and later hours fighting when
the bills came. But things are much easier now. I maintain two connections and
suddenly distance doesn't seem to matter much. But strangely, since our
relationship thrived over the phone, we are at a loss for words when we meet,"
Mayank agrees. "We have put to maximum use all the facilities provided. There
was no opposition to our relationship, but even then, talking to her for hours
together at night was not encouraged. That's where the cell phone came in handy.
At times, I got calls from the operator saying I have overused the scheme. But
it was romance without hurting the pocket."
But it is not altogether a rosy picture. Certain smitten ones still going
through their motions in college, are tottering on the verge of bankruptcy.
"Earlier, I had a pre-paid connection and ended up recharging it everyday.
Later, I switched over to post-paid and availed a demo SIM which allowed 24
hours free talk time with numbers serviced by the same provider," says Preethi,
For Ranjini, a management student, the cell phone brings in a flood of memories.
"We met over the Internet and our relationship flourished through the mobile. We
never met. He proposed over the phone and we ultimately broke up because of the
cell phone," she recollects.
"Since maintaining a pre-paid card became impossible, I took a post-paid one
without my parents' knowledge. In effect, I maintained two connections and every
15 days my connection would be snapped since I overshot the credit limit,"
Her love story came to a premature end during a visit home. "The incessant beeps
of the phone and the flashing of the same name put my brother in doubt and that
was the end of it. Eventually, I called it off, that too over the phone," she
If you thought cell phones were an easy way to deal with prying family members,
doing away with the agony of hovering around the land phone with the family
around, Ranjini disagrees. "If you don't have privacy, even cell phones are not
of much help."
But those like Ranjini seem to be totally outdone by those whose lives are ruled
by the beep of a cell phone.