Gadget-Skinflint

Having round-the-clock access to official e-mails is no longer a status symbol reserved for the elite sitting at the top of the corporate ladder. Nowadays with smartphones to suit any budget; data plans being given away as freebies and advent of technology, every professional working for a decent corporate house, has access to official e-mails at his / her fingertips and at all times. For almost a decade now, I have had the privilege of having this kind of access. A decade ago I felt I belonged to an imaginary elite group, but now it is no big deal. Even though the mode of access has changed, I always had access to official e-mails at all times using a smartphone of some kind.

Having become so used to this, I felt a bit handicapped when the Blackberry application installed on my Samsung phone stopped working for no particular reason. Like all smart software professionals, I restarted the application a few times, but nothing changed. Then I tried the smarter option of restarting the device itself a few times, and still nothing changed. Finally I was left with no choice but to try the smartest option, which was to reach out to the help-desk. It took more than a week to complete the diagnosis about what was wrong. With every passing day, without having access to mails, I felt liberated. However I still had to get back to reality.

The guy at the help-desk was very friendly, but that alone does not fix many problems. After a week of analysis, he told me that my profile had been accidentally deleted on the server. To make matters worse I was told that the profile cannot be recreated and was told that Blackberry itself is being decommissioned at our office. The solution was to install a new application called Nova on my phone. Just when I thought I had a solution, everything went downhill very quickly. The friendly chap at the help-desk told me that the new Nova application was not supported on my Samsung phone. Or to be precise, the application was not supported on the Samsung phone which my office had given me [it was not my phone at all]. The office had stopped issuing phones to employees; I never had a personal smartphone; and this meant that I had to buy a new smartphone. As this reality stared at me more and more; I went into a depression of sorts.

To understand the onset of depression for such a silly situation; one has to know my history with mobile phones, smartphones and other such gadgets. And here it goes.

The year was 2005. Most of my friends and colleagues had a mobile phone [smart phones were not in vogue yet in India]. At home my two younger siblings each had a mobile phone. The device was so ubiquitous that even the driver of the bus, in which I commuted to office, had a mobile phone.  And amidst all of this, I was one of the most famous software engineers in town, since I never carried a mobile phone. I always maintained that it was a personal choice and that I never needed one. The stationary phones at home and at office were sufficient for my needs. Many folks felt that I was showing off by not carrying a mobile phone and that made me feel even better. And so I carried my swagger everywhere I went. I liked the expression on people’s faces when they realized that I did not own a mobile phone. News spread at office and among family and friends and relatives. I was so cool… the guy without a mobile phone… a self-proclaimed elitist!

But as the saying goes… all good things have to come to an end. And I had to give up this elitist tag towards the end of 2006. My wife and I were expecting our first child. I did not want to take any chances at not being reachable quickly. At the same time, I was also looking out for a new job. I did not want potential employers to think that I am a fake only because I never had a mobile phone. And so I spent close to three thousand rupees to buy my first mobile phone. It was handset manufactured by Sony Ericcson. I bought my first mobile connection from Airtel. For a few weeks after acquiring this gadget, my popularity rose by a few notches. Now I was the guy who finally bought a mobile phone. And after this brief bull-run, I became a common man. It was unbelievable to see that a mobile phone was a great leveler. The phone was useful though. It helped me share my unparalleled joy of becoming a father with all and sundry. It even helped me in my search for a new job.

And life continued. It is just that I was destined to become an elitist even after buying a mobile phone. I have not changed my mobile number from what it was in 2006. That, I agree, is not a sufficient criterion to be an elitist. But other than the three thousand rupees I spent on my first phone, way back in 2006, I have not spent a single paisa on a mobile phone or any other gadget thereafter.

After using my Sony Ericsson mobile phone for about half a year, the client who I used to work for in the US of A, felt that it was critical that I have access to office e-mails at all times. And hence I was given a Blackberry. The unbridled happiness lasted for only a few days. It soon dawned upon me that having this device meant that I have to act on mails and issues at all times… I never had any excuses to offer, if I failed in my duties. It definitely invaded my personal space. After using this device for about a year I switched back to my good old Sony Ericsson since my assignment with the client had come to an end. Just about when the phone was getting quirky due to its age and usage; my wife surprised me with a new mobile phone. It was a sleek handset by Nokia. Like many Nokia products, this really stood the test of time. So much so that even now, I use that phone during my international travels when I need to take a second phone along with me.

Hold on… the story only gets better from here.

One day in the summer of 2010 my younger brother walked up to me a handed me a small box. He said it was a gift for my upcoming birthday. I froze for a few seconds after seeing what he had gifted me. For the first time, I saw a gadget that did not come with a user manual. It was an Apple iPhone 3GS! My brother had paid a bomb for the device and I could not believe the kiddo went out of his way to make my day… many days and months and even years actually. And so I became one of the few who possessed an Apple iPhone, which was a rarity in 2010. Barely a few weeks after this, my office gave me a Blackberry for all official mails and calls. Imagine… a guy who four years ago never had a mobile phone, now had an iPhone and a Blackberry at the same time. I now had access to the internet, a slew of applications, a camera, thousands of songs, personal mails, official mails and many other things… all at my fingertips and at all times.

This dream run lasted for about five years. I never upgraded my phone during this time. It was about time to change my phone since the iPhone and Blackberry were aging faster than me. And when I was wondering what I should do, my office gave me a brand new Samsung A5, since Blackberry was not recommended anymore. The new Samsung A5 could accommodate dual SIM cards and so I started using it for both my personal and official needs. Having tucked away the iPhone safely in my cupboard, the A5 and I have been loyal to each other ever since.

In addition to the smartphone, in recent years my dear brother gifted me an iPad, a Kindle and a Garmin fitness tracker. At the same time, my employer also gave me a Dell tablet and a fitness tracker. And thus you see, after more than a decade and having these many gadgets, it surprises and even shocks many people that I have not spent more than three thousand rupees.

This entire reputation was at stake after the disaster that happened at office. I must have access to mails and this meant that I had to finally buy a new phone. My dear brother was busy in his own world; my wife had her own priorities; my office had changed policies and everyone else hardly cared. I ruined an entire week on what my options were and sadly could not find any. I even shamelessly reached out to a few friends seeking help. They equally shamelessly ignored my SOS call.

And just when all seemed lost, a colleague of mine said that there is nothing wrong with the Samsung device. And that the new Nova application was working fine for her. Instead of going back to the friendly guy at the help-desk, I decided to install everything myself. It was a no-brainer and hence I could easily manage it. And lo-behold, within a couple of hours I was able to get everything installed and configured perfectly. I was back in the game. No need to buy a new phone. In fact, after uninstalling a few applications from the phone and clearing up some space, the phone worked faster as well.

And so here I am. In a world where people spend exorbitant amounts of money acquiring digital gadgets; having spent almost nothing on many gadgets, only makes me feel uber cool. My digital destiny was not only safe, but it was rocking again. Hence after more than a decade I can confidently say that my mojo is intact. I was back to being cool… the guy who has gadgets, but has not spent any money on them… the self-proclaimed elitist is back!

 

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