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Life After Loss

About Biswadeep Ghosh

Having started very early, Biswadeep has been a journalist for more than two decades. He has worked with publications like Outlook, Hindustan Times and The Times of India among others. He has also authored seven books, among them MSD: The Man, The Leader (a biography of M. S. Dhoni) was a nominee at the Raymond Crossword Book Award, 2016.

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I love my cell phone. I am so attached to it that when my pretty wife dumped me after blaming the cell phone for the breakup, I honestly didn’t care.
I continued to romance my handset and never met her until the two of us got divorced.

“Your phone killed our marriage,” she told me on her first visit to my place, which was three days after the law had separated us forever.
I looked at her first, my cell phone next, and smiled.
She stared at me while reaching out for one of the inner pockets of her handbag. She took out a pretty card and gave it to me while mumbling, “I will be really happy if you can attend my wedding next week. If you do come, however, do not bring that cell phone with you.”
“But why shouldn’t I get it?” I asked.
“I don’t want my fiancé to think that you are a complete jerk,” she said with the look of disappointment writ large on her face.

I didn’t attend the wedding.

Life changes after divorce. Mine too did. I started living with my mother, who shared her flat with two lovebirds before I moved in.
The woman made sure she woke me up at five in the morning – in other words, six hours after I got back from work and an hour after I went off to sleep after Whatsapping all through the night.

Mom had tiptoed into the seventh decade of her life, that period when many old people start getting preoccupied with thoughts about mortality, futility and such-like. My insistence on self-destruction because of my Whatsapp addiction worried her no end. She often expressed herself in monotonous laments, shaking her head that had neatly brushed hair in three contrasting shades: natural white, fake black and brown.

At times, she lost her cool. That’s when she yelled, “Enough is enough, you fool. Spend less time with that toy lest you go mad. Don’t forget you are a middle-aged man already.”

By the way, I suspect my mother believes that people have the right to go mad when they grow old. That doesn’t surprise me. Her mother had set sail for an unknown planet rather recently, having morphed into a nutcase with age. I loved her, but that is another story.

A few months later, misfortune hit me hard. Having left for work where I worked for the afternoon shift, I left my mobile phone behind in the cab so that the cab driver or the passenger after me could collect a surprise gift.
“Where the hell were you? I had been trying your number. What the fuck is wrong with you?” I was assailed by a volley of sentences the moment I walked in. The speaker was my editor boss, who was notorious for spewing four-letter words for no particular reason.
“But I didn’t get a call from you, boss,” I whimpered.
“Check your bloody phone. You will see a dozen missed calls,” he said without lowering his voice.
His flirtatious secretary standing right next to him had been smiling at me. The sight of her glowing face made me resent my boss even more.
“I am really sorry. Let me see…” I searched for the handset in my trouser pockets. And no, it wasn’t there.
“Sorry boss. I have lost my phone. See, see, I don’t have it. Did you have some urgent work for me?” I asked, squeezing my thighs to prove that the pockets had nothing inside them.
The boss’s voice softened. “I had forgotten to bring my wallet today. Since I was famished, I was calling you up so that we could go out for lunch. You could have paid with your credit card. Of course, I would have returned the money tomorrow.”
“Have you had lunch?” Ignoring my cell phone blues, I asked him gently, knowing that the old man never returned a single borrowed pie. Underperformers like me had to give him a monthly boss allowance such as a free treat to ensure that he hoodwinked the owners into believing that we worked hard – and delivered.

“I did. Rana paid for the meal,” he said, talking about a colleague sitting at a distance.
Unlucky Rana, I thought.
A little later, the boss trudged towards his cabin. I sprinted towards mine. I had to explain my unavailability to my friends by posting a message on Facebook.
“Hi all, I have lost my mobile phone, Please leave a message here if you wish to get in touch. Will call back.” I saw people responding with grammatically incorrect one-liners in less than a minute. Most of them worked their butts off for a living.

I called up Sheila and Ramesh, the two admins of my favourite Whatsapp group consisting of friends from my young days. Both promised to spread the word that I had lost my handset.
I called up my mother and shared the story of my loss. She was happy to hear it.

I reached out for my old-fashioned diary that had a list of important numbers and called up the laundry fellow to remind him about delivering the new suit I wanted to wear for a get-together. He said he had messaged me that he would deliver it that evening itself.

After making close to a dozen calls, I slowly left my seat and walked out of the cabin. The boss, who was standing a few feet away, was talking to someone on the phone.
The moment he was through, I asked, “Boss, can I go out and buy a new handset immediately, please? I am feeling terribly uneasy. What if someone needs to contact me urgently?”
The boss stared at his handset and me alternately. A little while later, he mumbled, “Yes, go and get a new one. Life becomes very difficult in its absence.”

I dashed out of the office, smiling as I did.

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