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My first phone was a Citycell ZTE model bought for Tk. 1100 in the year 2008. For our less Bangladeshi audience, let me delineate: Citycell is a phone carrier that is associated with cheap handsets for on-the-go use, especially for the working class; ZTE is a Chinese telecom company of which I have only seen the most basic sets displayed wherever I have gone; and, going by a rough estimate of the exchange rate at the time, Tk. 1100 would equal around $12 to $15.
My friends, on the other hand, were using “higher”-numbered phones (basically something like a Nokia model that did not start with a number below 6), gadgets which could record video, send MMS-es, or even had touchscreen. Not only was I late in owning a mobile phone (I was 18 when I got it), it was also the most basic of its kind and I found my set to be, ironically, a technological nerd in a football team of powerful jocks.
What caused this rift between me and my peers, my contemporaries, my friends? I’m not a technophobe to say the least; as I write I am using a computer that I am very apt in using and I am very quick to adapt to technology in general. I am comfortable in the modern age’s skin; I can mould a gadget to fit my needs; I can customise. And I’m sure there are other people who lived their later teen years in that same middle ground as I did. So, I ask again: what was this a consequence of?
Personally, I believe, this was caused by my dad not willing to spoil me (or he was a miser or he isn’t rich; whichever way you see it). But more importantly, due to my lack of need for that kind of technology on the go. The only purposes of my phone were to let my dad know where I was and what I was up to or to call and text my friends on occasion when setting up meetings or meeting them up. It was a device that existed for the purpose of pure delivery of information. Nothing more, nothing less.
Assuming I’m speaking to someone who is in awe of how one could go for so long in the Age of Information without a mobile phone for so long and then, when he did get one, it turns out not to be a phone of the norm, let me make clear how this was really not a hindrance at all. I didn’t want to listen to music wherever I went because my computer at home was more than enough and I preferred not only to interact with people when I was elsewhere, but also to not be at an increased risk of being mugged. And before that, when I didn’t own a phone, I didn’t even feel its absence but I slowly realised that I had become dependent on it. And that, I think is at the root of why this rift exists and how some people can live on the other side of it.
That ZTE phone of mine lasted for another three years before I changed to another basic phone, but a smartphone nonetheless, a BlackBerry. Now I feel like I need a qwerty keyboard but most of my needs remain the same: I only call or text. I find screens of mobile phones too small for internet or video, and my 5 MP camera is just an added attribute that I have rarely made the use of. I don’t feel in any way that I’m missing out on a whole new world of apps and on-the-go on-the-goness. Now my phone is the pretentious vegan Buddhist convert in a world of extreme religious fundamentalism. And it’s very happy that way.