Get smart

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on February 09, 2018 Published on February 09, 2018

“Have you heard?” asks Bins. “There’s a gadget to help humans to overcome their addiction to smartphones.” “Haha,” I say, “you said ‘their’ while referring to humans. That suggests that you don’t think of yourself as human!” “But of course I do not,” says Bins, shrugging in surprise. “I am far superior. For instance, I don’t have a smartphone. Therefore I don’t need a gadget to cure me of my addiction to it.”

“What’s the gadget?” I ask. “I read about it today,” says Bins. “The company that makes it is called Yondr. It was started in 2014 by someone called Graham Dugoni. The gadget is a pouch for locking up a cellphone.” I give him my standard how-completely-ridiculous look. “So what?” I say. “If I don’t want to use my phone I can just turn it off!”

Bins clutches his head in his standard oh-no-I’m-talking-to-a-mere-human look. “If humans were so smart, they wouldn’t need smartphones to begin with! The problem is that they do NOT turn their phones off. Ever. They have stopped talking to friends. They have stopped listening to concerts. They have stopped watching the sunset. Instead, they are only posting YouTubes and sending WhatsApp and falling off bridges while taking selfies.”

As it happens, this conversation is taking place inside a speeding cab at 12.30 am. We are en route to the airport to collect a friend arriving from Paris. “Alright,” I say. “What makes these Yondr pouches so special?” Bins perks up again. “They’re for places where cellphones should NOT be used! Like at concerts or in schools. Instead of confiscating the phones, the concert organisers — or the school authorities — insist the phones should go inside a small plastic pouch, which has a special lock.” Bins looks triumphant, as if he thought up this solution all by himself. “Voilà! The pouch stays with the phone-owner, but the phone cannot be used until the pouch is unlocked!”

I still don’t understand. “When and how does the pouch get unlocked? Doesn’t it cause terrible delays as people queue to return pouches?” Bins looks even more superior. “Oof. You just don’t read the internet enough! It’s very simple. There’s an unlocking dock, set up by Yondr wherever their pouches are in use. To unlock the pouch, it is tapped against the dock. Voilà. Unlocked. Returned.”

At the airport, we make contact with our friend. He has a smartphone with an Indian SIM and another smartphone with his US SIM. We leap back into our cab, which has been waiting for us in the airport parking lot. We get home at three am. Next morning, our friend realises that his US smartphone is lost. We all clutch our heads in despair. Then I get a call from my cab driver. “Did someone leave a phone in the car?” he wants to know. “Yes!” I scream. Better than any smartphone is a SmartDriver with an HonestHeart.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on February 09, 2018

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine, are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. You can also access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all our readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. You can help us by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section.

Our subscriptions start as low as Rs 199/- per month. A yearly package costs just Rs. 999 – a mere Rs 2.75 per day, less than a third the price of a cup of roadside chai..

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.