An Utterly Available Techie Going Blind

By Mariam Rauf

This is to be read at the speed of a train
Since the world is at your fingertips
And every second is meant to be gained -

Once upon a time the rule of School was overthrown and the land was renamed 'College'
Line buses were replaced for me by the shape of a something which sounded like an espresso machine gone wrong – zssssschhhhh -
They called it the ‘Metro’.
And on this metro, a strange silence swept in, since everybody was on their phones!

The ones on the seats had their necks craned down, 
The ones sandwiched, standing, had their necks craned up,
Earphones, headphones covered so many ears, 
The whistle of their Android tunes covered mine (whoo-hoo-hu-hoo-hu)
That out of simple awkwardness that every time I looked around somebody glared back in time
I glued my eyes to my phone, in line.
#thatmoment when your earphones get entangled with a stranger's.

My roommate sits beside me in a café after long
She’d been busy, busy, ‘busy as a business bee’
Steinbeck got it right when he said that we love selflessness the quality
But simultaneouly the products of selfishness which seem so industrious and shiny
She sits in front of me, clicks a picture of our paneer tandoori,
And says “She is love”, tags me, and goes on to have her plate go cold while she laughs and types responses to comments and a tweet
It is almost as if I am not in that room.
I refuse to be her façade of love, I tell her, for that face she shows others on a Book of Faces,
I’d like to have that face tell me, with open air between us, how her week has been.
She disagrees, and I open a page of articles in a new tab.
I am stuck, and so is she.

12 hours plus online,
Screens, tech, web, net, enclosing our every moment, our every time.

And when I asked them what the “candid”, most non-random photos with surprised expressions meant,
They told me to “Google it!”
Yes, well I’ve been Googling the glaucoma the doctor said was turning my right eye blind,
But as for technology fetishism, I’d like to hear it from your voice, don’t you see?
I want to hear your opinion, your take on this, not a Mr. Google’s or Ms. Siri's?

And as I stand here,
These hands you see, they know their a-s-d-f’s better than their a-b-c’s
In the middle of the night the core of my being knows which alphabet lies where
On a random bunch of alphabetical ordering they called the ‘qwerty’
With no buttons to press, my fingers twitch sometimes at night in nervous damage
Carpel tunnel will leave my hand aching and they’ll prescribe me a mousepad wrist supporting
Because there is no escape!
We are trapped, and will ever be,
Nobody my age and pocket money has fully spent an year without a phone and with library
Isn’t it so much fun to call ourselves and to want to be ‘free’
But the moment I switch off, complaints arrive of my absence
‘Unavailable’ is the new leprosy,
And social ousting was never the best trophy –
So charge that phone, because distant mother, out of touch but near on screen friends hold on to,
I am trapped but I also know I love having them with me but I also know I’m going blind
A never ending flood of information I am pressured to keep yet in sight -
Trapped or free I know not what I am,
But for the time being I will sit back down on my seat,
And to calm my racing heart, I will clear a thousand messages, mark as read my notifications -
As a woman going blind,
I will check that blue light which wakes me every morn and lulls me every night -
I will check my phone.
And no, I am not okay, Google.

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