Resolution for 2019: Use my smartphone more often

Divination operates under a simple but subtle premise: the universe is trying to send you messages if only you would learn to listen

Shoba Narayan
Hindustan Times


My mother just bought a new panchang or calendar for 2019. I have a better method. I use my smartphone not just to plan my days and weeks, but also for divination. I don’t mean that I use apps – tarot cards or fortune telling ones – to predict the future. I use the phone itself.

Divination operates under a simple but subtle premise: the universe is trying to send you messages if only you would learn to listen. Roman augurs used to look at the flight of birds every morning to decipher the will of Gods. Persians used to open the Quran to a certain page to get signs from God (Fal-i-Quran). We can use our phone for these purposes.

Divination operates under a simple but subtle premise: the universe is trying to send you messages if only you would learn to listen

My Hindu ancestors believed that if a bell rang after a statement, it would come true. The same could be said of trilling phones. The other day, a visiting friend made what I thought was an outrageous statement. Knowing my love of dancing, she said, “You are going to be on stage with the best dance troupe in Bangalore.” Nonsense, I thought. Her phone rang. My phone rang. “Satyam (Truth),” we both chorused in unison, just as our grandparents did when the bells rang after a random statement. Long story short. A top Kathak dance troupe asked me to be on stage with them, not to dance but to announce each dance.

I didn’t always use my phone this way. In my earlier avatar, I was just another spaced out smartphone user filled with self-loathing about my phone addiction. Then one day – perhaps it was meant to be – I scrolled down my messages, skimming over the spam offerings of pest control, carpet cleaning and movie tickets, and saw one message with a discount code: “loveplants.” I don’t know why I paid attention. I had a persistent cough. All the pills I was popping didn’t help. Perhaps a herb would. So I clicked and went to the website that was advertising this discount. The first plant that came on the rotating banner of their homepage was an Indian herb that was good for cough. Was the universe talking to me? I ordered the herb, it came in a few days, I ingested its juice and felt better. Maybe my cough would have gone anyway. But the whole exercise made me pay attention to the rhythm and rhyme of messages that made their way into my phone.

Synchronicity operates on the principle that two seemingly unconnected incidents, upon deeper observation, are connected. Carl Jung and Nobel prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli came up with this idea. Pauli said that numbers spoke to us.

I am not good with numbers. Perhaps because of that, it is easy for me to see them as symbols – as designs. Consider an OTP I received today when I was trying to book an airline ticket: 210558. I don’t know if you can see 21 as a kind of water jug. Or if you can see the 558 as a train engine with two wheels. That is what I saw – and I stopped buying the airline ticket. I’ll tell you why. I was going from Bengaluru to Chennai for one day. There were two options, both reasonably convenient: a flight or the overnight train. I read the OTP numbers to signal that I ought to take the train. Using these “signals” is easy when the stakes are low. I wish I could tell you that something dramatic happened – the flight I was to take to Madras crashed – but nothing happened. I saved some money by taking the train, that’s it.

The greater benefit when viewing your phone as an oracle is that it forces you to stop and tune in. For example, when I go on “Find Friends” to check my daughter’s whereabouts, her location on the map will remind me of a friend living there. Previously, I would have done nothing about it. These days, I either call or text the long-lost friend, often surprised by the reaction: “I was just thinking about you.” These days, I don’t get irritated by spam messages. I glance at them like a gold-digger looking for a nugget.

Once you start doing this, it is amazing how quickly you learn and how self-perpetuating the cycle is. You listen to your phone and connect it to stuff happening in your world. You look for signs that can guide you. Best of all, you don’t need to simply pick it up when you are bored or anxious.

You wait for the oracle inside your phone to call you.

(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents, an integral part of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)

This Indian Life appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, January 6, 2018

BRUNCH Updated: Jan 05, 2019 19:51 IST

Shoba Narayan

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