Who killed the living room conversations?

It was a Monday evening, just like many other Monday evenings we have had before. I had just reached home from the office, but my mind was still there—the excel sheets that needed to be filled, the headlines, which could have been better or the stories that need to be written tomorrow. One thing that has remained constant throughout the day was the frequency of my fingertips running over the screen of my phone.

No sooner had I made myself comfortable on the couch of the living room, a pop-up notification on the phone had my attention. I knew it was a message from my boss. No, I didn’t have any cosmic connection, it was the ringtone that gave away.

“Could you please get me a list of articles filed this month?”

The one-liner was enough to spring me into action. Our phones have replaced the need for a laptop and I was no different. It didn’t take me much time to prepare a list and after hitting the sent button from the mailbox, another notification had my curiosity.

“HURRY! The SALE will be over today. Don’t forget to get your favourite products at 50% discount”

Unknowingly and unintentionally, I clicked on the link attached with the message, which opened the Pandora’s box. The perfume I had been planning to buy for months was available at half the price. And the dinner set, which I had chosen to gift my newly-wed cousin, was there at just under Rs. 2,000. And the backpack (which I don’t need and perhaps would never use) was under Rs.1,000. The virtual shopping cart was filled with items—a few I needed and the rest that I would use in another lifetime!

As I was about to pay online and checkout, the screechy little doorbell rang. It was my husband. I quickly opened the door, the phone still in my hand.

“Hey, how was your day?” he asked.

“The same old, same old!” I replied while concentrating hard to put the right password on my net banking account. Before confirming the payment, I made sure that my office address was listed as the delivery address.

The same pattern was repeated. I dragged myself to the couch while the husband occupied the sofa next to it. We sat in the living room enveloped by a heavy silence threatened by the occasional beeping sound from our respective phones.

“Where’s dinner?” his voice sounded louder than required.

“Should reach in 20 mins,” I replied after checking the food delivery app.

In those 20 minutes, I had checked a dozen mails, commented on a few of my friend’s Instagram posts, retweeted a few tweets of political leaders that condemned a recent act of terrorism and donated a small amount for the people who died in the same attack. In just 20 minutes, I had caught up with my friend who was on another continent, expressed my political views and even fought for a social cause. And I did all from my living room sitting in utter silence. And my husband was, I believed, doing the same.

The laughter and banter that used to resonate from a busy living room, especially at evenings, was replaced by a different culture of silence. As a child, the lively conversations the elders had in the living room was my biggest object of curiosity. Also, it was the source of juiciest gossip. No, wonder my mother always made sure that I was either running an errand or was busy doing my homework when the elders had their share of living room ‘experience’ in the evening.

Breaking my irregular chain of thoughts and the silence, the doorbell rang for the second time in the evening.

“Let me get that,” said the husband as I reciprocated his kind gesture with a smile. It was the delivery boy from the nearby restaurant. Our dinner was home.

We ate in silence. As we finished the meal, I remembered I hadn’t reviewed the meal orders for weeks. I was losing out on more discounts.

“The food is good, isn’t it? We should review,” I told my husband. He simply nodded.

It was a Monday evening, just like many other Monday evenings we have had before!

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