Byline Raza

Mixing a brew of freelancing and writing in the pan of social media

Blank Screen – A short story

By Raza Hasnain Naqvi

Kashif accepted the challenge. In fact, he laughed when his friend Nasir suggested it seriously.

“Is this a joke Nasir?” asked Kashif.

“No Kashif. Not a joke. I know that you are very popular in school. Boys or girls – everyone wants to be your friend. They want your phone number, they want to be in your Facebook friend circle, they want to SMS you or connect with you via WhatsApp. I can see you are always connected to them via your mobile or your laptop,” said Nasir.

“Ok. So you are challenging me to break the connection,” said Kashif.

“I am just saying that I see you checking your mobile all the time here in school. At home, I have seen you on the laptop most of the time. I feel that you will find it a challenge to stay away from your mobile or laptop screen for even one hour,” said Nasir with a smile.

“Well then, now that I have already accepted the challenge Nasir, you will find that I can do it not just for one hour, or even one day, I’ll do it for two days. In fact, as I have already said, from 6 am, Saturday morning tomorrow, I’ll keep my mobile and my laptop switched off till 6 am, Monday morning. For 48 hours, I won’t switch on my mobile or laptop. Done?”

“Your life, your choice. It’s a big challenge Kashif. I know I can’t do it and neither any of our friends. But, let’s see if you can do it. Let’s see if you can handle a blank screen for a change”.

The bell rang and the interval was over. Both of them walked back to their class XII B.

 ******

It was decided. All friends who came to know about Kashif accepting the challenge, wanted to know how he would hold up. Nasir would talk with Kashif on his landline phone and give updates through his Facebook and WhatsApp about Kashif’s progress and how he was doing without his mobile phone and laptop. Kashif thought it would be interesting to read the comments of his friends after the 48 hours were over, so he agreed to this broadcast.

Before going to sleep on Friday night, Kashif switched off his mobile. He told his parents about his experiment. They were amused and understood. He borrowed his father’s alarm clock and put the alarm for 6 am Saturday morning. He felt a bit odd that he didn’t have his mobile with him, but he smiled to himself. It was only for 48 hours.

******

The alarm rang out clearly. Kashif opened his eyes sleepily and got confused with the new sound that he was hearing. What happened to his regular alarm tone of his favourite song, he thought and got up from his bed.

He looked around and heard the sound coming from the alarm clock. Suddenly everything came back to him. He stopped the alarm and shook his head. The timer had started.

The landline also began ringing. Kashif got up to take the call. He knew who was calling.

“Hey Kashif. Got up already? Your time has started man, all the best,” said Nasir.

“Ya man. Got my wristwatch and dad’s alarm clock out. I’ll be coming to school without my mobile today. Believe it.”

“I don’t believe it. But I’ll let everyone know this. See you.”

 Kashif got ready. By the time he had breakfast and managed to see the headlines in the newspaper, he was starting to feel a bit edgy. On normal days, by 8 am, he would have accepted a few Friend requests on FB, posted his latest interesting status update, commented on a few posts and answered to comments and SMSs on his mobile. Today morning, he had nothing to do.

He even felt a bit guilty that he had forgotten to say ‘Good morning’ to his parents when he saw them. His mind was occupied thinking about the messages he had sent the last night and FB post that he had made on his new experiment. He wanted to know how had people reacted and commented to it. He wouldn’t know till Monday.

He reached school and attended his classes. His hand reached for the inside pocket of his school bag for probably the 25th time on the day. It was an automated gesture of checking out his mobile. All he got there was empty space.

“Hey Nasir, how is everyone reacting to my experiment?” asked Kashif.

“Man, you’ve got many ‘Likes’ all right, but most don’t understand why you are doing it. They have commented: ‘Silly’, ‘Idiotic’, ‘Foolish’, ‘Interesting’, ‘Good’, ‘Lame’, ‘LOL’ and some have just posted question marks,” said Nasir.

“Ya. But ask them to try and do it themselves and they won’t. They can’t. I can, so I did. Ok? Tell this to all of them,” said Kashif in an angry tone. He was surprised by the irritation in his voice.

Many of his friends chatted up with him during the school interval asking how he was doing. He smiled and said ‘ok’ to most of them. They too smiled and went back to their mobile.

By the time he was back home from school by late afternoon, he had a headache. He opened the drawer and saw his mobile. The blank screen looked at him invitingly. He touched the mobile and the black screen.

 “How are you holding up man?” asked Nasir on the landline phone in the evening.

“Fine, fine man. Just a bit of headache. I do feel a bit off also today,” replied Kashif.

“I know. Just one Sunday tomorrow and you’ll have achieved something big man. I am sure of it. Ok, then, bye.”

Dinner was the same ritual. He wasn’t hungry and the headache refused to go, despite taking a pill. Before lying down on his bed after dinner, he set the alarm again. This time it was for 9 am, Sunday morning.

******

  ‘No, no, no…Its too heavy…I am getting buried in the sand…I can’t hold it any longer,’ cried Kashif. Tears were rolling down his cheeks.

‘You have to hold it…or we will not leave you…we will punish you,’ shouted Nasir, as he pointed to the weight on Kashif’s shoulder.’

A number of other people shouted the same thing loudly in the blackness behind Nasir: ‘We will punish you, we will bury you, we will get you…’

‘I can’t do it,’ shouted Kashif and looked at the skies. He saw a huge laptop there in the sky. The sun was coming out defiantly from the black, blank laptop screen. The heat was burning him. He found himself rising up towards the Sun, ready to be engulfed in the mighty star. On his shoulders rested a heavy object. He looked at it and recognized that it was his mobile phone.

All of a sudden, he felt a sting on his arms and feet. He looked down and saw a whole crowd of his friends, looking so small, wearing crooked hats and throwing spears at him. He blew a strong breath of air and saw them flying away into the Sun. He looked down again and felt himself falling into a dark void. No….no….no, Kashif kept shouting.

 Suddenly Kashif opened his eyes. He looked at the alarm clock. It was 5 am. He felt thirsty and drank some water. He could still remember the dream quite clearly. His waking thoughts about his mobile and laptop had followed him into the dream too and taken gigantic proportions. He went back to sleep.

 ******

 Kashif thought he heard something. He opened one eye and then the other. It was definitely the alarm clock. He reached out and tapped the clock to switch off the alarm. He hadn’t been woken up by his mother, as it was a Sunday. It was time to freshen up and have some breakfast.

He went into the kitchen and saw his mother cooking something. He asked what was being cooked, to which his mother replied with a smile, lunch.

“But ma. It’s only 11.30 and you are already cooking lunch?”

“If I don’t start early, how will I complete it by 1 pm. Your father likes to have his lunch on time, isn’t it?”

“Pa eats his lunch at 1 pm everyday? I didn’t know that.”

“I have to go to vegetable market too to get some things. So that will take a bit of time,” said Kashif’s mother.

“Can I go to the market and get whatever you want?” offered Kashif.

This was something new both for Kashif and his mother. Kashif would hardly take out time from his laptop or being glued to his mobile and his friends, but today Kashif was actually trying to contribute something. Surprised, his mother accepted the offer and gave him the money. Kashif went to the market and brought back the required vegetables to his mother’s delight. Kashif felt good. It was a different feeling he felt today. And he didn’t even think much about his mobile and laptop.

After having lunch with his father at 1 pm, which was again something new and pleasant for him, he helped his father out with some home budget calculations. He was fast and his surprised father was happy that Kashif was keenly doing it. Again Kashif felt something new in his heart. Why had he never felt this way before, he asked himself.

Then he surveyed his room. He checked out his almirah and his suitcase. He found that it was a mess and needed to be cleaned. He started with the almirah and then his suitcases. He found many things he had forgotten he had, as he sorted out his clothes and his possessions. It was a revelation and he was quite enjoying it.

His eyes did rest on the laptop once or twice. But that pull was not there.

By the time it was late evening and time for dinner, he had managed to clean up his almirah and his suitcases. In fact, he had listed all his books and precious possessions in his notebook, for ready reference. He felt happy with himself.

For so long, he had been so absorbed in his life, pressing ‘Power’ buttons and bringing life to blank screens in his life, that he had hardly paid attention to life that was all around him. He sipped his cup of late evening tea and kept thinking.

‘Was there more life and satisfaction to be found offline, rather than online or via his mobile?

‘Why am I thinking so seriously? I have never thought so seriously.

‘Because I am switching on blank screens, aren’t I switching out almost everything else that seems to be important too?

With these thoughts he went back to sleep after dinner. The alarm rang again at 6 am, Monday morning. At that precise time, Nasir also rang up.

“Hey my friend, you’ve done it. Time to check your mobile and laptop. Do it now. Good show,” said Nasir.

“Thanks man. Ya, I’ll do it. Ok. Bye,” said Kashif.

He got up from the bed, looked at the laptop and got out his mobile. He finally pressed the ‘Power’ button on both and connected to the internet. He checked his email. Yes, there were a number of notifications from his social media accounts. He saw his mobile. Yes, there were a number of messages waiting to be read in his ‘Inbox’. He smiled to himself and confidently pressed the ‘Power’ button again on his laptop and mobile. Slowly, he was back to staring at the blank screen.

He started whistling softly. It was time to make tea for himself and his parents. Let’s see how this new experience would feel like.

He also thought, ‘How will Nasir and my friends react to not seeing me with my mobile today too in school?’

 ********  THE END  *********

Raza is a writer, blogger and amateur photographer, who likes to share snippets of his life observations and life experiences through his writings. When he is not writing blogposts or his next ebook, he is being a regular day guy with a 45-hour-a-week job. Besides his social media footprints on twitter, facebook and Google+, he can also be reached on his email: bylineraza[at]gmail[dot]com. He likes chatting with people. 

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7 comments on “Blank Screen – A short story

  1. Manika khanna
    April 3, 2016

    The story titled’Blank screen’is perfectly appropriate according to the recent times.I think life was much more simple,organized and socially active..before the invention of laptops and moblies. .though one cannot just ignore the several benifits of these gadgets,in the fast -paced life.One could easily relate to such a story.😊

  2. Manju Rani Dubey
    January 3, 2014

    Hi Raza, Happy new year. Nice story as ever. Regards Manju

  3. rizwan haider
    December 17, 2013

    Great raza, its real yaaar, so true, i going to do this toooo

  4. Ravi Krishna
    December 16, 2013

    Hope to see more in near future.

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