Smita Das Jain



Smita Das Jain


The Devil's In The Phone

The Devil's In The Phone

3 mins

“Didi, can we get a good phone within 8,000 Rs?” my househelp asked. She was bent down to her knees, wiping the wooden floor of my workroom clean with the mop.

“What do you mean by a good phone?” I didn’t look up from my laptop.

“Well, err, any good phone, Didi,” she looked confused.

“What do you want in a phone? A high definition camera, wireless charging, sizeable storage space, etc. The utility of the phone for the purpose that you want makes it good or bad,” I elaborated.

“I want the phone to make calls and use WhatsApp. And yes, I do click pictures on my phone once in a while. Rest, I don’t understand.” She was even more confused now.

“Yes, then 8k is more than enough.”

“Can you order it online for me, Didi?” she asked.

This time I did look at her. She was a young girl of twenty-one years, with short stature and a gaunt frame. Her long hair was tied up in a braid. When she smiled, her front buck teeth stood out in a prominent manner. The right side of her fair and otherwise flawless cheeks bore a scar mark from a childhood mishap. Her deep-set eyes were now widened with hope- at me.

“We have to pay in advance online. Bring me the cash, and I will order it for you,” I said benignly.

“Didi, please order it for me. You can deduct the money from my salary this month. My mobile has got damaged, and I have no phone with me now,” she said.

“Ok,” I replied through my laptop.

“How long will it take once you order for it to be delivered?”

“How do I know until I order?” I was now irritated by the interruption in my work.

Sensing my impatience, she said, “No hurry, Didi. Please do order it within two to three days. I am very grateful.” She went out of the room.

I sighed. I didn’t want to get into this order online business for her. Today it is the phone, tomorrow it will be something else. I didn’t want to encourage these habits for a maid.

The doorbell rang. The wall clock displayed 06:30 AM. ‘Why is my cook so punctual?’ I thought as I got up from my bed, half asleep, and opened the door.

I was about to go back to my dreams when she said, “Bani will not come today.”


Bani was my househelp. The spectre of soiled dishes piled up on the sink, a messy house, and unwashed clothes woke me up entirely.

“Her mother told me to communicate the message to you. She isn’t well. Her phone is damaged, so she could not call and tell you.” My cook and house help were neighbours.

“She could have used her parent’s phone and informed me in the evening. Who will do all this work now?” I grumbled. My day was spoilt before it had started.

“Bani was expecting a new phone from somewhere last week, but it didn’t arrive. Now that the stores have opened after lockdown, she went to the store near her house last evening to buy a phone. Halfway through, she got drenched in the heavy rain and came back but still fell sick at night. Both her parents and she use one phone, Didi, which is damaged. So there was no way to call you.”

With that, my cook hastened to cook lest she was saddled with all the extra work for the day.

I went back to my room. My two phones lay quietly by the side table beside the bed. On the other corner, my husband’s iPhone and the Redmi handheld gleamed.

I picked up my Samsung model, opened my favourite shopping app and started to scroll down the available options in the Smartphone category. It was about time that I ordered a new mobile phone for someone who required it more than me.

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