Hurried

You answer the phone,
thousands of kilometers shrink into seconds,
oceans collapse under telecom networks,
and you thank technology
for making this connection.
The conversation turns into an interview,
you respond to questions,
and slip in yours
when there’s space for one.
As the minutes move past you,
the questions fly by thicker,
and there’s no breathing space
between the last answer
and the next question.

You slow down the pace
to take it easy,
and let the words sink in,
but it’s a temporary lull
in an otherwise quick-paced chat.
You wish there could be space for silence,
where the conversation
could meander aimlessly,
organically,
and find its own flow,
like friends did in an earlier time
while waiting for the seekh kabab being barbequed
as Babloo fanned the red-grey coal embers
on his cart
back at the Church Square.

Yes!
That please,
instead of rushing like this,
here,
now,
skipping from one question to another,
how’s it at your end?
– ten-second answer,
how’s the city?
– ten-second answer,
do the workshops pay?
– ten-second answer,
like ticking off a checklist,
like surfing through TV channels and not staying rooted to one,
like skimming the surface and not diving in,
like there’s a flight to catch after this call
even in a lockdown,
like the usual staying in touch.

What you would not give
for an alternate reality
where you could breathe
and not have to face this rapid fire?

And this rapid fire for what?
Where did the camaraderie go?
Where did the easiness go?
How did you land
in this hot spot
facing a battery of questions
without having signed up for the quiz?

And you wonder,
when did conversations become watertight
and leave no space
for silence to linger?
Or did the networks fail
to encode an empty wordless pause?

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