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HONORING MY MOTHER: The Fast Revisited

IF THERE was one thing absent at the dinner table during the earlier years up till the nineties, that would surely be the mobile phone. In those days, the mere idea of getting up to leave behind one’s meal, even for a moment because of a phone call was frowned upon, unless you were either a doctor, police or an important person who needed to be informed right away. To interrupt any meal or private time, in one’s abode, was a no-no back then, and you better have a good reason to do so.

As if to prove a point, telephones back then were either nailed to the wall or permanently limited to a specific table or space. More important, these were never ever placed on a dinner table. That had been almost like an unwritten law, and the strictest implementers, at least in most households, had been the adults. It was also, in a poetic and religious sense, wrought with a lot of deep meaning; it had no place at the table where one enjoyed sustenance and related blessings. After all, ‘food at the table’ conjures up more profound images than ‘phone at the table’ anytime.

Nowadays, all it takes is a buzz or vibration from that tiny thing called the cellphone, snuck near our plates or inside our pockets, and that is enough to send most of us in a frenzy, with our subconscious softly egging us with the hypnotic command, "you have got to answer this!" Incidentally, it is always quite funny when during a meal, you would espy on someone abruptly standing up, putting a mobile to his ears, and self-importantly proclaiming, "Sorry, I have got to take this!", and then strutting away, as if already saved by his excuse. A case of Ground control to Major Tom perhaps?

While in today’s century, some adults still insist on the "No phones at the table" policy, they are sadly, a dying breed. To add, if you told your children today that your childhood had been cellphone-free and that you had no internet, they would, after taking silent pity on you, refer to your time as some dark age or something.

Despite all these however, one thing I know and appreciate deeply enough: Those lazy evenings of my childhood at dinnertime, when we were never bothered with interrupting calls or messages will always be priceless. There might have been times when a playmate chanced to come and visit us at supper, but those were rare. Even then, there would always be a commanding voice-over that roared like thunder to proclaim, “Finish your food!” With that, everything is put back in place.

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