In an environment where the mobile phone is reaching near ubiquity, how does a migrant worker manage his day to day life without a mobile phone, especially when it may be the only platform for communicating with his family back home? Ajay is a corn and lime juice seller in the city of New Delhi in India. He is unwilling to get his broken phone repaired, but manages to maintain steady communication with his family back in his native village by borrowing his brother’s phone. This constitutes an interesting type of non-use, where Ajay no longer demonstrates active ownership; yet he has access to a mobile phone. This access comes with its own set of constraints. Ajay does not want to under- or over-utilize the talktime he loads onto his brother’s phone, and therefore he will aim to make the call last for an exact 22 minutes. He also cannot discuss sensitive matters within earshot of his brother and he can’t immediately walk away with his brother’s phone without looking rude. When Ajay and his brother are fighting, this limits his phone access. Ajay’s expenditures, especially substantial ones, may be questioned by his brother – after all if he can afford something expensive, then why can’t he afford his own mobile phone? In general, Ajay might find his financial decisions being questioned, or find it challenging to keep certain financial details to himself when privacy is hard to achieve with a borrowed mobile phone.
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