Please understand: it’s not about you, it’s about me. I’m trying to give myself some space, you know?

December 1, 2020, 11.05: Hey, sorry I missed your call. Had dozed off while waiting for an attachment to download. Will call you soon.
Dec 1, 23.59: Very busy day. Couldnt find an appropriate time window to call you. Speak now?
Dec 2, 00.05: Just tried your number, but someone rudely cut my call mid-ring. I know it couldnt have been you because you are not a rude human being. It couldnt have been your partner either, because you are unmarried, and to the best of my knowledge, you dont have a girlfriend and will never have one. Anyway, no offence taken! Guess the mystery will be solved when we speak! Call at 10?
Dec 2, 10.05: Sorry I missed your call again. We seem to be missing each other a lot (pun intended)!! Getting into another Zoom call now, will call at six if thats okay with you.
Dec 5, 03.05: Hey, just finished this horror film, One Missed Call not the silly English remake but the original Japanese version directed by Takashi Miike. Its brilliant. You shouldnt miss it for anything not even to take my call, haha. Anyway, while watching it I remembered that Im supposed to call you back, and though 3 a.m. is a bit early, I thought, who knows in case you have insomnia you might be grateful to have someone to talk to! But your phone kept ringing and ringing. My learned guess is you were asleep. No problemo! Feel free to call any time tomorrow evening between 5.55 and 5.57.
Dec 6, 17.58: Sorry couldnt take your call. Just remembered I have an important video-conference at 6 p.m. with the Chairman of the Managing Committee and the President of the Advisory Council which will also be attended by the Director-General of the Directorate General. Let me call you first thing after the meeting ends.
Dec 8, 14.10: Hey, sorry I missed your call. Didnt hear the phone ring as I was in a crowded place. Hard to believe, I know. Its pandemic time and still we Indians behave like its party time, forming big-big crowds to facilitate mobility for the corona community. Call in an hour? Should be in a quiet place by then.
Dec 8, 19.50: Hey, sorry I missed your call. Kattabomman had put it on silent, the little rascal. Yours was the first of 27 missed calls! Im going to start returning these calls in reverse chronological order. So yours will be the last but not the least number Ill be calling. Speak soon!
Dec 20, 11.45: By now you must be thinking Im trying to avoid you not at all. Please understand: its not about you, its about me. Im trying to give myself some space, you know? I dont think Im ready to face the high stress of a telephonic conversation with a live human being in real time, with no rehearsal, no scope for editing or revising what I say, and no algorithmic vetting of what I hear. So, give me a few days to prepare. Will call soon.
Dec 25, 10.40: Still preparing. Merry Christmas!
Dec 31, 23.59: Many, many Happy New Years of the Day!
Jan 1, 00.02: Terribly sorry that cutting your call is the first thing I did in 2021. In the middle of a wild (but socially distanced) New Years party. Lets speak in the morning.
Jan 1, 14.06: Sorry I missed your call. Was sleeping off a horrible hangover. Definitely calling you this year.
Jan 9, 10.45: Apologies for missing your call again this morning. My uncle, once he starts talking, doesnt stop. I am not saying youre my uncle, but thats the telephonic trauma Im coming from. If you wanted to keep talking, and I wanted to end the call, I wouldnt be able to. My chronic inability to end the call, and the reverse my chronic inability to sense it when the other person wants to end the call, thereby making me seem clingy, and lose respect in their eyes, and the disastrous social fallout of such a misperception fills me with so much dread and anxiety that I keep postponing the inevitable that is, make the inevitable evitable, as it were.
Jan. 12, 10.00: Hey, sorry to hear that youve contracted COVID and may not survive. Im given to understand that your oxygen levels are dipping quicker than our countrys collective IQ. I wish youd worn masks, or at least waited for the vaccine you could have then participated in the clinical trial, and died happy in the knowledge that youve made your own modest contribution to making India Atmanirbhar in corona vaccine.
Jan 13, 11.00: Hey, I know this makes you sound like an airline, but Im really sorry I missed your last and final call. You know, my dear amigo, that I will miss you as much as I missed your calls. My heartiest condolences to your family. Shall speak to them soon.
G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.