I Was Waiting: To Hear From You

Ananda Mitra
3 min readJan 30, 2022

I was waiting. To hear from you.

This is a condition that we have all found ourselves in.

Back in the days when we operated with postcards and aerogrammes the wait was expected and anticipated. There was no point in me getting impatient to hear from a bondhu or a parent because we knew that the wait will be long. It will take weeks for the letter to reach. Waiting was easy. Waiting was not accompanied with attributions where the delay had to be interpreted. So many things could cause the delay that it was not usually taken as an intention to ignore. The letter could have gotten lost, the postal system was slow, there was snow on the ground and the mail truck did not make it, or there was a flood somewhere. The systemic delay allowed for believing that even though there are good intentions, there may be delays that need not be interpreted as a signal of rejection. We assumed that there was good intention to respond but circumstances are coming in the way.

Waiting to Read the Message Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It seems things have changed now. Digital device and end to end encryption in hand, delays can become traumatic. Depending on the nature of the relationship and the personalities of the people interacting, a delay, of even a few hours, can become a cause of anxiety.

How do we react when a bondhu goes silent. How is one supposed to react to the fact that a highly anticipated message does not arrive. One sits with the phone and waits, and imagines.

And imagines. In the case of insecure and unbalanced relationships there is the anxiety of a loss, perhaps the loss of a bondhu, or of realizing that you are unimportant in the pecking order of things in the other person’s life. That realization, even if false, can make a person catatonic. The act of waiting for a message is an inactive moment. One is simply waiting. And until the message comes, there is no other activity possible.

Without a doubt, the level of anxiety caused by the wait is related to the definition of the relationship. I can imagine relationships where the wait is understandable. In those relationships the wait does not signal a reason to doubt the strength or nature of the relationship. Because you know that the delay is because of reasons that does not necessarily deal with where you stand in the relational hierarchy. Or you know that the person so well that either you know that there is always a delay with that person, or you trust the person and the relationship so much that you always know that there is a legitimate reason for the delay and it is not a reason for anxiety. Or you know the person’s routine so well that you know that there are only some points during a day when the person can actually respond.

These are good explanations for avoiding the simmering anxiety borne out of doubts about the relationship. Yet, even with all that knowledge, with all that justification, there is still no joy like getting a simple smiley face or a “OK” or a “Hi” from a bondhu that reassures that you exist and you still matter. It is simply the reminder that in spite of all that I am involved in, I would find the time to say “Here I Am” when I believe the other person is either explicitly or quietly saying, “Where are You?”

So often this makes a bondhutva (friendship) work, because it reminds the recipient that the person also matters, and has not been pushed away to the very bottom of the pile because the top of the pile is so much more fun. I always wait and as the wait continues I get pushed down to the bottom of the pile. Perhaps I am wrong in that pessimism; but it is only the message that clears the dark clouds that pile up as we wait.

Perhaps we sing to WhatsApp what so many like the Beatles said, “Please Mr. Postman look and see/If there is a letter for me.” And we wait, and for those who know me, the relief comes in the amazingly annoying notification sound of my phone that says, “WhatsApp Message” as soon as that anticipated message comes. And then I know there was no reason to worry at all.

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Ananda Mitra

My research and teaching interests include media and technology and its impact on everyday life available at http://ananda.sites.wfu.edu/