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[Tuhina Misra speaks to those who use their cell phones to spread a smile][Tuhina Misra speaks to those who use their cell phones to spread a smile]

   Tuhina Misra

"CNN News. Bush orders 10,000 FBI trained dogs to track down Osama. FBI awaiting further orders as one of the dogs is reading this". One SMS that made me smile, even though the joke was on me.

Irrespective of where you are now, the familiar ring on someone's cellular phone is never too far away. And if it's not a call, it's a short message. As smsdriver puts it, the popularity of SMS transmission has increased tremendously since its introduction in 1989. According to the GSM Association, 15 billion short messages were sent in December 2000 alone, with a projection of over 100 billion per month for the next two years.

For some people, now, it's a daily ritual. Which probably explains why, like most other modes of communication, this method is used to convey not just stuff pertaining to the practical, but a lot of what's trivial too.

The Short Message Service (SMS) is the ability to send and receive text messages to and from cellular phones. These messages can comprise words, numbers or an alphanumeric combination. And, as a lot of people are finding out, these little snippets can be funny.

Ask Sandy Arora, for example, a software programmer and old fan of all things related to humour. No book of jokes or satiric sites for him any more. He's busy mastering the art of amusing people with his cell phone. He picks a friend, dials a number, sends a short joke, and waits for a response. "It's instantaneous and people can respond easily", he explains, recommending a site for those interested in funny one-liners. You can subscribe to a few sites too, and receive jokes on your cell regularly.

Ayush Mohanty, a London-based Sales Manager, likes it too, citing its wider reach. Thanks to the 160-character limit, the jokes are almost always catchy one-liners. Everything has to be brief and to the point, and hot topics include current events, sex, personal addictions, habits and women. His personal favourite?: "God made man and then rested. God made women and then no one rested."

For purists who swear by the stand-up comedian, this brand of humour is unnerving. Even the conventional humorist who shudders at the idea of conveying an amusing anecdote using a telephone will, however, admit to its one distinct advantage: A small cheery note can brighten up someone's day at once.

For a friend going through a rough patch, a comedy show on television doesn't help more than a quirky note from a buddy. Tia Choudhry, a bubbly 25-year-old studying in the US, swears by them. She says that the amusing messages she sends and receives on her cellular phone always manage to pep her up: "It's nice to know that someone remembers me."

Like most other things, this one has another side to it, too. Pranksters sometimes forward smutty jokes that aren't suited to everyone's taste. "Not everyone thinks twice before forwarding crap. I just delete such trash," says Asha Mehra, an aerobics instructor. Also, a continuous bout of messaging could affect a person's daily routine. "It does get annoying once the novelty wears off", admits Anabel Gomes, a marketing executive, "especially because the sender expects the receiver to reply with another joke. It's a vicious circle."

Some love it, others hate it, and still others refuse to give it up no matter what. Humour, they say, does come in many forms. Amar Kumar, another tech savvy executive, says that in his crowded world of gadgets and gizmos, the only thing that makes him smile is the sight of an oft-repeated favourite message blinking.

Proof that the little things in life really can make some people very happy.

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