Naureen Aqueel

The story of the text

Posted on: September 11, 2010

Published in The Express Tribune – city, September 11, 2010.

As soon as the Eid moon is sighted on Chaand Raat, 23-year-old Waliya reaches for her mobile phone. There is something she must do before she thinks of mehndi, bangles or sawaiyan (vermicelli).

“I start sending messages of Eid greetings to my friends and family on Chaand Raat and it goes on till the third day of Eid. I have a huge list of contacts,” she giggles.

Eid is one of the busiest days of the year for SMS messaging in Pakistan.

Most telecom companies report a huge surge in the volume of SMS (short message service) texts exchanged on the eve of Eid and its following days, often leaving the networks choked.

Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets with approximately 95 million mobile service subscribers and the figure steadily growing each day. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reported that a total of 106 billion text messages were sent across the five cellular networks in the country in 2009.

Eid, like many other festive seasons, witnesses a peak in SMS volumes primarily because text messages are an inexpensive and convenient way to convey the season’s greetings to loved ones. Acision, a leading international messaging company, reported that 660 million text messages were delivered across its messaging systems in Pakistan during a 48-hour period in the 2009 Eid season.

Youngsters are not the only group that uses text messages for sending Eid greetings. Farzana, 48, mother of three, is also an avid “Eid texter”. “I text Eid greetings as soon as it is declared that it is Chaand Raat. I send messages especially to my nieces and nephews, who live abroad,” says Farzana.

Eid text messages range from the simple and sweet to the flashy and creative, complete with musical tones and animation.

Not everyone welcomes these Eid messages though. Farah, 27, hates that some of these text messages wake her up in the morning. Although she welcomes messages from her friends, the fancy ones irritate her.

Eid card sales have seen a serious dip since the advent of text messages and emails, but there are still some traditionalists, who prefer sticking to the old ways.

“Traditional cards leave a deeper impact,” says Ali, a 23-year-old engineer.

“They are meant for a specific person and therefore are special.”


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