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Hello cabbie, did I leave my mobile'
- Passengers forget digital devices in taxis by thousands, says survey

Jan. 24: Yesterday, Sharmistha Majumdar left her cellphone behind in a taxi in which she and her husband returned home after a meal at a restaurant in Calcutta's Chinatown.

She would be glad to know that some 200,000 people did the same forgetful thing in the past six months, a global survey shows. Even more than the satisfaction of being a member of what seems to be a burgeoning international band of gizmo losers, there is the reassuring thought that leaving cellphones behind in cabs may even be fashionable.

Celebrity socialite Jemima, who recently broke up with the former Pakistan cricket captain, the flamboyant Imran Khan, forgot her cellphone, iPod and purse in a London taxi.

The female driver of the cab received a call requesting she return the forgotten cargo to Jemima's friend. When the cabbie went to do that she found to her delight that the friend was the actor Hugh Grant, with whom Jemima has been romantically linked.

Grant said thank you with an autograph.

It's not cellphones alone people forget in taxis. Some 11,300 laptops and 31,400 handheld computers were also left in cabs around the world, shows the survey conducted by security software company Pointsec among 1,000 taxi drivers in nine cities.

The company has asked businesses and individuals to use the password and encryption capabilities available in modern high-memory mobile devices to protect sensitive information.

In India, mobile phone loss, as opposed to theft, is common enough ' rare is the person who doesn't know someone who hasn't suffered the self-inflicted misfortune, if he or she hasn't done it themselves.

Londoners, according to the survey, are careless even with laptops, while Danes are more predictable. They are apt to lose cellphones. In Chicago, handheld computers are the favourite leave-behind toy.

The survey was conducted in Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain and the US. Losing is a growing occupation, the survey reveals, despite the stress in modern living on winning at any cost.

Pointsec first commissioned the study four years ago in London and this year's results indicate that 71 per cent more laptops and 350 more pocket PCs/personal digital assistants (PDAs) were left behind in that city than in 2001.

The simple explanation is that more people are using mobile digital devices and, therefore, more are losing them.

Numbers are swelling in India, too, though data collection in police stations is about as modern as primitive, which means there are no specific figures for theft and loss, let alone a left-behind-in-cab count.

'We get five to seven complaints daily, of loss and theft of mobile phones,' said the duty officer at Colaba police station, one of Mumbai's affluent localities. 'The number has definitely gone up in the past year,' he said.

The news is a little depressing but where India is different from the countries surveyed is in recovery. The survey found that globally an average of 80 per cent of all passengers were reunited with their phones and 96 per cent with their pocket PCs/PDAs and laptops.

The cab drivers themselves track down the owners in most cases. It happens in India, too, but more as an exception. A senior official of Calcutta police said at least 80 to 100 cases of cellphones lost in taxis are lodged with police stations every month. 'But the rate of recovery has never crossed two per cent of the total loss,' he said.

Sharmistha, an interior decorator by profession, was lucky. The day after she lost the phone, she received a call from a police officer. 'He told me that a taxi driver had deposited the phone. I went to the police station and collected it. I must thank the taxi driver because important information was stored in it.'

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