Telephone-Then and Now
My father worked in a private company that made him travel and be away from home for extended periods of time. Even when he was in town, we would leave home by around 7.30 in the morning and would return back well after the Sun has eclipsed on to the Arabian Sea . All through the day, he would remain totally incommunicado to any of us and we would just presume that everything is fine if we did not call us on the neighbour’s home phone, the only one available in the radius of 1 km. There would be panic if there is a call from father and everybody would fear something drastic has taken place and look for cover. So a phone call was always something to be dreaded for and farther you are from the instrument the merrier you would be. Anyway, the bulky black bomb like thing which we called the telephone was not always a pleasant sight to look at.
But we cannot help feel the wind of technological progress that the country was swept with when at last in the early years of 1990s we got a phone connection in our home. By this time the static instrument has also gone on a transformation and started appearing in lighter and sleeker dimension and in a slew of attractive colours- red, blue and white. And it was a sparkling white telephone that arrived into our living room and when the lineman, who would install the thing and make it ring, did the first testing call, there was a plethora of emotions all around- from one of awe from my grandmother to a sense of pride in my mother and a hardly surprised excitement in me. The arrival of the telephone was such a landmark event that we decided to throw a party, comprising of vadas, idlis, kesari ( sweet dish) and a steam coffee to all our neighbourhood families plus an added offer to make one free call to any of their local contacts ( you know you pay heavy to make outstation calls!) Everybody was happy to relish the food and announce it through the free telephone call to their cousins. Since you have long enjoyed the privilege of receiving calls in others telephone, it is only basic decency that you extend the same courtesy to all. No sooner my father announced others to use our home telephone as their very own, the more than willing crowd milled around him to jolt down the telephone number which they could share with all their near and distant relatives as their new contact number which they could use to reach them 24×7.
The arrival of the new telephone brought with it the constant presence of one of the many neighbours in our home and at times the living room would be so lively that we could mistake it for a mini amphitheatre. In fact, the calls received by our friends were so regular that we would know who would get a call during a particular hour and that person would arrive fifteen minutes in advance. This, though an infringement into the privacy of our home, nevertheless spared us of the effort needed to run to their home and inform about the call that is on hold for them in our house. But the bonhomie and the affection that we silently enjoyed in this phone service stayed with us, long after the telephone stopped ringing for the neighbours as they themselves became proud owners of the communication tool.
But the advent of the mobile phone was so over-aching, that it made the telephone look a crude primitive tool useful more as a decorative antique piece than a functional instrument. And the entry of the mobile into every pocket made anyone instantaneously contactable and thus all very important. The grammar of ringtone revealed the personality of the mobile owner while the size and feature of it only served to add up to his social standing. If by any chance, in the year 2000 you did not have a mobile, maybe you were either treated as a recluse or that you owe people lots of money that you would like to remain non-contactable, either ways, not a very attractive situation to be in. Soon the mobile proliferated and became indispensible and with it began an ever increasing number of calls from sundry tele-marketers who think that you could buy whatever they had to sell. Add to this the smses that clog your in-box and you are the most vulnerable person who could be approached by anybody for, well, anything. And with the mobile, you cannot lie for not attending a call by being away as it is always supposed to be with you and the closer your contact you are expected to take the call in the first ring. Oh, how the mobile has transformed from a technology marvel into a necessary nuisance that the modern man cannot do without, however hard he may try.
The white telephone in our home stayed with us for over twenty years and each time it went out of order, it was promptly repaired, polished and re-instated. But in the last ten odd years, I would have changed my mobile at least half-a-dozen times and still I am seen as very conservative. My servant has the latest version of the touch-screen iphone while I still fiddle with the buttons to make calls! I never fathomed that I will be judged by the version and price tag of my mobile than anything intangible that people care two hoots about. Oh, let me change my year old handset in a week’s time before it becomes a redundant technology and an eye-soar for my colleagues and friends. Oh my dear mobile, how unfaithful I am to you but believe me, I am not alone in this game of infidelity.
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