There was total chaos in the room. The kids were speaking on top of their voices trying to overpower each other. The scene was similar to that of parliament house as everybody was shouting and no one listening. The cause of action was my newly bought smart phone which had driven the kids into frenzy. My daughter was excited about the latest chat application in the phone and wanted to test it, while my son wanted to check the panorama feature of the camera. My neighbour’s four year old son was also not far behind and was keen to check the Spiderman game on the phone. I was trying to control the situation but feeling as helpless as the speaker of the Parliament house. In fact when the salesman in the mobile phone shop asked me the kind of phone I wanted, I just told him that I wanted a phone which (apart from voice of course) supports 3 G data and has a decent music player and camera. Hearing this, the salesperson smiled at my innocence and told me that these are the basic features which any phone is going to have now a days. He obliged me by helping me choosing a phone with many features and innumerable applications (half of which I found useless for me). I came home thanking the salesman but now was cursing him for giving me the ” over smart” phone which I was not able to use for my basic purpose. I started to ponder over how the times have changed. For today’s kids a phone is like a toy, but as a child phone seemed to be a very high tech thing to me. When the dialling facility was not available, even the operator on the other end seemed to be a super human making the calls through. Those were the days when a phone was considered a luxury which only a super-rich person or Govt Officers occupying very high position could afford. When a phone was installed in any household, leave apart the owner, even the neighbours jumped with joy. Though the joy of the neighbours proliferated over time as the number reached to more and more relatives and friends of them, the joy of the owners vanished soon as they had an additional responsibility of calling the neighbours whenever there was a call for them. A friend of mine used to narrate an incidence from her childhood about the woes of owning the only telephone in the colony. Her family was one of those rarest of rare families during early 80’s, which had the pride of having a telephone. As theirs was the only household in the colony (or the mohalla to be precise) having phone, they were duty-bound to facilitate the neighbours with their incoming calls irrespective of the time. On one fateful summer evening when my friend’s brother was studying for his exams, there was a call for a neighbour. Unaware of the upcoming trouble for him, the boy went to call the neighbour. The lady of the house, who was alone at home, came to receive the call. Even before disconnecting the phone, the lady started crying inconsolably as the boy watched helplessly. After few minutes, she revealed that one of her relatives had been admitted to Medical College hospital and asked the boy to drop her to a relative living nearby (on scooter, another pride which proved to be another headache), who eventually would drop her to the hospital. There was no question of disobeying the neighbourhood auntieji, so the boy, clad in his shorts and vest, took out the scooter and proceeded to drop the auntieji to the relative’s house. Unfortunately, it so happened that there was no one in that house also, to take the auntieji to the hospital. Now, auntie decided to explore another relative’s house. After searching two- three houses, the boy realised that they had reached very close to the hospital and it was better to drop auntieji to the hospital. Now, one can well imagine the embarrassment of a college going boy driving a scooter in shorts and vest in those days (Pre-Salman Khan era)! But that was a little price he had to pay for having the only telephone in the whole mohalla.
When I joined the Telecom Department as a Group- A officer, my first posting was in a small town. During that period also, having a phone was not very common. I was happy to get a service telephone connection with a VIP telephone number, which was easy to remember for public. But I soon realized that the number was equally easy to dial for anonymous callers also. Apart from telephone complaints, the callers used to call the number for any type of enquiry, be it railway, bus or telephone enquiry. There were many anonymous calls also, as the caller’s identification was not supported by the technology in those days. One day, I was scared as the phone rang at 12:30 at night. I soon realized that there was nothing to be scared, as the caller on the other end, though appeared to be drunk, was not saying anything offensive, rather he was repeating a word Didi (elder sister) again and again. After hearing this for some time, I asked in a harsh tone,” phone kyon kiya hai ?(why have you telephoned)”. Without losing his cool, the caller replied in a calm voice in a typical bundelkhandi tone,” Phone rakho tho to socho kachhu upyog ho jaye ( since the phone was lying I thought it should be utilized). I disconnected the phone immediately and started laughing uncontrollably. After all, the gentleman had a perfect logic for making a call.
Over the period, technology has improved; phones have become so affordable that one can find even a house maid sweeping the floor with one hand and receiving a call with a mobile in the other hand. Too many mobile sets having various applications have thronged the market. My kids may keep searching for latest applications on mobile phones, but for me the phone is a device to connect to my family and friends. However, I do not need a strong reason to call them as I have the perfect logic, “ Phone rakho tho to socho kachhu upyog ho jaye!”