I remember the first phone that we got. After waiting for more than two years post a ‘registration’, a green box with a 10 dial oval came home. Much to the charging of the neighbours and to the great pride of all in the family. As a kid, one of the greatest kicks I used to have was to see the dial come back to its position, after a number was dialed.
A couple of years later, the dial got replaced by push buttons. So, if the Joneses had push button telephone, and you didn’t, well, you hadn’t succeeded in life! I remember coming back home from school, and seeing a red phone with black buttons and white numbers at home instead of the green phone with the white dial! For the first time, I discovered the redial button that day! As much as it was convenience, it was also a nuisance. A classmate told me, ‘if you make an ‘inappropriate’ call, dial another number. Just in case your parents dial redial and get to speak to the ‘inappropriate’ person’. Worse still, if they got to speak to HER dad!!! That lesson was a big lesson! I remember it to date!
The innovations seemed to have petered off then. Of course, the cordless came in. I remember standing in the balcony and speaking. If I had counted the eyes, that watched me that day, they would have done the best TRP ratings of the best of soap operas to shame! But the cordless couldn’t go beyond the house. Worse still, power failures and distance would be barriers too. The misery got compounded by the influx of western movies and the heroes using car phones. I thought we were backward as a nation!
Some years later I landed a job in media. And the first taste of the mobile phone gave a kick like none else. A personal mobile phone! The best placed guy from my b-school didn’t get one ! I always doubted his capabilities & there was just no sweeter ‘revenge’. After all, there was a God in heaven!
It was a 10 digit number. No one had a 10 digit number. So if somebody asked for your number, well, you rattle off, 10 digits and say, “it’s a mobile phone” , and walk with 12 inches of extra chest space ! You had to pay money for receiving or making a call. If some confused bloke called you by mistake and you happened to pick the call and say ‘hello’, you had to cough up money!! I mean, the company had to cough up the money! I discovered another common practice among the new mobile phone users. It exists to date, so much so, that I can propound a law on it. It reads like this: Within the first three weeks of phone usage, The volume of the person speaking into a phone, is directly proportional to the number of people around in him.
It used to be a huge piece of brick. And compared to all the latest phones available now, it was pedestrian. But, you could speak, and the other could hear. And you could do that on the road, in the car, in the lift, at the airport, outside a public pay phone booth…. and people would go wide mouthed! I didn’t care if it was a piece of brick or a sleek beauty! A call costed a bomb. But every bomb in town was in awe at the piece of brick in my hand!
Today, I look back at the device that I carry. Its one quarter the weight of the original piece. Capable of enabling me to do so many different things, that would keep me connected. Voice, data, photographs, entertainment, information, browsing, streaming, the list is endless. The difference today however, is that everybody has a phone. And a 10 digit number.
These days, there is the hands free kit which has made the busy bees appear as people from an asylum: content with speaking to themselves. Inside cars, on bikes, on the road etc. The next time I am going to see a real lunatic, I have made a mental note to check if he or she is a real lunatic or just somebody using a hands free device !!
The mobile phones have altered many a space in our lifestyle. The best of movies have an additional sound track of people’s phones ringing. Worse still, of people speaking loudly into phones. The best of skylines in any city is dominated by the red and white mobile towers. Everybody, from your vegetable vendor to the Mumbai dabbawalas have it. The TV channels and radio stations goad you to use it. “Call now”, “SMS now” seems to be mantra. The terrorists have it. The school kids have it. There is an ongoing debate about banning the mobile phones in school! New careers have come through! …
I am writing this in an airport. I look around to find that the ubiquitous mobile phone is as ubiquitous as ubiquitous can get! Its there. Hanging out of hips, holsters, shirt pockets, handbags, in the lost and found area, on billboards, permanently attached to peoples faces…..
My phone just beeped, and I got a message. Boarding is called and they are looking for me!