Talking dilemma

After decades of living in Bangalore, I have really enjoyed the benefits of many technologies, after suffering from the lack of them.

As a bachelor living in a lodge in Seshadripuram in Bangalore, I always felt like speaking to my grandmother in Chennai once in a day. I used to have an early dinner and go to the GPO and book a trunk call. In the form supplied by the post office, I had to write my choice – ordinary, urgent, pp (particular person) or a lightening call and pay the advance money.

An ordinary call was the most affordable, but it took anywhere between 45 minutes to four hours for it to materialise. If one booked an urgent call, his or her call was processed within 30 minutes, but it was costly. With a pp call, the time counting started only after the particular person started speaking.

Lightening calls were several notches above ‘urgent’ calls were very expensive; these were used only for emergencies.

I usually opted for an ordinary call. I used to make myself comfortable on the bench with a magazine or a book and patiently wait for my name to be called out. When my luck was good, my call came through within half-an-hour and on some luckless days I had waited over two hours.

“Three minutes over,” the operator would intervene and I had to shout “Please extend Madam.” We were allowed only two extensions. One needed special luck regarding the quality of his or her call. Some of the calls were inaudible and others were audible, but merged with static noise.

Repeating “Hello” many a time, bellowing loudly and repeating the same sentences over and over again was often witnessed. After my wedding, my wife kept me company in the post office. Although our neighbour had a telephone, we never made the mistake of giving his contact number to our family members. The only exception was when my father-in-law called on my neighbour’s telephone number to inform me about the birth of my son.

During the 70’s getting a telephone connection in one’s house was considered a great achievement. We had two choices, OYT (own your telephone) and non-OYT. The first was a costlier option and hence I opted for the former. I was lucky to get my connection within one year.

Every morning, we would proudly look at our gleaming green telephone in our living room, expecting it to ring. We felt on top of the world — no more visits to the post office, or to the neighbour’s house, but we soon realised that we were still dependent on the good old “Trunk calls.”

A few years later, the subscriber trunk dialing system came into existence and changed our lives completely. We could dial trunk calls without an operator’s assistance. My wife started talking to her parents in Madras for more than half an hour. Worrying about an inflated telephone bill, I wished that an operator would intervene and say “Madam, three minutes over.”

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