This picture of the operative staff in the trunk exchange of Bangalore Telephones was taken in 1972 when I was the officer-in-charge.
They were employed to put through trunk calls manually as the technology for long-distance communication available back then was quite primitive, compared to today.
It is worth mentioning here that they used to take the blame from subscribers for common problems, mainly the unreliable transmission media and the shortage of circuits to put through calls.
In spite of these shortcomings, they would handle around 6,000 outgoing trunk calls providing 80 percent efficiency, apart from thousands of incoming and transit calls. In fact, working was a way of life for these dedicated girls.
Apart from being operators, some of them were very good artistes and were part of cultural programs in Bangalore and Delhi.
K P Chandra was a very good Manipuri dancer. After marriage, she left for Chennai. S K Vijayalakshmi was outstanding in public relations, because of which she was deputed to Rajbhavan. Sri Mohanlal Sukhadiya, the then governor, took her to Jaipur to spend the holidays with his family members.
Pankaja left for Mysore after marriage. Gowramma, an excellent bharathanatyam dancer, retired from Bangalore Telephones as senior supervisor, and has settled down in Sahakaranagar. Sri Gopi was from Electronics and Radar Development Establishment and was a part of this team as a dance director.
Padmakshi joined Bombay Telephones and is happily settled with her family. Krishnaveni is a
very soft spoken operator with very good skill in operation.
Vijaya found a suitable career to her liking. Rajalakshmi is also a good bharathanatyam dancer and is settled in Bangalore with her family.
Lalitha Jayaraman and Vanitha were seen as the Latha Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle of this group. They are very good singers and they used to sing for all the programmes of these girls.
In their spare time, these operators practised under the guidance of Sri Gopi, the dance master, and gave many outstanding dance performances under the banner of Bangalore Telephones.
The first programme they gave was called ‘March of Communication’, presenting the growth of communication from prehistoric days i.e. from Kalidasa’s Meghasandesha to those days.
Amongst the programmes, the one that still stands out in my memory is the one by Mohini Bhasmasura.
These artistes made a name for themselves in the folk dance category and won numerous awards at the all-India level.
Today they are all over 60 years old and are enjoying a peaceful retired life with their family, after 35 to 40 years of memorable service. They often meet one another in family functions and happily recall their hard but eventful days at Bangalore Telephones.
(The author can be contacted at email@example.com)