“3-4-1-7”, I was exuberant while uttering those digits repeatedly until they were carved in my mind forever. I was only a 5-year-old when we said “Hello” to our first landline telephone. And 3417 was our first telephone number; I would tell it all the guests who visited our house. It came into life just after the telephone operator made the first test call and it rang “Trring! Trring!” It was like a child’s first cry.
It brought a sort of revolution into our lives. We no more had to go to the nearby grocery shop to talk to our far-away-yet-close-relatives or wait at an STD booth for our turn. I was enjoying our new device the most. I would call my father’s workplace every day after coming back from the school, asking “Can I speak to Mr. Rao, please?” while playing with the spiral cord and order him to bring for me Samosas or other junk food for the evening.
Also, my mother would be well-prepared before any relatives visited our house as they started informing about their visits which would otherwise be, most of the time, a surprise. Kept at one corner, the telephone was an asset to have those days. And with it, a telephone directory and a ball pen, which was in any case, not to be misplaced, kept just next to it. All the important numbers were alphabetically noted in it.
One day, after returning from my school, I found another revolution was being unboxed at my house. It was a new white colored telephone device which they called “cordless”. I was excited again to know what new features has this one got. “You can carry this to any room and talk” they said. I was like “are you kidding me?” and ran to the terrace with the “cordless” device to witness the magic. And it was working.
Not many years passed and I was learning what a SIM card is. This new device was also cordless and also, smaller in size and I was told that it can be taken anywhere you want to take it all over the country. I peeked into my father’s first mobile phone. “NO SIM CARD INSERTED” it said. Then a small ‘chip’ was cut out of the pack and inserted into the phone. It was as if a heart has been transplanted into a heartless body. The mobile phone woke up that very moment.
“f9 thnk u. hru?”
Everybody was speaking in a new lingo called SMS.
But people were still not satisfied with all this. They wanted more add-ons.
To keep up with the technology, we went to buy another new phone.
My father asked the shop-keeper to show the best phone.
“Sir, this has Camera, Video recording, Internet, Music player and Bluetooth.” The shop-keeper boasted.
“All that is good but can we make phone calls?” was my father’s question.
The world was quickly moving to the smartphone era and now, we see every other person holding a touch-screen phone with a flip cover. While waiting at an airport terminal, I overheard two guys conversing. They were talking about the smart phones they possess. “Hey, do you have this app?” one said. “Oh yes, but I think that app is better” the other one was saying.
“How many mega pixels is your phone’s camera?” was his next question.
Then I looked around, I saw a family sitting together with their individual phones in their hands. Necks tilted down, eyes fixed to the screen. There were many more people in the same position like statues. Some were playing games and making new high scores in temple run, some were typing so fast that I could almost empathize with the screen and others were practically wired with it via earphones. They were all committed to their phones and made no eye contact with another human, lost in their own personalized world protected with passwords, where nobody is allowed to enter.
And then I looked back in time, where each phone call had a value. There was much more to talk about. And, the relations were real. The friends were countable. More importantly, ‘people’ had time for other ‘people’ even though there were not so many apps or smartphones or internet, yet people kept in touch.
And after all this advancement, that lustre is lost. The price of the phones and the digits of the telephone number have increased in an inverse proportion to the human value. Now, the ‘people’ have become busy. They no more find time.
Their ‘Hello-s’ have become ‘Hi-s’ and our cordless has become heartless.