Tring, tring, hello…

I come from the generation which has grown up without a phone in their homes. Consequently, I spent much of my teenage years hanging around in homes of friends, who had, you guessed it, a phone. The phone, as the parent of any teen knows, is crucial to developing a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. Or the same sex, as is often the case in these times. Anyway, the mother had coughed up a grand amount of Rs 1000 and I had stood for hours in line at the MTNL office at Vile Parle (which is where the main office for the zone I then lived in was) and finally submitted said draft, and got a signed stamped receipt that said that someday in the future I could expect aliens to land on the earth and asked to be taken to meet our leader. Nope that was the gas connection. This receipt didnt state anything. No date. No timeline. Just a confirmation that MTNL had received money from us towards a telephone line.

It just put me in a furious state of anticipation that someday, someday when I was still young enough to consider telephone romance a valid way to spend time, I would have a telephone installed in my home. And this would be before I hit menopause.

As things go, I met the love of my life in the last month of my college days, and it had already been six years since my application for the Rs 1ooo telephone. The impediments to true love! Neither he nor I had a telephone at home and his poor harassed upstairs neighbour was the one I would call in order to speak with him, and many a times encounter a very irate future MIL who would breathe fire into the phone. The slight darkened burnt patch, around my right ear, that’s it.

Then came the letter announcing that we had, fall to your knees and praise the lord, been allocated a line. And a linesman would arrive on some day to instal said line. This letter threw me into a frenzy so manic, I had to be manacled to the sofa to prevent me rushing out and roaming the streets in a bid to locate a linesman. Called Yadav. Ever realise that all MTNL telephone linesmen were called Yadav. I think they were manufactured in the cloning department in the vast recesses of MTNL offices where dusty cupboards containing files which mutated and turned into organic life forms over the years were kept, as part of a secret mission to test how long people could wait for a phone without going and threatening to set fire to the furniture and the damn files.

I held my peace. For a day. The next day, I couldnt wait any longer. I snuck down while the mater was out at work and stood in the shadows by the phone box waiting for the Yadav to show up. I pounced on him when he ambled in. Hamara order aaya hai, I asked rattling off the booking number and showing him the letter which had arrived from the MTNL office. He spat out his paan, and informed me that he had not yet received the order to put in the line. To check after a few days. Which I did. Every second day, until of course, the poor linesman took pity on me and told me he had received the order and would get our phone home someday. I was lucky he didnt take a restraining order out on me.

Needless to say I spent a frantic few days not stepping outside the door even for college in case the man came and left, finding no one home. I even timed bathroom visits to milliseconds to ensure that no doorbell was ever left unattended. I did not drink much water those days.

After promised few days, the man came home, with rolls of ugly black wire and a green telephone instrument. I got the arti thali out, lit the diya and did the obligatory round and round of said instrument once it was installed. Nope. I’m kidding. I was all cool, calm and collected as though telephone lines got installed in my home everyday and spent the remainder of the day calling up every friend and vague aquaintance to give them my new number.

The phone was installed in what was called a conveniently located spot, but one which didnt have seating so I spent most of the day standing and having long conversations. Never mind that I spent most of the conversation hopping from foot to foot, rather than waste a minute dragging a stool to the phone to rest the butt on, while discussing important theoretical matters with college friends regarding who ‘liked’ whom, and who wanted to be ‘friends’ with whom, and who was going ‘out’ with whom.

Today I would rather email, tweet or sms rather than pick up the phone and chat with anyone. Including the spouse. Alas, I now live in a home with three cellphones and two telephone lines and can make all the conversation I would want to.

Circa 2007

We moved to our new home. Before the embers of our grihpravesh havan die down the doorbell rings. The Airtel man is at the door, with printed rate plans and schemes. We sign the paperwork. The phone is installed the very next day.

Theyve taken the anticipation out of the phone, and with it the romance. I pity the current generation. They know not the thrill of making a phone call, when sufficient privacy can be organised within the cramped location of one bhk flats where unless you crouch into a corner under a table with a blanket thrown over you, every word will be clearly audible to the mater who should be, rightfully snoring at the end of a tiring day. These poor children today have sms, and chat and twitter and everything possible available on their mobile handsets. No sense of anticipation and waiting. The tragedy.


About Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush (2014), All Aboard (2015), Saving Maya (2017); horror with The Face at the Window (2016) and nonfiction with Karmic Kids (2015), A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016) and True Love Stories (2017). Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey (2017) and Boo (2017). Her articles and columns have appeared in the Times of India, Tehelka, DNA, Yowoto, Shethepeople, New Woman, Femina, Verve, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast Traveller, DB Post, The Telegraph, the Asian Age, iDiva, TheDailyO and more. She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017.
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25 Responses to Tring, tring, hello…

  1. Mukul says:

    Good write up.
    Yeah it was an era of dial up phones. Push button phones were upper class relatives of this good old dial phones.
    it made that sound. trrrrr..trrrrrrrrr.on dial. the spring in it cranked and made this unparallel sound.there was one phone in entire building. the STD had slabs of after 9 pm 50% rates.people queuing up for it.
    Mobiles and private players took the zing out of it and singlehandedly terminated this part of life.


  2. blinkandmiss says:

    Oh Kiran! I would’ve agreed about savouring the wait bit, if not for the harrowing experience I just had while getting a little work done from a govt office. Nothing romantic about it all, just pure painful. I had forgotten just what a nightmare it is dealing with the babus. Wrote about my frustration yesterday.


  3. Mumbai Diva says:

    we even gave one rum ka bottle to the linesman for it to be installed at priority.

    oh, the memories!!


  4. ‘important theoretical matters with college friends regarding who ‘liked’ whom, and who wanted to be ‘friends’ with whom, and who was going ‘out’ with whom’ ya ya very important kiran :D..ya the tragedy of it all of not having to wait for a Connection 😀

    I had a headache before i read this me i feel better 🙂 you are the best :)..and hey did i tell you i voted for you 😀


  5. Shruti says:

    I agree….I did not grow up with a telephone either..And you have described just the way that I used to talk on the phone when it was first installed! I remember I cried till my parents bought a cordless soon after, so that I could discuss the “confidential” matters in private with my friends!

    Great post!


  6. M says:

    Warm Fuzzy memories 🙂 You missed the one about the parents’ ire at “Wasting Rs 3.00” on such calls – yes, local calls cost Rs. 3 each then, if I remember right…


  7. dipali says:

    Those were the days, when telephones had a magic and mystique to them! You’ve captured that era so well, Kiran, kudos.


  8. Sands says:

    can so totally relate to this post. You write it way more elegantly 🙂


  9. CA says:

    Oh I so remember the wait … and as luck would have it, our much awaited phone arrived when I was in school … only to be told by my aunt that “SHE” was the one to make the first call from the phone. I have never been to pardon her for that … she took away one of my most precious firsts ….


  10. Aathira says:

    Lovely post!!

    During school days, my times were such that the telephone was available at home… but there was a strict watch on what was being said over it.. and since there was also the issue of parallel connections.. conversations could be and at many inconvenient times were always listened to , which later resulted in many grounding sessions!!!


  11. ittakestime says:

    Awesome post!!! You write so beautifully well 🙂


  12. deepti says:

    he he..very nicely written..:)

    even we got our fone connection quite late..i was in class X1…tab tak, we use to manage with neighbors landline…everytime climbing the wall which separated our homes, and jump into theirs to recieve calls…:)) what an exercise it was….


  13. anna says:

    very cute! and we too had a linesman called yadav. you are right, they were all called yadav, wonder how!


  14. Bhavna says:

    O I remember. My dad’s job profile required him to have a phone and I was just 8 when we got our first telephone. But what an asset it was. It was never a problem making friends. I moved from Pune to Chandigarh after 10th ( and 16 years) and making friends was my biggest trauma. But the phone helped. Chandigarh ( which to this day) has this bizarre ritual of crank calls to connect with the opposite sex..and I had the coolest girls wanting to hang out with me..because of the free phone. Oh what times those were


  15. Janit says:

    I remember the time when my last words to the girlfriend was the time I will be giving her a call…..she had to be ready to pick the phone up – and if she didnt, it was a blank call then. 🙂


  16. K says:

    Hahahaha:) Nice one.


  17. Abha says:

    yup! even remember the first phone number! 🙂 till then if we HAD to make an urgent call we used to go to neighbours and had to pay the local call charge!

    and yes, one cannot forget the after 9 frenzy for cheaper STD calls! 🙂 i know how i used to call M from a phone booth to hide from my all knowing mother! 🙂

    lovely post! 🙂



  18. Ronita says:

    Romances were so difficult in those days. I acquired this boyfriend in school and he would call everyday. I had make sure I was near the phone all day so that I could answer. If my parents answered he would have to hang up and call again. And I would have to face questions about the increasing number of blank calls being received. Today’s mobile enabled kids dont know the anxiety of hovering around the phone all day as unobtrusively as possible, the thrill of knowing that the last blank call was him and the utter helplessness of not being able to call back immediately. Tchah. Those were the days 😀


  19. inbavalli says:

    True! True! True! And the sheer joy of changing the topic seamlessly when a parent happened to walk into the living room just when we were having ‘juicy’ conversations 🙂


  20. Meira says:

    Yeah. Once I called dad from school, and told whoever picked up to please tell my dad to come collect me by 5pm. Dad got the message, sure, from the MD of his company, whom I had dialled by mistake. What fun.


  21. ajay says:

    Very interesting write-up. Your writing style is simply amazing laced with pun and humor. Loved it.


  22. Cee Kay says:

    This, to me, is one of your best posts yet! Loved reading it.


  23. Great post!! Delighted by your nostalgic take on the ending 🙂


  24. Priya says:

    Hi, first time commenting here.
    Have been reading you on and of.. loved reading this post!

    I’m also from that generation… we used to make calls from other’s houses or the post office in case of emergencies…
    Felt very fortunate to get a telephone connection at home when my dad got a promotion.. he was entitled to one 🙂

    Loved your take at the end.. completely agree 🙂

    Great to see that so many remember that age. I feel less of a dino now.


  25. Param says:

    what days were they..i remember standing in the queue to make STD calls..and then one day we too had an MTNL connection..the moment the phone would ring we all would run to pick it up:))aaj kal everything is at the click of the fingers..sab kuch kitna asaan ho gaya hai..


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