Recently, my preschooler daughter left a (her first ever!) message on her Dad's answering machine. Oh, what a big milestone we made it to be!! I had got introduced to these answering machine thingies only a few years back and was reminded of those initial years of awkwardness & uncomfortable feeling I had towards talking to a machine aka leaving a message.
For that matter, telephones themselves were among the luxurious items list till recently in India. Around age 10, we had shifted to a house whose earlier occupants had a telephone connection. The instrument(along with the connection!) remained for a few days after our move and it used to be exciting to dial numbers on the huge black instrument, pick up and say 'hello' when it rings etc.
After that it was around my high school time when we were in the then, Bombay that we had phone connection at home. That was a pretty good time as a typical teenager, I used to be on the phone with friends for hours(after just returning from school where we would've already chatted the whole day!), call up from outside(read cinema theatre!) after bunking classes to safely inform mom about it etc. There once was a promotion by a company called Cello(casserole makers) in which if you say 'Cello' instead of 'Hello' when they call, you win a casserole! My Dad used to insist all of us to say cello on the phone. I hated doing it and as luck would have it, it was I who picked up the phone when Cello company called and I said 'hello' and lost a casserole for my family!!
Back in Chennai after a few years and back to phone less days! Though phone connections were getting easier in Chennai, there were 2 schemes in those days. Pay $15000 and get connection in 15 days or pay $3000 and get connection in 3 years! Our rich neighbour got the phone connection in 15 days and all in our colony were happy as if we had got our own phone connection. The phone owner's initial pride started to melt when everyone in the colony started giving their phone no. as their contact no. The phone owners were mostly receiving other's calls and seem running to each house to give the messages the whole day! To discourage this, they stopped giving msgs and even charged $1 for incoming calls!!
Then, came my phone allergy days. That was when almost every Chennai household started getting their phone connections. I never liked attending phone calls for I was bad in recognising voices. I hate when someone calls and asks, "யாருன்னு தெரியலையா?". Even worse was at work, when all of us used to avoid cabins with phone extensions for the fear of being caught by the Boss("Let's discuss the new requirement!") at lunch time or 5 PM!
The phone allergy worsened after coming here, for the new English accent was difficult to decipher on the phone. Ah, the tele-marketing calls!! How many papers/magazines have I subscribed to because of my "can't-say-no" nature to the tele-marketeers!! I fought a(yet another!) losing battle with my hubby in avoiding cell phones sighting radiation fears. But then mobile phones made it convenient when each of us wanted to go to different stores at the mall and India trips. In India, cell phone technology is/was far ahead. Sibling, cousins would come to visit me and would either be talking on their cell phone or text messaging and might talk to me in the gaps! People who meddle with my cell phones would change some settings or change the ring tone and when it rings I would wonder if someone was at the door(most houses have musical calling bells) or someone was backing up their car!!
Now with 2 landlines, 2 cell phones, Internet connection and all, I sometimes wouldn't be able to reach my folks. They would've gone out forgetting to take the cell phone, forgetting to switch on the cell phone and/or answering machine!! And on my part, with all the technology, I don't know anyone's phone no. from memory! With all these technologies around, I've lost touch with many of my friends! Atleast in those early cell phone days, people called from their cell phones at the end of the month, so as not to waste the expiring minutes! Sigh!