“It was my elder brother Shashikumar, a telephone lineman, who encouraged me to enrol for a job as a lineman. I started out in 1989 as a ‘mazdoor’, a sort of apprentice. The position of lineman requires a good deal of training and on-the-job experience. Hence, it is essential that one trains under the guidance of an experienced lineman to learn the trade. I learnt from my brother,” says Shivakumar R.
Passing tools and other equipment were his first steps in training to become a lineman. Posted in Vattiyoorkavu, Shashikumar would cycle daily from his home in Peroorkada to the office. “Vattiyoorkavu was not so well developed in those days. Houses were not close by and one often had to travel through thick foliage and dirt roads to reach these houses to install, maintain, or repair telephones. We used to cover the entire area from Vattiyoorkavu to Vellaikadavu.”
Knowledge on how to use phones was also not that common. “Telephones were a luxury in most homes. And although one knew how to operate them, one did not know facts like one should not use the phone during a lightning storm, for instance;” a fact Shivakumar learnt the hard way. “I was new at the job and was checking a faulty line. I had a handset to my ear when I felt as if I was dealt a hard blow to my ear. Lightning had struck the line. Thankfully, it was nothing serious,” says the father of two girls, Geethu and Ganga.
Shivakumar was inducted as a lineman in 1992 and when Kerala Telecommunication Department merged with BSNL, he wrote a test and is now a phone mechanic.
“With telephone cables now going underground, there are fewer complaints from consumers.” The phone mechanic admits that the rise of mobiles has created a dent on the number of applications for land phones. “But with new schemes and promotions, we will be back in the game in no time.”