Open Page

Dialling back half a century

Authentic retro rotary phone from the 1950's.

Authentic retro rotary phone from the 1950's.  

Only VIPs and the rich had phones back then

Now almost everyone of us, rich and poor, young and old, men and women, has a mobile phone. But 50 years ago or even less, a phone was a luxury, a rarity. If you had a phone, you were a VIP or rich. Even the school I went to, which had some 500 students, did not have a phone connection.

The street where we lived in the 1960s had some 50 houses. Only two of them had phone connections. While one belonged to an official of the Telephones Department, the other was of a rich businessman. The rest of the inhabitants of our street used to go and stand at the gates of either of these privileged houses for permission to make a call.

The Telephones Department official who did not have to pay for the calls charged us 50 paise for one. But the businessman allowed free calls. But his Doberman was always waiting for an opportunity to charge at us. “Don’t be scared of him. He won’t bite you. I am here,” he would say as he guided me to the corner of the hall where the black glistening instrument stood on a pedestal. The dog would now sit at arm’s length and watch the intruder with a suppressed fury.

At times, the businessman would leave the room leaving me alone with his Doberman. On such occasions, even if I noticed a small movement in the dog, my heart used to come to my mouth and I stopped talking. How on earth could one could talk in such a condition!

Having lived in both eras, I could not help comparing the old times with new. Then we had to beg and take risks just to make a phone call. Now every one of us is a phone booth in which of course, we voluntarily imprison ourselves.

mr.m.r.anand@gmail.com

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you

Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:59:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/dialling-back-half-a-century/article30770835.ece

Next Story