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Dialling in to memories

I was pleasantly surprised when during a session of spring cleaning, my father handed me an old telephone diary from my school days. Distant memories of idyllic days flashed by as I saw some of my old friends’ phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays written in alphabetical order in my childish yet neat cursive handwriting.

Today’s mobile phones have rendered the phone diary useless. But when I was growing up, the bulky telephone directory, which could easily double up as a dumbbell, was the lifeline of the family. It took a lot of effort to locate someone’s coordinates but once you managed to persevere, the results were rewarding.

We also had a regal-looking telephone diary, covered in brown leather, that saw us through thick and thin and was easily our family’s most important piece of “literature”. From everyday names to emergency contacts for the times when my parents travelled for their medical conferences, the brown diary knew it all. This diary was also one of my earliest forms of personal space, when I got a whole page to myself upon starting primary school. I was deemed too young to have my own room that time and shared one with my sister.

Our brown phone diary was privy to all our secrets and conversations and did not mind the least when we scribbled numbers and drew doodles on it with ink pens, ball pens, sketch pens, colour pencils, and even lipstick when nothing better could be found during an important phone call. In many ways, our phone directory gave me my first lessons in paying attention to detail when I found several phone numbers without any names against them, clearly written in haste during a phone call. This often led to chaos and many an embarrassing “sorry, wrong number” conversation when my parents were unable to find the correct phone number they wanted to dial in.

Today, our telephone directories are with us wherever we go thanks to our phones. We can store addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, and voice notes for all our contacts now. I even save my contacts’ photos with the names given how bad I am at putting faces and names together. No doubt, technology has been helpful, but future generations will never get the lessons in keeping records and managing space that we got from our phone diaries and directories. And they shall certainly not know the simple pleasure of stumbling across an old telephone diary that brings to life memories of a childhood after decades.

rishabhkochhar92@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 9:13:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/dialling-in-to-memories/article34458281.ece

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