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Rising to early-morning calls

In a small nondescript village near a temple town, there was no telephone well into the 1970s. When visiting our ancestral village on leave from Mumbai, the absence of instant communication was more of a blessing. There were no calls at morning, evening or night. The postman would bring any urgent message in the form of a telegram or a messenger would do the task.

Even if one had the money to book a telephone connection, there was no line capacity. In the village, the grocer was the proud owner of the first telephone. Soon it became public property, with every villager having passed on the number to their relatives and friends in distant towns. Not to offend prospective customers, the grocer would oblige to inform the called party. However when there were early-morning calls, he decided to draw a line. No calls before 6 a.m. was the rule.

The situation has changed vastly especially with the advent of mobile telephones. One out of any two persons at home or on the move or in office is talking. It is beyond the scope of this write-up to speculate whether the call is productive or wasteful. The present generation cannot even imagine a world without a phone.

Early-morning calls are a scourge today, dreaded like the plague. I am immune to the distraction as I usually get up around 4.30 a.m. and my sleep is not disturbed.

There are two reasons early-morning calls have earned a bad reputation. They cut short the bliss of sleep. Second, they are harbingers of bad news. The intention of the caller is not in doubt. Usually, it sets up a chain reaction as he or she may need urgent help. The term “early-morning calls” gained popularity at the global level during the democratic primaries for U.S. presidential race in 2008. Hillary Clinton tried to gain mileage from the fact that she, as the wife of former President Bill Clinton, was better equipped than Barack Obama to handle early-morning calls of global disaster. The ability to handle early-morning calls was one of the promises to prospective voters at large. It is no secret that this appeal did not sway the democratic nomination in her favour.

lakshmibashyam@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 12:12:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/rising-to-early-morning-calls/article33536048.ece

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