Sunday, 25 April 2010

The telephone booth

Tana Street Purasavakkam Chennai - 12.30 pm
August 1990: Don’t remember the exact date…!

It had been almost three months working in Chennai, living alone in a room, sans much friends, sans any known acquaintances the only contact with relatives was the weekends spent at their cozy homes. The entire week saw marketing medicines to doctors, the top-of-the-line antibiotics (as if that was required to be mentioned here).

Apart from rattling of the parroted content to doctors and chemists there was hardly any conversation happening in life. I started to become a loner of sorts, but for VJ - the only friend, who spent much time at the Nungambakkam CA institute during the day and was company for the snack dinner on Bells Road every night. The days were very long, the bus travel across the city was nothing but sweat and more sweat. I longed to strike a conversation with someone I knew…. No there were no phones at any of my known friends/relatives places – the only mode of communication was through letters, which meant a fortnight’s wait to get reply (think this in the age of sms and instant messaging).

The silent days
It was around this time in August VJ went to Bangalore and I had hardly spoken to anyone in 3 days… I was choking to find someone to talk to… Three days passed since I spoke to some one I knew, I had been speaking to vendors, waiters, bus conductors and hawkers, now I needed to speak to some one who will talk to me with my name.

The Thursday afternoon
Every day I passed by the Telephone booth - I felt I was actually being called in for a conversation - After searching the Madras Telephone Directory for an hour on that hot Thursday afternoon, I finally found the office number of a cousin, it took about 5 minutes to track his department, I was told he had gone out for Lunch and would be back in half hour. I waited the thirty minutes at the bus-stop beside4 the telephone booth and called again. This time he came online directly and was heard shouting hello… hello… hello… and all I could do was choke and hear to his voice for 20 seconds before he hung up. That one moment of silent monologue was enough to charge me for the next few days.

No, I didn’t speak to him that day nor did I speak to him about it when I met him the next week. Nor have I spoken to him about it in the past twenty years. I knew I was happy listening to someone I knew.

That day I told myself I will never want to be like this anymore. Today reminiscing the days of almost no communication – I wonder if it really makes any sense to have 24/7 connectivity to across all in the world through mobile phones and still yearn for that one moment of silence – one that gives immense strength. I surely miss that moment.

That absolute moment of solitude.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

The TWENTY20 Series will bring back nostalgic memories
throughout this year Coming up next - "My greatest regret"!

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