Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 3, May 16-31, 2019
Nomophobia, so The Man from Madras Musings learns, is the fear of not having a mobile phone. True the Chief managed without one all his life but then he was an intrepid man, allowing such material possessions to pass by him like the idle wind, which he respected not. But not so lesser mortals such as MMM, to whom the possession of a fully charged and functioning mobile phone is like a security blanket. Which is why when MMM’s friend called him up with a rather longwinded story, he could readily sympathise.
It transpires that the lady in question found her landline dead one fine morning. She lodged a complaint with the government agency that ran the service and was assured of prompt attention. This was by SMS on her cell phone. But as the days went by and the phone remained as dead as a door nail, she decided to lodge a fresh complaint. This too was met with an immediate and courteous message to the affect that the matter was being attended to. But at the end of a month, with no mitigation of the problem, she decided she had to take steps.
This amounted to calling all the phone numbers listed on the telephone service’s web site. She received responses of several kinds – in some cases the number kept ringing, in others it was answered and then put on hold, in a few instances an officer answered and curtly said it was not the correct number/department or division and in some cases there was dead silence. And then one day she struck gold. Answering the call was that rarity – a courteous public servant who not only patiently heard her out but also assured her that she could call him at any time for follow up but that may not be necessary as he would have the matter attended to immediately.
Sure enough, a man arrived within a few hours. He twiddled a few wires, fondled the instrument, looked deep into its innards and then suddenly, quite inexplicably, left. MMM’s friend was deeply puzzled. Had there been any unintended slight in the welcome she accorded him? When the man did not return and showed no signs of coming back, she decided to call the helpful officer. He expressed his astonishment at what had happened and promised to look into it. The next day, MMM’s friend received a call from a lady officer. Did MMM’s friend not know she asked, that Metro Rail work had commenced in the area and so most telephone lines were down? With such a massive public project ongoing, was it not necessary that MMM’s friend and others of her ilk display some patriotic spirit and suffer in silence? Nothing can be done for the time being declared the voice.
MMM’s friend, having heard this exhortation in silence waited till the voice paused for breath and said that it may interest the voice to know that no metro service was being contemplated anywhere in the vicinity of her residence. It was the voice’s turn to appear baffled and after a hurried apology the caller disconnected. That afternoon, the repairman, the same one who had vanished on the earlier occasion leaving not a wrack behind, reappeared. This time he went into the garden, tweezed a cable and presto, the phone was restored to life.
When asked as to what was the reason for the delay, he informed MMM’s friend that the telephone service was faced with a severe shortage of staff and he was the sole survivor of what was once an army of linesmen and other mechanics. He too was soon to retire. The Metro Rail was a convenient excuse when the number of complaints became too much for him to handle. But since Madam had proved really persistent, there was no other way but to attend to the call.
It is not often that The Man from Madras Musings is invited to attend Government meetings but he cannot escape them altogether either. And so it was that MMM found himself at one of those regulation conference rooms with ugly wallpaper and even uglier posters all around. He was ensconced in a rather comfortable armchair though, with two heavyweights on either side of him – mountains of fat and tissue, breathing in a fashion that is known as stertorous. Every so often these two men receiving phone calls on their cell phones and when they answered, the rings on their fingers blinded MMM momentarily.
Unlike earlier meetings that MMM had been to, this one began on time, what with the grand panjandrum arriving punctually and not wasting time in small talk. But much of what was discussed went right over MMM’s head, as it did over the two mountains flanking MMM. Presently one of them nodded off and his snores kept punctuating the discussions like exclamation marks.
Within half an hour into the meeting, a shabby piece of board, with two dirty strings dangling from it made its appearance and this was duly circulated among the attendees. This was the attendance register and MMM and the two mountains, among others, filled their names and addresses and also their phone numbers. Then came the enquiry for coffee and tea and MMM refused both, he having reached an age when Government regulation coffee and tea, not to mention biscuits, were not good for the lining of his stomach. But this was where MMM made his bloomer. Apparently awareness of what is good for health has taken root in our Government departments. The biscuits have gone and have been replaced by dry fruits – cashew nuts, almonds and walnuts. Coffee and tea continue to be served but they are also supplemented with buttermilk. MMM having refused had to content himself with watching the others munch away. The two mountains did themselves proud.
There was one other aspect that was of interest to MMM in particular. The main speaker began by asking if he could address the audience in English. “No Yinglish ji. Tamil wonly ji,” said the mountain to MMM’s left. He was clearly someone of some importance for the officer immediately switched, pausing only to sip some water. This is how his speech went:
“Hellonga, I have comenga to speak to younga about this new schemenga. What is this aboutnna, it will be really helpfulunga,” and so on. This apparently was enough for mountain for he did not object thereafter and proceeded to sleep the sleep of the just.