‘Oh my god, you’re joking!‘ Giggling, she then turns to me and waves me out of the room, so she can continue her conversation in ‘private’. Suppressing a smile, I walk out of the room, basking in an odd medley of emotions. We have a fixed line at home. You know the kind, right? It’s literally stationary and connects us to our loved ones. Since the instrument also doubles up as a device to which we connect our router, it stays in the study. It’s actually quite conveniently placed, right next to my laptop, so I can answer it on the first ring. It is also equidistant from my bed and all I need to do is stretch out an arm to lift the receiver.
As a child, I have very fond memories of speaking on the telephone. We belonged to the era where telephones were a rarity. A home with a telephone meant that the family in question had probably lived abroad. This wasn’t completely untrue in our case. What I loved about the instrument was how I could curl up next to it, as if I was discovering a long-lost friend. Keep in mind that this was before the time of the cordless phone, so if I needed to answer/ make a call, I would have to stay put in the same point. All conversations, whether they lasted five minutes or fifty, were to be conducted in the ‘comfort’ of the living room, which, at any point of time, played host to one snoozing grandfather, one curious younger sibling, two ostensibly indifferent parents and one hawk-eyed grandmother.
In spite of all the constraints (or perhaps because of them) I grew to love phone calls. Courtship days with my fiance were peppered with langorous, beautiful two-hour conversations, while I idly twirled the cord that connected the receiver. Somehow, I doubt that my father shared this sentiment of mine, considering he would have had to foot the bill! Soon after, I enjoyed the privacy of a cordless phone.
Today, I cherish the calls that I receive on my stationary phone, because it has taught me to do two very important things: One, to sit down and speak at leisure and two, to consciously take time away from the smartphone and be grounded in reality.
When I get a call now, I have to drop everything else that I am doing and come and plonk myself down on the comfort of the bed, while I chat with the other person.
I sit in one spot and stop multi-tasking ideas and concepts in my head.
I don’t balance the phone between my ear and shoulder while sieving flour into a pan.
I don’t walk back and forth between the bedroom and the kitchen, thus preventing wear and tear on my well-worn carpet.
Gy asked me the other day why we didn’t have a cordless phone and why I didn’t allow her to speak on the cellular phone to her grandparents.
‘It’s because of the radiation,’ I said. Her seven-year-old mind accepted it without question. I didn’t tell her the real reasons though. How could I share the absolute joy that comes from strumming the cord on the telephone? Or the fact that I hug myself when I watch her sit in one spot and talk endlessly, just the way I used to?
And I realise, in this moment a very comforting truth. These minutes that she spends curled up next to that stolid device are the ones that she will remember with fondness in the years to come.