<%-- Page Title--%> Weekend Musings <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 123 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

September 13, 2003

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Amusing telephone calls


Mahfuz Anam

Telephone is obviously one of the most important of scientific discoveries of our civilisation. In fact with the coming of mobile phones one wonders what would life be without telephones. So this most essential of instrument of instant communication has now become our constant companion, with incalculable impact on our lives-mostly good but some terrible.

The most negative aspect of mobile phones is the almost complete loss of privacy. Before, when one was on the move, in a place where there were no phones (and there were plenty of such places) or with friends at a restaurant one could be out of touch with the rest of the world. With the mobile that is just not possible.

Of course one can always shut the damn thing off but then one has to explain why it was shut in the first place, especially if it is the spouse or the boss who was the one who was looking for you. Adolescent boys or girls, excitedly accepting their first mobiles are unaware that it is not so much to facilitate their communication but more to keep track of where they are at all times of the day or night (especially the latter) that the mobile has been supplied.

I really regret the loss of personal space that the mobile appears to have confiscated from me. Even at home the mobile can be with you everywhere, including the toilet whereas the fixed lines (before the days of cordless) at least did not intrude into our bathrooms.

With all its intrusiveness I think none of us would ever opt for a life without telephones. As for mobiles, some people are still trying to stay without one but they are a disappearing species.

Telephones not only provide us with essential communication, they are sometimes the source of both amusing and frustrating experiences. A typical frustrating situation occurs when someone who never calls, or calls after years of absence expects to be recognised by their voice and will refuse to identify themselves and keep on saying "Ami bolchi"

(It is me). When asked "Ami ke?" (Who is it) The reply is " Are amake chincho na, ami bolchi, ami” (How come you don't recognise me, its me).

Totally frustrated you say please identify yourself, I am unable to recognise you. That's it. You have made a fatal error and now the conversation turns to "Ekhon amake chinba keno. Tumi onek boro hoyecho, tai amader moto lok ke mone rakhona” (It is understandable that you will not recognise me. You are now a big shot and no longer remember ordinary folks I like me). You feel guilty for having hurt his feelings (but you don't know how) and again try. " Ami amar gola chinte parchi na. Amake apnar naam ta bolle to porichoy hoye jai" (I am unable to place your voice. Why don't you tell me your name then I will recognise you.) The caller most reluctantly but finally says "Ami Rafik bolchi" (I am Rafiq speaking). Now you are in deep trouble. You don't know who this Rafiq is, you don't know anybody by that name and his voice is totally unfamiliar. You have already hurt his feelings by not recognising his name and now to say 'I don't know any Rafiq' will totally devastate him.

I am wracking my brains, tearing my hair (whatever is left, and that makes it a big sacrifice) and praying to the Almighty to come to my rescue. But I draw a blank. So I end up saying " You know I am passed fifty and people start becoming senile at this stage and also lose memory. I bring my dead parents into the picture (in order not to hurt him) and say you may not know, but I always used to be scolded by my parents for being forgetful (This is true. All my childhood friends will vouch for this). So please help me out. Give me some tips of our spending time together and when. "I was with you in Mohsin Hall when we were at the University" Rafiq says. "My room was two floors below yours." I am still blank and plead for more help. "You were in economics and I was in soil science". Now that was really close. "So how did we spend time together?" I ask. "We participated in many anti-Ayub and anti-Yahya processions together." Well that's really a pointer, since there were thousands of us who took part.

Finally, after many more exasperating attempts I ask, “when did we meet last?” “Not after Liberation”, he says. “Did we speak over telephone since our University days?” “No” is once again the reply. Then I muster some courage and say "How can we expect me to recognise your voice since we have not spoken to each other for the last 33 years, nor have we met in the meanwhile? Such is the demand of childhood friends.

Anyway, we are now occasionally in touch and I do recognise his voice when he calls.


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