IT WASN’T too long ago that people used to rejoice whenever the crow cawed at their window. Call it the victory of their superstitious belief or the reward for their honest love for friends and relatives, but more often than not the crow’s caw used to get translated into the arrival of a loved one. But, as happens with every good thing, this too was destined to meet its end. The loud ringing of telephones soon muted the crow’s caw and a new sign emerged on the horizons – STD calls @ Re 1 per minute!
The demon of cheap telephony had arrived, and the maiden casualty was human relation. As a representative of the modern era, I always admire the rate at which technology is flourishing, but this one left me with a dozen wrinkles on my forehead. I’m a person who values human relations more than anything else, and if something threatens to disturb the status quo of my emotional frame, I make it a point to raise my voice against that threat, loud and clear. I know my words will stir the hornet’s nest, but believe me STD calls @ Re 1 per minute means degradation of human relations at a very fast pace.
The slash in STD call rates triggered a technological disaster. The good old landlines were taken over by mobile phones with prepaid cards and the attractive profit margin made them a good source of extra income for small shopkeepers and entrepreneurs. All of a sudden, the telephone broke the barriers of STD booths and established itself in the uncommon of places, including general stores, laundries, paan shops, bakeries and even milk dairies. The list is endless, and so is my pain.
Now, the common man is blessed with the power of a one-rupee coin. A single rupee promises you 60 seconds of heart-to-heart talk with any of your relatives or friends in any part of the country. Amazingly, the shop that was selling cigarette or paan is transformed into a busy communication hub. Flocks of migrants, majority of whom are daily wage earners, religiously stand in the queue and wait for their turn to get hold of that phone and experience the joys of cheap long-distance call. They speak their heart out and leave happily after paying just 30 rupees for a 30-minute call.
Clearly thrilled by this show of generosity by the phone service provider, every migrant makes it a point to incorporate this into his daily routine. Little does he realize that, in actual sense, this cheap call is increasing the distance between him and his loved ones. He is so much delighted by the idea of daily calls that he decreases the frequency of his visits to his hometown. Sometimes, the gap between his visits becomes as much as six months.
If there is some ceremony or auspicious occasion, he makes his presence felt via telephone. Of course, at such cheap call rates, he has the power to be with his family whenever they need him. Ironically, he fails to understand their emotions. He fails to realise that his children crave to see his face. He fails to notice why his wife appears so lost in her thoughts whenever he talks to her. And he also fails miserably to recognize the pain in the cough-ridden voice of his old parents.
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