Phone aaya, phone aaya! – Part1 (mid 1970s – mid 1980s)

This is the age of ubiquitous smartphones. Carrying one on person has become almost as essential as breathing. Not too long ago having a telephone was not considered necessary. Back in the 1970s and early 80s in the India I grew up in very few homes had landline phones. Phones were something that belonged to the workplace primarily and very few homes felt the need to have one. The service provider was State owned and the phones were those clunky rotary types. Mainly those in the upper echelons of management in private companies or working at the highest levels of Government or the really well to do had phones at their residence. Supply was scarce, Government was deciding what was necessary for people as well as owning and running many businesses. When that happens you know what is generally the result πŸ˜€ State monopoly, lack of competition and build up of inefficiencies. Companies that knew how to grease the wheels got their lines and others Government deemed important enough got theirs without too much sweat. For the ordinary folks the wait was interminable. I thought it took something like 5 years to get a landline after applying for it. A family friend said it was more like 10 year wait to get a landline 😦 The telephone lineman gained outsized importance. He had to be kept happy lest the instrument become deaf and mute witness to history πŸ˜‰ The rotary phones themselves had a certain mystique about them. My earliest memories are of seeing gloved kidnappers in movies dialing in the telephone# to make a call demanding ransom for safe return of the kidnapped πŸ˜€ Only the dialing hand and the instrument would be visible in those filmed scenes. The sound of each # being dialed in created an atmosphere of excitement and suspense πŸ™‚
When supply is limited it’s understandable whatever is in stock has to be issued and used judiciously to ensure the business survives and at the same time the quality of service is maintained at an acceptable level . But when scarcity and non-affordability is a result of faulty policies and process inefficiences it’s time to take a relook. That’s what happened next.

Part 2: Winds of change…To be continued