Today’s world is characterized by increased mobility with the great technological leaps that mankind is taking. The mobile has almost become akin to a body organ. We have all sorts of gadgets and contraptions that we cling on to even as we amble or exercise, sit or rest – be it the fitness tracker watch or the i Watch, the palmtop or the iPad; the list is endless. The most striking feature of all these gadgets is that barring the time that you are charging them, they can be carried around anywhere and they need not necessarily be fixed at any one place. Thus, one never feels ‘anchored’ when using them. There are, however, two gadgets – if you can still call them that, at the risk of being branded a fossil –the landline telephone and the desktop computer, that still make you feel secure, especially the former, if you are a working mother. The landline in fact is no ordinary anchor, it is a sheet anchor in my case!
Having been transferred quite a few times from one city to another, the first task I undertake is to get a landline telephone connection at my new residence. You may ask as to why it is needed when each one owns a mobile and the landline phone has almost become redundant. To that, I would say that the landline phone has many virtues. I cannot get over the old-world charm of the landline phone. And when I say landline phone, I exclude the cordless phone for two reasons – one, it makes you mobile and two it needs to be charged and does not perform well in the event of a power cut. It is the good old landline phone which is an all-weather friend and saviour. It makes you feel secure and rooted.
The very thought of the landline telephone makes me nostalgic. In the landline instrument used in the present times, which has perhaps evolved so as to spend less time dialling the phone number, you press the buttons to dial a number. But the old, now out of use, rotary model of the landline instrument, where one had to literally finger dial the numbers, had an appeal of its own; the sound produced while dialling the numbers was rather symphonic and inimitable. The shrill sound of the telephone ringing would make even a dead man get up!
Unlike the rest of the world which has written an elegy for the landline telephone instrument, I can deliver an endless eulogy for it. I am a (working) mother who abhors children staring at mobile screens. Therefore, as a matter of policy, my children do not touch the mobile phone. However, there are times when they need to contact me and then the landline phone is what is pressed into duty. It’s a very good surveillance tool as well; something that every working mother needs in today’s uncertain times. If you call on the landline phone and the baby sitter picks up the receiver, you can heave a sigh of relief, as you know for sure that she has arrived. You would say, why not have CCTV cameras with live feed. You are right when you say that but CCTV cameras do compromise a person’s privacy. So, the landline phone has always been an object of great adulation. Once in a while, when it goes ‘dead’, even as I shed copious tears, instead of writing its obituary, I ensure its early resurrection, by moving heaven and earth.
The other ‘gadget’ that I refer to is the desktop computer. The desktop computer looks majestic yet humble, firmly sitting on the desk, with no one daring to carry it away from one place to another. Its sheer bulk and the wires attached to it ensure that no such thought crosses anyone’s mind. There is no need to charge it either. It gives your study a rather intellectual look. Today, even the desktop PCs have become sleeker with the CPU being integrated with the monitor. So, it’s a perfect example of the fine balance between tradition and modernity. Even my daughters, who belong to the mobile generation, are fonder of the desktop computer than the laptop, something I am really pleased about.
May I also add here that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online schooling has become a necessary evil. Thus, I have had to complainingly give into more screen time, as the purpose of staring at the screen is ostensibly noble. I, as a parent, therefore have been doomed to zoom and my desktop computer is quite sought after. The desk on which it is perched on, accompanied by a swanky office chair, is the perfect place to attend online classes; as a result, the competition between my daughters to capture the desktop computer has become cutthroat.
So, even as I shift places on account of transfers, I ensure that there is some semblance of stability and rootedness; it is these two ‘gadgets’ – the landline telephone and the desktop computer – that have ensured that the sense of being anchored and secure stays with me at all times!