(Note: – This was written when Mobiles were not the rage and phones would be ringing night and day… Suddenly, the phone rates went up, and everybody was worried.)
“Phone calls have become costlier”-I informed my wife gravely. “We better practice austerity from now on…………”
“Yes” she agreed quickly (Too quickly, I felt) and added-“You must also cooperate”.
“Me! How?-I was bewildered at the boomerang.
She seemed to have quite a list—the way it was said!
“First of all, stop ringing up your China-vast brood. . . . .” clearing the throat, she began.
“What do you mean by brood? Like a group of clucking hens?” I became aggressive.
“Who else but your dear brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grannies and tathas? Long string of nieces, nephews, cousins? A mini gurukula! Disturbing at all hours!
Worse than marrying a doctor!” she vented her grievances.
“Then, it is they who pay for their calls, not me as such. How does it come under our ‘Telephone budget?’ I pinpointed.
“But you follow up each call thrice! That’s the trouble! You have become a sort of help-line to your family!” she re-pointed out in turn.
“O.K baba, I will cut it down; Then, how about your daily gossip with friends?
For hours and hours? My, it has become a ritual!” I attacked her.
“Do you know how much of auto-charge and time is wasted while commuting? All this is saved by those calls!” She had the answer ready.
“O.k. But surely you can stop ringing upstairs, downstairs, left side, right side, for each and every sundry thing? Why don’t you go and knock at their doors? ”I retorted, refusing to be defeated.
“With these electricity moods? No sir. I am afraid of being stranded in a lift. I may get murdered! Surely you are following the news about FLAT-MURDERS in the newspapers?”
That’s the only news my wife reads. Now she shuddered, prey to many premonitions. I tried another method. “There are the stairs you know” I enlightened her. “By using them regularly, you will become slimmer and prettier” I tempted her. “Remember what a superb figure you had when I married you?
Good Lord! These modern wives! They are born smart! They don’t fall into baits that easily.
“Remember, I have heart troubling genes” she emphasized. “The doctor has advised me very strongly to be extra-careful. That is, if you want me around.”
“The least you can do is to curtail your calls”. I tried another line. “Very often I find you both, mother and daughter exchanging recipes. Can’t you write it in letters?”
“Letters! She was aghast. “Do you know what you are talking about? In which century are you? Who writes letters nowadays? It is not fashionable!
“Letter-writing is an art I educated her. “Develop it and pay your homage to Devi Sarawati! Begin with postcards.”
“Even to neighbours?” she looked at me incredulously.
“Especially to neighbours” my voice was firm as I laid down the law. “I am off to the post office now only to purchase a hundred post cards, and you can scribble as much as you like……….”
“You mean even two lines like ‘Did the maidservant come today for work? Is water running today in the taps today? Is there electricity today in the house? Have the onion prices dipped? And spicy questions like ‘Who eloped with whom? Latest gossip, sari purchased, T.V programmes and the like?’”
“Do you know how much of phone-bills these one or two sentences come to? And do they stop at that? Each of you women’s small talks snowball into quite a story, and by the time it ends, the milk would have boiled over, the breakfast is burnt, cooking, washing, all unfinished! Now, either you heed my advice and take to ‘postcard-calls’ or I surrender the phone”-I gave the ultimatum.
She has packed up and gone to her mother’s. I am ringing her up night and day. Yes! THE PHONE BILL IS……………Don’t ask me please…….!