Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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Posts from — May 2008

And came the Monsoon…

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A superb video on Monsoon in Kerala

Kerala Monsoon
Vidéo uploaded by subix_S

[Via: Aarathi]

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May 29, 2008   8 Comments

Tring Tring

This TVC took me back to more than two decades.

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Back home,we waited for 4 years to get a telephone connection from the Department of Telecom,the earlier avtar of BSNL. That was 1988.

The story of telephony in India can partly be traced through the phones we have had back home.
I have seen the evolution of telephone instruments in the past two decades from the dial phones to push buttons, from wall hanging to cordless…

The first telephone that we had at home was a Red colored dialing model,manufactured at ITI,Naini.Those were the times when push button phones were yet to hit the market.And the red color looked classy on the phone.Beyond the looks,the instrument had a distinct ring and weighed about 5 kg.

Now I feel, reasons for lower telephone bills those days would have been the difficulty to dial(yes,DIAL) and the non availability of the redial option.
So if a number was busy,tap the phone twice and then start dialing again.Arduous task.
This telephone was one of the first electronic(?) equipment I independently operated upon(another one was a cassette player).But this rugged instrument never failed to amuse me.
Even after having a screw or two extra after every open the phone-close it repair cycle,it worked. I was confident that come what may, the DOT was going to replace the phone if it stops working.It was like having something that had a lifetime replacement warranty.

In some 4 years,having a telephone ceased to be a rarity in our area.
“And Hey!Our neighbors don’t have the dialing phones.They have push button phones.!How can this happen?“,I thought.

One fine day,I spotted some ants on the red phone.May be during my repair exercises,one or two crystals of sugar got in.Idea!!,my brother and me made the plot.We opened the telephone and put in some sugar inside and closed it.Yes,we actually did it. Within a day,The phone was full of ants!!!That was a successful attempt in getting a push button phone.Adios the megalithic red monster,we thought!We grinned at our own success.The story of feeding the phone with sugar still remains a secret between my brother and me.

Those were the times not only of dial phones,but manual exchanges.Apparently,calls actually were connected manually.Say A calls B and B is located in another telephone exchange’s area.So A’s telephone exchange manually connected the call to B’s exchange.That itself gives a picture of the number of telephones and the number of exchanges in India then.

Cross talks were common,wrong numbers even more common.My brother and me both have had fun times responding to wrong numbers.Husbands calling wives,girl friends calling boy friends,customers calling banks,police stations all we could answer.Say,I pick up a call, I pass on the call to him and vice versa.We became masters at attending wrong numbers.

STD, was a luxury. One had to ask the DOT to have STD/ISD enabled.
There were STD slabs and variable rates during the day/night.STD rate charts seemed really complicated with rates dependant on the distance (slab) and the time of the day. One could easily get to listen to a lady telling in a nasal tone”All lines in this route are busy,please try after sometime” everytime you tried an STD call.
This scenario was much better, I was told then by my dad.Trunk calls which existed in the pre STD era were a wait and watch idea where one had to book and wait for the operator’s call.STD,even though expensive,was a sigh of relief.

The rates were expensive.Like most middle class families of those times,we made sure that we called after 8pm or 9pm whatever the peak hours were according to DOT.

Every second mattered when you made an STD call.More focus was on the duration of the call than what was spoken. (Which is unlike what happens today)

We even got a stop watch to accurately check the duration.Some houses had a telephone lock to prevented unauthrorised use of the phone.No, not the computerized number lock(which came later), a physical lock with a key to lock the “dial” or to cover and lock the push buttons.You can’t blame them.Phones were indeed a rare thing.Plus,tapping lines and calling from telephone poles were common.(May be the line man wanted to talk to his chettan in Saudi)

The telephone directory was the database of all respectable people in the town and was the easiest available database of denizens of a town. Mailers came home announcing the launch of a Silk Sari showroom in as far as Coimbatore or a Garden Vareli discount sale in Trivandrum. These things were common during those days.Telemarketing was not born.So the most popular cold calling method was mailing.Citibank,may be the only aggressive foreign bank in India then, used to send mailers on their credit cards.I still remember the cards that said valid in India and Nepal only.

It was common for the phone to be dead.The easiest way to troubleshoot was to short the wires that came into the phone or even try keeping the ends on your tongue. If you get a shock, all’s well in the line. The instrument is faulty.There was no other way to trouble shoot,unless of course you had a parallel phone. And having one without permission was a criminal offense by an archaic act of 1885. Later,like most others we too clandestinely kept a paralell phone.

Even during the push button era,the government offices and the state public library in Trivandrum still had the black bakelite phones.

Telephony in India grew leaps and bounds,thanks to Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda.The omnipresence of PCOs added fuel to this growth.The sector was thrown open to private players.

A device that is oft forgotten when we talk of our progress in telecom is the pager which was once a hit, albeit for a short time.

Then came the Brick sized cell phones which could easily disguise as a weapon for self defense.
Internet and VOIP happened.
In this day of skype,jaxtr,iPhone and twitter,when a new landline/mobile connection is an hour away, the memories of the dial phone evokes nostalgia.

After atleast 14 phones and 20 years later, I miss that red phone whenever I go back home.How I wish,we still had the good old dial phone at home. Listen to the old ring

Image credits: distinctivetelephones.com| antiquetelephones.abdyantiques.co.uk |old-phones.com| actw.nl/English/Old%20telephones.htm

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May 11, 2008   29 Comments

Presence in blessings only

The first time I saw Chi and Sow, it seemed like nothing more than funny 3 letter combinations.That was a Telugu Wedding card if I remember correctly.
Plus,the girl had Chi and Sow while the guy had only Chi before his name.Asking around I learnt that Chi was for Chiranjeevi and Sow was Sowbhagyavathi.
Chiranjeevi meant nothing more than Aswathama(the only Chiranjeevi I knew) and the Telugu actor Chiranjeevi to me then. Quite unfair that the groom did not have any prefix that was equivalent to Sow…why not Sowbhagyavaan?
(So Chiranjeevi’s wedding card would have had it as Chi.Chiranjeevi? :D)

Another peculiar thing I noticed in non Malayalee wedding cards was the yellow color on the corners.During those times, the most alien card I could have come across was a Tamil, Telugu or a Kannada wedding card. And on and off some of them had the yellow corners. Some even had red smears on them.The yellow was turmeric water smeared for purity,hygiene etc I understood later.

With or without the Chis,and Sows, the yellow smears, wedding cards caught my attention. Many a times, one could easily find a typo in a card.Thanks to the Printer’s Devils, the typos would sometimes be really funny something like “Presence in blessings only” and in some cases like this use of spell check worsened it.

Then there used to be some cards which almost had the visiting card details of the bride and the groom. Like working with Chi.Sow Amala (Software Engineer,Doubtsourcing Inc.,now on site in Minneapolis) or Chi.Srinivas (MBA-Random Institute of Management) or even worse Sow.Lavanya(MBBS-Pursuing 3rd year).

Mallu wedding cards thankfully don’t contain such details, may be they are too humble ;)

Coming to North Indian wedding cards, it has a part which Southies like me have no clue of.Since I am yet to attend one, I have no clue what Sangeet is.And half their cards’ space is taken by details of Sangeet.

With Indianisation-Globalisation happening these days, you get to see even Mallu wedding cards with a sketch of Baarat or Doli!!!.(When in school I used to wonder what baarat ? I could simply not relate to the meaning even when explained to me). Some even have the Sangeet clip art on it, beat that! Since it is the same card templates and clip arts that are used across India(or world),you would rarely see a Guruvayoorappan , Vilakk (Lamp) or Para these days on Mallu wedding cards .Its the cliched set of symbols like this.

Come what may,there is some unity in the text.Solicit,Esteemed,Gracious,Auspicious,Cordially-the set of words which are unavoidable in a wedding card.

First I thought it was some smart printer in India who came up with these 3 or so templates that later became popular. Invites are usually in third person and it would say Mrs and Mr.A cordially invite your esteemed presence with family on the occasion of the wedding of their son _____ and …. or cordially invite you and your family to grace the auspicious occasion of the marriage of their son ____..

May be some printer thought why their son’s wedding , it should be our son’s wedding and so we get occasional breaks from cards framed in third person.

Why do some cards invite us with family and friends? May be they are jus’ being extra nice .

The fact is that it has been like this for ages!! May be it is a remnant of the how the monks used to craft wedding invites during the Middle Ages.May be writing in third person was to bring in a formal touch to these cards.Many a times, the terms wedding and marriage are used interchangeably in the Indian context(cards)

Only very few people act like Grammar Nazis and do a thorough proof reading of the wedding invite(template) that a printer suggests. So,in most cases a mistake remains a mistake, and it continues until someone points it out to them.Only a small percentage of cards do actually come typo free, error free in grammar,punctuation etc.
Post Script: Why can’t weddings be sponsored?
Think about the number of foot falls, eyeballs.
Atleast 80-90% of the invitees would come for the event. Almost all will have a good look at the card.
What if there is an LCD screen at the venue that displays ads?

Some Creative inputs for this image TDP

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May 1, 2008   38 Comments