With profound grief and sorrow we inform about the untimely demise of 2450944, our dear telephone (landline) of many years. One cannot even put an exact time or date as to when this venerable buzurg of our household took ill or expired.
You see 2450944 sahab was living a life of semi-retirement since years now that is since mobile telephony came into existence. There it lay on a table in the lobby resting with quiet dignity as it always had. We had always treated it with due reverence. If you had to make a phone call the dignified apparatus wouldn't come to you, you would go to it, stand respectfully and picking up the receiver in a proper manner dial the number. Not at all like these flashy undignified mobile phones that you don't mind dragging into the loo even! It's not surprising that many a mobile phone has died an ignominious death by drowning in the commode!
Nowadays it would be a pretty rare occasion when the dulcet notes of 2450944's bell would sound out to announce a call. Days would go by without anyone lifting the receiver and that's why nobody knew when 2450944 had fallen sick. Some three months back (or was it four?) I happened to be passing through the lobby and on a hunch picked up the phone receiver. As I placed it against my ear I could not hear the usual reassuring dial tone. I jiggled the hook-switch frantically but the dial tone did not appear. Instead there was this ominous hum and a crackling sound. A shriek rose in my throat. I tried to stifle it but a squeak nevertheless escaped my lips. Our day help who happened to be dusting things in the lobby looked up sharply. I silently handed the receiver to her. You see this old lady also doubles up as a Sraana garein (that is somebody who gives the ceremonial funeral bath to deceased females) and she has developed an uncanny instinct whereby she can smell out a house where somebody lies dying. Her visit is treated by the family as a signal that whosoever is ailing has few days left and they book her on the spot! Now as she listened on the receiver her eyes became wide and animated. "This sounds exactly like Qadir Dar's mother sounded last Friday when I went to see her!" she said.
My heart sank and I just managed to croak, "What happened to her?"
"She died of course…Sunday evening!" our day help said giving me a reproachful look for asking a superfluous question.
The oppressive feeling in my heart grew even more oppressive as I realised that being the first to discover 2450944's condition I would have to break the news to my other family members. I went into the sitting room where my parents were sitting and broke the news as gently as possible. They were stunned. Mom stopped in the midst of eating a piece of Tsot (traditional Kashmiri bread) which remained dangling from her mouth like an unlit cigar for a whole day till our neighbourhood aunty gently removed it from her mouth. Dad said in a hoarse voice, "For God's sake do something about it!"
That jerked me into action. I decided to ask the BSNL authorities for help. Now I had always been curious about what the letters BSNL stood for till a friend informed me that it means Be-Sharam Network Limited. In fact another friend said that there was no network-shetwork and the letters actually meant that it was just a Be-Sharam National Liability. I thought at that time that they must be joking but now I know for sure that they weren't! I realised another thing as well. BSNL has probably been turned into India's first no-human employee enterprise. It is now just a co-operative of telephones, automated answering machines and computers. My distress call was answered by an automated machine and after pushing many buttons as per instructions I received a sms that the complaint will be promptly looked into. A day later I received another sms saying that the issue had been resolved. I leapt to check up on 2450944 but it was still in coma. I repeatedly approached BSNL from other landlines, from my mobile phone, on the internet, but the results were the same every time. After three long months (or is it four!) I finally gave up. I convened a conference of family members and some near relatives and flatly told them that 2450944's is not likely to get restored and that it was time to pull out the cord. The female folk wailed. My father said in a broken voice, "What will you place on that table after removing 2450944?"
"A bowl of flowers," I said and the lump in my throat grew bigger.
"Be sure to get the best ones you can!" my father said between sobs.
So that was it! The line was pulled out on 2450944 and it now lies in state on the topmost shelf in our sitting room. Of course we are going to bury it one of these days. We will inform you about the funeral as well. I will try to contact a few TV networks and of course the press because it is going to be a Grand Funeral that should be seen or at least read about by everyone. That is the least we can do for our poor dear 2450944. I am trying to contact Modiji as well. I might persuade him to attend the funeral and do BSNL a long due honour on the occasion by announcing its conversion to NMDTMI i.e., National Museum of Dead Telephones and Monumental Inefficiency.
There is yet a poignant part to this obituary. The bills continue to come regularly. I pay up promptly and I always will. If only to keep the memory of our dear 2450944 alive!
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)