During a Skype talk a few weeks back with little grandson in USA, he asked me " why don't you come out of the phone and stay with us in our house....?" . My daughter answered " no.... no.... We can only see and talk to him. He is far away in India...."
" Is it like a TV”...he asked, to which she nodded positively.
What a great revolution , I thought. I still recollect the days when I went to the Telegraph office in front of the Secretariat in Trivandrum to book a phone call and talk to my brother in Bombay. Initially one had to stand in the queue with an application form with the number and place to be called along with the name of PP ( particular person) if any. Advance amount was also collected. And the long wait started.
Depending upon one's luck, the name would be called out with a direction to enter a cubicle where the black telephone would be kept on a small desk. As the receiver was lifted up and "Hallaooo Hallaooo " started, the lady operator once again confirmed the person talking and then ordered for the talk to commence as if starting a 200 meter race by gun shots in the air....I used to carry small piece of paper with the gist of topics to be talked like welfare on either side , parents' recent visit to doctor, receipt of postal money order sent by him, meeting his friend in the college etc etc. Even before the three minutes dead line, the operator intervened to forewarn.......Then it would be my turn to plead for extension that too at least three four times which would be permitted as per the will and pleasure of the operator......! At last when I came back after finishing the so called " trunk call " or " lightning call " for three or six minutes, I would remember something special told by Amma which I missed out to convey. Thinking about the plausible excuse to tell her I pedalled back home to come back again for an action replay after a week or so depending on the need.....!
Another scenario was a very secretive and vicious operation. Late in the night , I waited at the neighbour's house. The aunty confirmed it's his night duty that night. The wait continued. After half an hour the phone rang. The aunty lifted the line, exchanged pleasantaries with the caller and introduced me to him as a very helpful neighbor and the urgency in talking. Once the connection was established, there was no strict time limit. I could talk for longer duration....But somewhere in the corner of my mind I had the guilt of stealing something. Also I was conscious of the fact that what I talked was being heard by a third person and closed watched by the aunty......? If someone has guessed that it was a favour illegally passed on by a telcom employee working in the telephone exchange, it is absolutely correct. I could later understand that the aunty in the neighborhood passed on costly presents to him as a quid pro quo arrangement. Later on I also had to contribute towards the cost of those giveaways.....!
In the latter half of 20th century, the cinema was the most inexpensive and easily accessible entertainment medium. The lazy hours of my teens and early twenties were spent in cinema theatres viewing all types of movies from serious numbers of Adoor and Ray to hilarious ones of Nagesh and Chaplin through epics of Neela and Udaya productions. But at this juncture I can't but think of the Vittala Acharya movies for one reason. As in the mother of all stories Ramayana, the villain would have kept the lady love of the hero in captivity. The hero would be reaching the hideout after overcoming a series of obstacles. The villain with his left hand fondling his thick black moustache, touched a globe like thing with his right hand ......and .... the live coverage of the hero's movements appeared like a live telecast in the globe.......! Normally the hero would be on horseback galloping towards the hideout, the entrance of which the villain could lay a trap to foil his easy entry. This fantasy is today a reality. Hats off to the premonition Vittala Acharya who had seen the shape of things to come in the following century......in real terms.....! My daughter is able to watch the happenings within the Day care of her son for a fair sum of extra dollars. She starts the rice cooker at home before leaving the office desk. On a hot sunny day, she starts the air conditioner in her living room while driving back from work....!
The other day I read that remotely controlled medical interventions are now made possible. The patient and the team of doctors could be miles apart. But the surgery can now been performed through telepresence. With modifications such technologies could be deployed for other applications too....It could be fondling one's heartthrob from a remote place or singing a lullaby and patting the back of the lil one from the work site.
Last Saturday, when I again talked to my grandson I asked " shall pinch you for being naughty.....? " , he retorted " you can't pinch me through the cell phone..." But I am confident that the time is too far when I would be able to tickle my grandson through telerobotics on real time basis sitting in Trivandrum.......!