SURESH MENON

Our colum­nist has a spe­cial cor­ner – for his mo­bile phone.

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Most homes I know have a spe­cial cor­ner in a spe­cial room. Some­times it is a small prayer area, at other times it holds a desk with books or knick-knacks (keys, lip gloss, a re­ceipt from the oph­thal­mol­o­gist). Oc­ca­sion­ally, it is kept free and clean to an­chor a paint­ing or draw­ing above it.

We have a spe­cial cor­ner too – it’s for the mo­bile phone. It’s the only area in­doors where the sig­nal is so good that we can ac­tu­ally hear the voice on the other end of the line. The voice on the phone can hear us too. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a two-way street, and this is the only patch in the house where a phone call can be both made and re­ceived.

When the phone rings any­where else, one of us rushes to grab it while the other rushes with equal speed to the spe­cial cor­ner. That way we save time and en­sure that the caller doesn’t hang up think­ing we aren’t go­ing to re­spond. Some of the sharp replies from me can be put down to the fact that af­ter such ath­letic feats, the call is from some­one sell­ing in­sur­ance or land cov­eted by the rich and fa­mous.

It was a happy sys­tem, worked well enough and im­proved our phonecatch­ing skills as well as our fur­ni­tu­reav­oid­ing tech­niques while run­ning. Only once did I ac­tu­ally trip and fall, and the ‘Oww!’ with which I be­gan the con­ver­sa­tion was taken to mean just the sec­ond half of ‘hel­lowww’.

But now the cor­ner has turned a cor­ner, and we have to rush out­doors to get the sig­nal, en­quire af­ter peo­ple’s wel­fare and tell the plot-seller where he can keep his plot from pub­lic view. That, in near 40-de­gree tem­per­a­ture, is caus­ing friends to sur­mise that I’ve been to the Aus­tralian out­back for the sum­mer.

‘So how was Aus­tralia?’ they ask, point­ing to the manly tan I wear (not so much around a ear, though, which con­fuses ev­ery­body).

‘Still there,’ I an­swer ca­su­ally, like a politi­cian who nei­ther ac­knowl­edges nor de­nies a state­ment.

Friends who know of this tech­ni­cal prob­lem at home en­sure they call as of­ten as they can on any given day and imag­ine my run­ning out into the blaz­ing sun just to an­swer the phone.

I sus­pect this is hap­pen­ing to a lot of peo­ple in my city. I sus­pect too that fu­ture his­to­ri­ans will look at some grave­stones and won­der what epi­demic fi­nally got the lot of us. He an­swered the phone sounds like a eu­phemism.

Now we have to rush OUT­DOORS to get the SIG­NAL and en­quire af­ter peo­ple’s WEL­FARE, which, in near 40-de­gree TEM­PER­A­TURES, is caus­ing friends to SUR­MISE that I’ve been to the Aus­tralian OUT­BACK

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