ON THAT NOTE

Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

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Our colum­nist Suresh Menon got a taste of his own medicine re­cently when his mother made up the per­fect ex­cuse to avoid hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with him.

You know how it is. You are busy, but can’t ig­nore the call, you hope the caller keeps it short, and be­fore you have worked out all the choices you have picked up the phone and started speak­ing into it. But of course the hope for a short con­ver­sa­tion dis­ap­pears within the first 15 min­utes, and you can’t hang up in mid-flow. What do you do?

I have two tech­niques. One, re­peat ‘hello’, ‘hello’ a few times pre­tend­ing the line is faint or un­clear or dead and then hang up (if you can man­age a fluid curse un­der your breath, you would have added au­then­tic­ity to the process). This works well for me since I live just out­side the city and peo­ple who be­lieve the worst of our var­i­ous sys­tems don’t find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that the sig­nal is usu­ally non-ex­is­tent.

It is im­por­tant to vary this with Tech­nique 2 for greater re­al­ism. A sin­gle-ex­cuse call drop is like a sin­gle-source news­pa­per story. It doesn’t stand up well. Here, I pre­tend there is some­one at the door, and to add verisimil­i­tude, I even step out­side and ring the bell my­self, en­sur­ing the sound car­ries loud and clear to the ears of the caller. Of course, some counter this tac­tic by talk­ing on as if noth­ing has hap­pened, and then you might be forced to ring the bell with greater per­sis­tence and ur­gency.

The real ad­vance­ment – rather than let­ting us watch movies on our phones or try­ing to send a man to the moon from our back­yards with all the maths be­ing cal­cu­lated on it – would be if our cell phones au­to­mat­i­cally rang a door­bell a few min­utes into the con­ver­sa­tion, sav­ing us the trou­ble of hav­ing to do so.

Per­haps other sounds could be in­cor­po­rated too to get the caller off line. ‘I am at the air­port about to board a flight,’ you say, and the am­bi­ent noises of your av­er­age air­port fil­ter through to the caller while you are sit­ting at home wait­ing to con­tinue watch­ing the movie. Or you say, suit­ably shocked, ‘Gosh, was that an earth­quake?’, and the phone obliges with sounds of fam­ily pho­to­graphs fall­ing off the walls, break­fast dishes hit­ting the ground and a young man wear­ing a blue suit wail­ing some­where in the dis­tance. You get the idea.

This last I thought was a great idea, and de­cided to tell my mother about it. You know moth­ers, they can’t get enough of your voice on the phone. Af­ter the usual greet­ings, I told her, ‘Hey mamma, do you know I have this great idea you will love…’

And she said, ‘That’s won­der­ful, son. Just hang on, I think there’s some­one at the door…’

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