The telephone directory or ‘book’ as the Americans would say it, is an extinct item that many of you would never have seen in real life. It may still be familiar to some, as it features often in movies and thrillers of yesteryear. You landed in a new town, had time on your hands, remembered an old colleague/college mate/distant relative was from the town, picked up the directory and hey presto found the name! And often the sleuth, tracing a crook would track down all those with the suspected name!
In India, the telephone directory/book was never a big thing, even in the days of the land lines. For one, it was printed infrequently and since people moved and numbers changed with location, it was often outdated. But in spite of that, it had its own role and has come to my aid in times gone by! On a recent official visit to Hyderabad, I was staying at Gachibowli and the program was not very tight. With some free time on my hands, I remembered that an old friend who lived in this area.
Nagaiah and I had spent two years together as post-docs in USA, living in the same apartment complex. Since I was alone there, and did not have a car for the first year, I was always remembered for grocery outings, and if I could not get out of the lab, my grocery orders were taken. This was a lifeline, as we lived at a location, from where the nearest grocery store was 5-6 miles away – and everything including milk had to be bought at the store. In those days, the only thing home delivered was the morning paper. And the times that they had me over for dinner are innumerable.
He returned to India a few years after me, and joined a job in R&D of a veterinary vaccine company. In those slow mail days, we exchanged the occasional letter and Diwali and New Year cards, thus keeping track of our progress though life. I remember visiting him sometime in the late 80s, when his daughter was small. I learnt sporadically of his daughter growing up, her marriage and other events in his life. I also know that he built a house in the Gacchibowli area and hence my remembering him.
And then letters died out, greeting cards went out of fashion and I supposed we also moved onto Emails. But I could not retrieve an ID for him from my gmail (maybe lost in earlier pre-gmail accounts) and I had no phone in my current list of contacts. So, I sent a message via LinkdIn, where I found his name. But did not expect a response in the 24hrs or so I was there. And then I really missed the ‘telephone directory’ – which not only gave number but also the address of the listed persons. Now, we have to produce photo IDs and address proofs for everything, and every single detail of my life can be accessed by those with the inclination – but there is no public resource which will connect me to an old friend.
PS: Its more than 10days since I posted a message on LinkdIn and have had no response. Shall hunt for old physical address books and see if I can get the address. If I do I will send a Diwali card and can you imagine what kind of surprise that would be!