For the past several days I’ve been enjoying some peace and quiet because our landline wasn’t working. My mobile phone doesn’t get a proper signal largely because I was one of the active activists protesting against the mobile towers that had shot up faster than the first monsoon shoots peeking from the pavement. So I was quite happy to be incommunicado and was willing to let a dead phone lie. But there are times when you need to be contactable or at least be able to contact someone which is why I had to make a complaint to the MTNL informing them that my phone needed fixing.
Since the advent of mobile phones, our telephone land lines have been surprisingly well behaved, so much so that I had quite forgotten the number to call for telephone complaints. I searched through our really old and fossilised telephone directory ( it hasn’t been updated for almost a decade) and found that I still had to call 198 for making complaints. After pressing 3 for information in English, I had to dial in the faulty telephone number without disconnecting the phone. Once the telephone number was verified I was given a docket number and that was it.
For two days, however, there was absolutely no sign of anyone from the MTNL so I assumed that the fault was being repaired at the exchange and was therefore surprised when Tweedledum and Tweedledee appeared at three in the afternoon. When the bell rang, I was busy on the other phone and had absolutely no clue who Bayda was staring at so intently till finally I couldn’t resist, stopped my call and asked her who it was at the door.
Now Bayda has the knack of disturbing me when I am doing something really important to tell me about something totally inconsequential so I was quite annoyed that she didn’t disturb me while I was on a rather inconsequential phone call to tell me about the important arrival of the telephone repairers. But I managed to keep my temper in check and went to see for myself what was going on. There they were, two employees from the MTNL.
Me : So what’s the matter?
Tweedledum : Your phone is not working.
Me : I know that. That’s why I called you.
Tweedledee who was clinging to the wall and twisting some wires overhead : The phone line is working upto here. It doesn’t work upto your phone.
Me : I know that. That’s why I called you. So what are you going to do?
Tweedledum : Nothing.
Me totally amazed at this brazen acknowledgement of ineptitude : What do you mean nothing?
Tweedledum and Tweedledee : Well, we can’t fix the fault. We can just identify it.
Me : But what do you expect me to do?
Tweedledum : You are supposed to fix it.
Me : ME? How can I?
Tweedledum : I don’t know that. I only know that you are supposed to fix it. It only works upto here outside your house. It is not working inside your house so you have to fix it.
Me: Are you crazy? How can I fix it? I don’t even know from where to get the wire?
Tweedledum condescendingly : Ok I’ll have a look.
He enters the house and asks me not to move anything including the desk behind which the telephone connection is hidden.
Me : Then how do you expect to find the fault?
Tweedledee, luckily acknowledging that he doesn’t have X Ray vision : Oh! So that’s where the wire goes?!
Me : Yes.
After I move the desk, Tweedledee tells Tweedledum : The wire goes outside the house . Can you see from the window where the wire goes?
The window cannot be opened since it is boarded up as our building is being repaired from the outside. So I called him to the balcony to see if he could trace the wire from there.
Tweedledum has one look at the wiring and points it out to me : See that’s where the wire goes.
Me : Of course I know that. That’s what I’m trying to tell you that the wire comes in from the outside.
Tweedledum wiping the sweat off his face : Ok I’ll step out and see what the matter is.
Now I live on the 23rd floor and notwithstanding the scaffolding, I didn’t think it a good idea to step out and see what was happening. Somehow I managed to restrain him from stepping out and I think he was so relieved that that he told Tweedledee to pull in the wire and find out the fault.
Five minutes later Tweedledee shows me 20 feet of wire : See this is where the fault is.
I could see nothing but nod sagely.
Tweedledee fixes the wire and puts back the phone: It’s working he tells me .