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   There was a time when having a telephone..... (April 18, 1996)

There was a time when having a telephone was a status symbol. Then the cordless put you one up on the others. Now it is the cellular.

People hang cellular phones from their belts as they once used to hang Rayban glasses, or they carry them prominently in their hands, arm a little extended, elbow bent, as they used it carry 555 tins, the flat 20s ones. They were all status symbols of their age.

I see more and more cellular phones around. Which is not good, because if there are too many of them than they will lose their value. Like the telephone. There was a time when the tenants of the entire Cusrow Baug, the Parsi colony on Colaba Causeway, had one telephone between them, and that was in the Swabal Store outside the colony. People used to request the proprietor to allow them to make their calls. They were not charged, because there were no call charges. Now, I am told, Mr. Marzban Patrawalla, one of the tenants, alone has five telephones, probably more.

The other day, I was sitting at a table at the Bombay Gymkhana. There were five persons and two of them had cellulars. They talked to each other through their respective instruments. For fun, of course. People who have cellular phones do nto worry about the astronomical call charges, both for making and receiving calls. It is only we who do not have cellulars who are unnecessarily concerned about the bills.

There was a time when having a radio or a cassette player in a car was a status symbol. Now it is the cellular or car phone. I am not quite sure whether they are one and the same thing, or different.

In the traffic, I find a lot of executive types talking on their cellulars, looking out of the window to see if sufficient number of people are watching them doing so. I am told they are in conversation with their various offices, starting their work even before they step into their offices. For them, time is money. I do not subscribe to that. Nobody can be that busy that he has to issue intructions from his car when in another five minutes he would be in the office. Also, a good executive manages to complete his work in his office, not carry it with him to his car and his home.

There are several types of cellulars. Some of them are so good that you may talk to Mumbai from an underground train in Tokyo. Others, if you move from Marine Drive to Marien Lines, you can't communicate. You have to come back to Marine Drive to do.

There are certain large hotels who do not allow the use of cellulars in their public rooms. It disturbs their other guests. That, I would say, is the ultimate status symbol for a hotel.

As for myself, I do not have a cellular. But, last evening, I received myfirst two calls made on cellulars. One was from Sterling Cinema, the other was from a car. However, I do not know if I can claim credit for them, both the calls were for the wife.

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