“Thank you, madam”, and the phone went dead. Thirteen, I counted mentally. This was the thirteenth time I was called “madam” (and also my fourteenth telephone call to an unknown person). Every one of my numerous and heartbreakingly piteous appeals to my father, the telephone department and the Heavens above to change either my voice or the telephone were in vain. Often I wondered if it could be an International Conspiracy to insult me. Madam, indeed! Let me call one of those sweet voiced females “Sir” even once, and they would choke me with my own windpipe. But I (my noble, peace-loving and holy self), would do nothing more than moan over every millisecond of it. But worse was to come!
“Hello, Subha. Sorry I couldn’t come to buy the saree yesterday. I was ….” the voice busily chattered. My aunt, of course! Who else would ever talk with such a high pitched squeak? After over four sentences and the loss of the purple colouration of my face, I interrupted “Just a minute. I’ll call Mother.” And thereupon would ensue an hour long discussion as to how closely my voice resembled my mother’s and sometimes (God forbid), my aunt’s.
Weeks of humiliation, I thought. Adolescent, young, proud, clever and humiliated. “When will my voice break?” I craved.
Two more weeks, and my excursion came along with our Yoga troupe. Fifteen wholesome days cut off from civilisation, cities, smoke, pollution, and most of all, telephones! I was jumping with joy if only for that.
Water. The most bitter thing on earth came upon me in the aforementioned form. No wonder I had a miserable sore throat. What a voice, I thought. Worse than my most squeaky tone, with a pint of vacuous hissing intangibly confusing every syllable emanating from me. That was for over a dozen days.
Fifteen days had passed, and I was going back home. My big surprise for our family was bursting with impatience. The instant I reached home, it rose to my tongue and poured out “Listen to my voice.” Not an iota of a squeak in those four words of mine. My voice had finally attained the dignity of a clever, proud, young adolescent. Henceforth I could actually pick up the phone with confidence, and without being mistaken for my mother, or any “madam” for that matter.
Golden days ahead, I stupidly thought.
“Good morning, Mr.Mani. In the plan that we discussed yesterday, the plinth elevation of the third floor….”
I’ll call Father,” I mumble.
So, now I have to receive every one of those respected “Namaskaram”s and “Good morning sir”s on behalf of my father.
What next? Worse perhaps?
Life’s like that!
Written in Oct 1992