The cell phone rang and blinked beside my pillow. I half woke up from my sleep and picked it up to read the message.
"Hi, this is Anti Sleeping Association. Our main motto is to disturb people when they are in deep sleep. Come join our club. Log on to www.anti-sleep-assn.com "
The sender was Spandana, one of the girls who had joined the company with me and was undergoing training in Chennai. We had come to know each other that very day. The time was four minutes past midnight. I was too sleepy to get irritated or amused. I put down the phone and went to back to sleep. When I woke up to drink water at three in the morning, I sent a “Good Morning” SMS to her before going to sleep again. This was just the beginning, for we had just learnt that text messaging was free in Chennai.
In the two months that followed, my cell phone (see photo) probably sent and received more messages than an average person’s cell phone does throughout its lifetime. Today the combined number of messages sent and received in my cell phone is almost touching 14000, and the bulk of this figure was reached in the two months I spent in Chennai. A day would not be complete without Good Morning and Good Night SMSs from my training friends. I, of course, returned the favour. Apart from this, the phone beeped numerous times throughout the day. This post is to remember those happy days of count-free SMSing.
When I started SMSing, there were three types of messages doing the rounds among our friends. The first was the normal personal message… like Spandana’s “Had dinner?” every night and “Had lunch?” every afternoon (even when we were sitting in the same room). This also includes the standard “I’m feeling sleepy” and “That guy is looking funny” kind of stuff that Uma and Spandana exchanged with me during the training sessions. This never worked with Sonali however, because her service provider and mine had some delivery problems, and as a result she received most messages several hours later. I, Amit, Naveen and Shreevallabh lived in the same locality and spent most of our time together. So we often used to ‘chat’ using SMSs. Probably by far the most common message was “Meet at the signal in ten mins” or something to that effect.
Naveen’s messages were special. He used the dictionary feature on his phone, but never stopped to see what he was typing, and sent the first words that the dictionary suggested. He also frequently misplaced spaces. So when a message came saying “ibm in cup”, we would have to understand that he meant “I am in bus”. Another classic was his “ankle at the jeans” sent to Shreevallabh. This one remained undeciphered until Naveen himself told us that it was meant to be “collect the jeans (from the ironer’s)”.
Then there was the second category of messages which were used as small greetings. Cute little poems, in Hindi, Urdu or English declared the sender’s friendship towards the receiver often in a funny way and wished him/her a Good night’s sleep or a wonderful day or Happy Janmashtami/Ganesh Chaturthi as the case may be. These were also the most boring messages, though they were the most in number. I don’t think I need to write further about these messages, for there was hardly anything personal about them.
The third category was pranks or jokes played on the unsuspecting receiver. Obviously I won’t be writing them down here, as I haven’t used them yet on all my friends who read this blog. But most striking among these was Nisha’s message “Everything between you and me is over…” that I have used to fool several of my friends till date. Swati actually messaged me back and asked me what’s wrong after I sent her that message.
I added a fourth category to these, namely “thought of the day” messages, or Quote SMSs. I used to look up good quotes by famous personalities and converted them into SMSs. Abhijit was another person who used to do this. The very first such message that I made by copying from an advertisement in a newspaper was:
The heights great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were climbing upwards in the night.
I remember I was overjoyed when I found this message doing the rounds a few days later.
Apart from the abovementioned people, others with whom messaging was memorable were Sushil (who always sent the most wonderful Urdu poems), Samiraj (he sent very few messages, but all he sent were good), Kapil, Om Prakash and Madhusudhan. Nishamathi was of course the queen of messaging. She was the first to discover that it was not “unlimited free SMSs” after all: there was a limit of 150 SMSs per day after which the network refused to send any more messages!
As I have written in another post, I have many memories associated with Chennai; some funny and some sad. Same applies to SMSing. I can never forget Tandav’s frantic SOS message one night “How can we get a rat out of a western style toilet?” to which Amit and I devilishly replied (in several installments) “Put a wooden plank into the toilet and let the rat climb onto it. If coefficient of friction between rat and plank is mu then the frictional force is given by (mu)M.g(cos theta) where theta = angle made by plank with the horizontal and M is the mass of the rat and g is acceleration due to gravity. To maximize friction minimize theta, i.e plank should be horizontal” Needless to say, Tandav never messaged me again that night. Another night when the fan in my room was kaput and the fuse in Spandana’s room had blown and mosquitoes were keeping both of us awake, we chatted on SMS from to in the night. We would have continued, but my battery chose that moment to get discharged. Due to heavy SMSing, my battery charge used to last only two days in Chennai, though on holidays I sometimes managed to discharge it in one day. I also received some wonderful ringtones from friends during this time. And I developed another hobby: creating picture messages with characters.
A sad memory associated with SMSs is of the night when I got the news of my uncle’s death. I was composing a Good Night message at the time. While trying to recover from the news, I was absent-mindedly playing around with my mobile and sent a message containing only “Good Night” to everyone. Archana and Sweta were two people who made fun of my SMSs everyday in the office, yet that night these two were the only people who messaged me back and asked what was wrong. And the next day in office, Tandav, Arpit, Praveen and Piyush decided to take revenge on me (for sending greeting SMSs daily) oblivious of the tragedy that had occurred in my family. They together sent a message about thirty times and I had to continuously and repeatedly delete it to keep my inbox from overflowing.
The habit was quite hard to get rid of even after I came to
And if any of my friends are reading this, and sulking that I don't message them as often as I should, I would like to say:
Har khushi me aapki baat karte hain,
Aap salamat rahein yahi fariyad karte hain,
Ab ek SMS se kya batayein...
Ki hum aapko kitna yaad karte hain!