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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

A telephone that dials back in time

Arpit Basu  Kolkata, July 29, 2013
First Published: 13:41 IST(29/7/2013) | Last Updated: 13:45 IST(29/7/2013)

Pallav Mukherjee (55) simply can’t get enough of the rare piece of antique at his apartment in a posh New Alipore neighbourhood.

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Amidst a rash of modern day furniture and showpiece items in his lair, sits a telephone, which, though not in tune with the contemporary times, hardly appears a misfit.

The piece in question is far detached from the modern day versions with number buttons and neither holds any parallel with the black telephones with dials that once used to be popular across households in the nineties.

Mukherjee’s is a rare two-piece telephone with a separate ear piece to listen to the voice at the other end and a microphone to speak into.

The same is a departure from the modern day versions where the speaking and listening devices come attached.

The instrument, used in the film The Legend of Bhagat Singh, was a popular device during the British rule and was used to convey the message to send Singh to the gallows.

“This is an 1892 model, but works just fine. Whenever a call comes, its ring tone carries far and is clearly audible to any one sitting five buildings away from my place,” said Mukherjee, a public relations officer with South Eastern Railway.

The genesis of telephones in India could be traced way back to January 28, 1882, when Major E. Baring, a member of the then Governor General’s Council, announced opening of telephone exchanges in Kolkata, Chennai (then Madras) and Mumbai (then Bombay).

Named the Central Telephone Exchange, the city agency started operations on June 30, 1882 at the third floor of a building on 7, Council House Street.

“Purely going by the records on the origin of this device in the country, this has to be one of the oldest telephones in India. I bought mine from an auction house at Greater Kailash (New Delhi) in 2004 and the instrument came with a wooden telephone directory from 1882.

The telephone had been brought from England for a senior official of the British government based in Bombay,” Mukherjee said.


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