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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

The Lost Species

Praveen Singh, Hindustan Times   October 04, 2012
First Published: 10:34 IST(4/10/2012) | Last Updated: 10:37 IST(4/10/2012)

The rapid growth of the gadget-oriented urban civilisation has often been accused of destroying many a species. The creatures on the brink of extinction may be the cynosure of a diehard environmentalist, but have you ever remembered the two species that ruled our entertainment and information technology, before becoming extinct.

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It appears to be a matter of just yesterday, when proximity to a deputy commissioner was overshadowed by the closeness to the men who managed the office and guarded the gates of the channels of entertainment. Yes, you guessed it right. The first of the species that got extinct are the gatekeepers of the now defunct dilapidated and only monumentally important movie theatres.

Who could forget a hysterical crowd yelling, screeching and vying for tickets on the release of a hit Hindi film, be it Kiran, Neelam or KC in Chandigarh or Phul and Malwa in Patiala. The charm of matinee shows, family shows or special screening of English films on Sunday, can never ever be replayed in the majestically built and vociferous environments of modern day theatres in malls.

The superstars in those days might have been receiving letters written in blood from their female fans, but it can be proved that diaries of all females in the town, had the office phone numbers of theatre managers inscribed on the very first page. The gatekeepers were seduced by the captivating smiles from the damsels who lost out on the managers.

The power of gatekeepers was amply demonstrated by the placement of extra chairs in the upper stall, even when their friends had the tickets for the lower one. The managers used to perform the vanishing trick better than any magician, once the movie had become a hit. The rumours of having seen the manager at the back of cinema canteen, used to empty the space in front of the gate, in a whiff.

The murderer of our second breed is the tiny shining box with a screen called mobile and its digital technology making STD and ISD calls easy and affordable. It has killed our old, inefficient, but faithful 'supervisor' entrusted with the task of connecting trunk calls.

The eternal wait of an ordinary booked call used to force us to convert that into an urgent one after realising that unison with God was a greater possibility than getting the call through. The ring of the telephone, whenever that happened, was like a dream come true.

The voice of the supervisor telling you of the matured call sounded sweeter than honey and precious than gold. Any proximity to the operators in the telephone exchange was used to display one's status in the friends' circle. People standing at counters of post offices for making trunk calls were like the barricades of the relay race. One's ability to jump the line and get the call by beating others was used to impress, entice and lure the otherwise ignoring and disdainfully oblivious girl classmates.

The modern day iphones or Galaxy sets may be the real objects of desire today but the analogue black telephone set with a circular dialling system carried the charm that was gauged in movies where a KN Singh or an Ajit called to threaten their target and then slap the receiver down on the cradle with the thundering effect that can only be recalled in the nostalgic frame of old times.

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