We came to Canada from India, before phones with call displays were common there. Before, actually, even regular landline phones were common there. These were the days when one had to sign up to get a landline and then wait – for years sometimes – to get a connection. Paying someone or using “influence” to push the file along, standing in long lines to persuade disinterested, bored looking officials how you desperately needed a phone, these were all common practices.
Even before this, of course, was the age of one phone in the neighbourhood. Kept in a pride of place in the living room, usually on a table with an embroidered table cloth, it could be the bane of the owner’s existence, because everyone would come in and ask to use it to make an urgent call. These were the days when people had to “book” long distance calls.
Anyone who had a relative working in the Middle East was likely to have the latest phones, ones that came with voice message recording capabilities.
This may sound like a story from ancient times, but really, it’s less than a quarter of a century ago and I share it to explain where it was that I was coming from, literally.
After we moved into our rental apartment, I called the phone company for a connection and was really pleasantly surprised to have one within 24 hours. Calls to India were super expensive back then, but we proudly called home to give everyone our new Canadian number.
A few months later, I called someone I’d spoken to only once or twice on the phone.
“Hi Sathish” he responded, pronouncing it more like Sat-eesh.
But I was astounded. How had he recognized my voice?
Then it happened several times. I began to be self-conscious about my accent thinking that was what was giving me away because it’s not like I have an Amitabh Bachchan voice that everyone would remember.
I didn’t even stop to think that most people did so even before I’d actually said a word.
Mystery solved when we went to get a new phone which offered call display!
– Sathish Reddy
What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.