Today I received a call at 4:00 AM in the morning from a friend who is not familiar with the time difference with India. Many people are not sure if India see the sunlight first or Europe.
I dialed back to talk to her and the way I talked it was obvious that I had just woken up. She asked me “Were you sleeping?”
And instinctively I replied “No Yaar! Tumhare phone ka intezar kar raha tha.” (No, I was waiting for your phone)
I have always given that answer when woken up by a phone ring in the middle of the night. Not long ago while working in Mumbai, we use to do numerous night shifts. We had a 24*7 Support where someone or the other would be present in the office. Our department did not have lock on the door for a long time but it changed after there was a theft in the room.
Coming back, the second shift person would hand over the responsibility to the third shift person. Handling over the responsibilities was kind of a procedure in itself. A shift report was written and signed by all the people in the shift with a neat column about ‘things to do’. After the second shift person reached home after a long grueling day, when the whole world was already dreaming their second or even third dream, when TV Channels were showing the re-runs of all serials, when the cockroaches were out on their nocturnal hunting expedition, the phone would ring and the person at the other end would ask the most obvious question;
“So raha tha kya?” (were you sleeping?)
My colleague, Sameer who is now working in US now and who is originally from Delhi always use to phone me when he did the graveyard shift. Most of the time, the call was to understand the “to do” work I had clearly stated in the shift report but then he would call up many times just to talk about his life in Mumbai, his home-sickness, the presence and absence of love in his life and what not. Imagining listening to such crap at 1:00 AM.
Sameer called me the most but there were other colleagues who also called. Working together for 12-14 hours, I wouldn’t call them colleagues, they were friends, my co-sufferers as we would like to call ourselves.
In the day time, it was always work but night shift was a bit laid back. The pace of work was slow. There were hardly any people in the office and calls at this time when we exchanged notes about the days and the current politics in the office. This was the time when a so-called non-existing personal life was discussed.
These were the days when most of my colleague did not have a mobile. So calling up their home was a natural choice. My friend V who worked the whole day with a dedication seen rarely among people would be really frustrated by the end of the day. Inspite of his frustration, his efficiency did not decrease at all. But he did not head for home directly and after office would be found with his friends. It was difficult to judge when to call him even for official matters because it was difficult to predict the time he will be home. So when I called him a couple of times, his mother woke up and patiently said;
“Beta! Tum toh jaante ho ki woh time par kabhi aata nahi.” (You know he does not come on time)
It was really embarrassing to call him and we stopped calling him after sometime until he got a mobile for himself.
Receiving a phone call also brings the fear of bad news. It may not be bad news everytime but when the phone rings in the night, your mind has thought of a thousand bad news by the time you pick up the phone. A late night telephone in our house wakes the whole house. Everybody is just looking at the person who picks the call and try to analyze the gravity of the situation. When I started receiving calls from office, my folks were not too happy. However as time passed, they got used to it.
I have warmed up to midnight calls because you never know why the other person had called so late in the night. How many times he/she must have thought before picking up that phone and instead of just shouting at the person, it’s a better choice to smile and say
“No Yaar! Not sleeping! Just waiting for your call”