Friday, September 2, 2011

It is your lineman speaking sir!

One blistering summer afternoon, my sister received a call. The conversation was carried out in Hindi/Haryanvi.

"Hello is it the Bali's residence?" asked a voice with a heavy country bumpkin accent.
My sister, Anuradha Bali, replied "Yes it is. Who is speaking?".
"Can I speak to your daughter please?".
"Who is speaking?"
"I am your telephone lineman speaking. Please put your daughter on the line."
"What? Why do you want to speak to my daughter?"
"I want to talk to her, not you. Please give her the phone right now."
"Give her the phone? Why should I? Speak to me. Who the hell do you think you are? How dare you talk like this?"

Anyone familiar with Indian telephone linemen would understand why my sister was livid with this preposterous demand. Just then there was laughter on the other side and a familiar voice asked my sister to relax and chill. It was my brother Arun. He was up to his old telephone accent tricks.

Soon after that, I was holidaying at my mother's in Dharamshala. I had asked my team to contact me for any urgent work. My sister's teenage daughter (the same one who was the target of the lecherous fake linesman) also happened to be visiting. While I was sitting in the garden, the home phone rang and my niece picked it up.

"Helloow! May I speak to Puuuuja  please", said a voice in a heavy American drawl.
"Helloow! No sir, you may not speak to Puuuja please", replied my (by now) wise niece in a copycat American drawl.
"Is this Puuuuja An-aand's residence?"
"Arun mamu, cut it out. I know it's you."
There was a pause. "Sorry, this is Chris calling from Singapore. I am looking for Puuuja An-aand."
"Yes yes, I know who you are. Will you cut it out? You can't fool us anymore with your fake accents Arun mamu!"
"Err...I am calling from Knowledge Platform in Singapore. I was told this was Puuuja's number".

At this time, my niece realized that this was the real thing, not her uncle bluffing her. So, she ran to me and gave me the phone without a word. Unaware of what had happened, I talked to Chris normally, neither did he bring it up. I can only imagine what he must have thought though of my crazy family! I wonder if he caught on to the fact that Arun mamu referred to the serious Arun Anand that headed our India office!

Today, I received a call on my land line around the time I was expecting a call from my brother. The young man on the other side asked me about the problem I was facing with my Microsoft Windows computer. Since I had no such problem, I immediately went on high alert. Honestly, I spent the next 3-4 minutes on the phone just figuring out how Arun could put on that distinctly Bengali accent. So busy I was analyzing his voice and looking for that chink in his armor that I didn't really listen to what the guy was saying. Well, as it turned out, it was not Arun after all. It was some poor call center guy who got a very abrupt "I am busy, call later" response from me once I figured out I had NOT been fooled. I am sure I would have handled the call very differently had I not been so busy playing the voice detective.

The lesson here is that once you have a brother/uncle who fakes accents and fools you a few times (he once fooled me into thinking he was a reporter wanting to interview me just because I was the granddaughter-in-law of the famous cartoonist Shankar Pillai, which I was), you become slightly unstable, suspicious and dangerous on the phone.

Friends, please call the Anand/Bali family members at your own risk. Not only is there a crazy guy faking accents, there is a whole bunch of us paranoid freaks doubting every word you say! 


  1. Puuuja - simply brilliant:)
    Guess Mom needs to read it and comment before I go any further....I used to fool her colleagues too when I was 7yrs @ Moti Bagh(Swaran, Shipra, Rita, Indra and loads of other ((never Raj Gupta!))

  2. I remember Veermati. Poor woman called and the line was bad so you couldn't hear her but she could hear you loud and clear. She learned many hindi gaalis that day on the phone.

  3. Hahahahaha......and he has passed on his talent very well to his daughters. :D
    Love you both very much!!

  4. It was a cold rainy night in Dhatramshala and Atreya my grandson from Singapore, was visiting me along with his Masi Anu and cousins Ashu and Nishu. Suddenly our lights went off and the electricity complaint number was constantly sounding engaged.It was mighty frustrating as I suddenly realised that ours was the only house doused in darkness while the other flats were happily teasing us with their glowing lights.
    I am called to the phone by my grandson Atreya whose Hindi is a little wanting. . He says there is some line man on the phone.
    This line man says that he should be picked up from the shop across as he is having a cup of tea there and does not know which was our house. I and my daughter Anu quickly take our umbrellas and wear shoes to fetch this line man who seems to be new to this area. As we approached Amar's shop we try to locate the line man whose name was quite strange as pronounced by Atreya. Amar totally denies having given tea to any line man. We look quite foolish and return home. to another telephone call from the strange line man. He is sounding very annoyed and tells me he had to go back as no one came to fetch him in time.
    At this time my dear grandson realises that we have been all fooled by Arun. But the best part is that Atreya and Arun had together hatched this prank but when the actual call came Atreya had forgotten all about it and was the first person to be fooled . Such is this crazy family.

    1. This is too funny mommy! My bhola beta got pranked out by his own prank.