DippyBlogs (dippyblogs) wrote,

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The Black Book - where is it?

A decade ago mobile telephony was nascent. A very small cross section of people had cellular phones. But everyone had a 'black book'.
No, not the infamous Black Book which was not published in Britain, but the small diary which held the contact details of everyone you ever got contact details from. Called the 'black book' only be default, it used to come (and still does, I bet) in all shapes, sizes, colours and contact details columns. The one that resided near the home telephone was a grand creature, usually spiral bound with fancy covers. I remember ours, at one point of time looked like a normal book, with a thick cover sporting an in-built round telephone-like dial embossed into it, with alphabets instead of numbers. Dialling the alphabet opened the book automatically to the desired alphabet page. A red and a blue pen always resided beside the book.

A telephone diary with alphabetic sequencing, the black book necessitated you to carry a pen and doubled up as a place to jot down immediate notes in case of emergency. The 'birthday' option was not always helpful since it meant you looking at it at least once a month, but was definitely a first to keep track of some important dates.

My version was a slim, rectangular, chocolate-brown contraption with brass edges which I started using sometime in school - class 9 or so. Initially it was a token book - containing barely a few numbers and names - I had liked the diary and kept it. Then it was time for Class X. I had to leave school. Suddenly, the diary had a whole lot of entries under many more alphabets. The most details, however, remained with the scrapbooks and the likes - with quotes and details of 'friends'.
Though majority of the numbers remained unused, they remained on the book - I dint have the heart to cancel them out or copy out the used ones onto a new one. Slowly, over time new names kept getting added to it. By the time I finished my Class XII and moved to college, the diary had become an essential part of my bag. It had contact details of all people designated as important. Including the mailing address of some. Especially of my Class XII friends.

In college I carried the same book, by now not as shiny as it was, a thin but longish, palm sized alphabetical diary containing scribbles ranging from ink pens to ball point ones, handwriting varying from an immature scrawl to a slightly better version, and even caps at times. Some of the alphabets were close to their last pages. Most notably, the letters "s" and "r" and "a" had only half their capacity remaining. It was my first lesson as to how many of the people I know have names with these letters! (Stands true till date). I was still waiting for "q" and "z" to have an entry. And though I made half hearted efforts to weed out the unused/ expired numbers and make a copy on a new book, it never really happened. I, true to my nature, was too lazy to undertake a clean-up job.
Three years of college later, the book was an integral part of me. Never was it used as much as I did in those three years. Phone numbers and I were interwoven ferociously, which ensured that the notebook's edges were frayed, the brass a little twisted at points. Frequently I lamented the days when I had zealously written full addresses of my friends in an attempt to fill up space. Some lines had two entries in them, and some alphabets (yes, the S's and the R's) spilled on to the space of the next ones. "Q" had got its entry and so had "z". Unfortunately, I dont remember the names today.
I was busy in that period, so I justified no shifting from that book to a new one, but the fact was - it was now a part of me, and an evening out without it, carrying only my wallet was a little disconcerting at times. However, those were the days when I still memorised phone numbers. Rather, the frequent punching of them onto a telephone ensured they entered your subconscious and stayed lodged there - in the Long Term Memory slot.
During my MBA days too, the diary remained. And once or so every fortnight I would take it out at the phone booth. But it was now not so necessary except to note the details of friends not staying on-campus. But calling them was a rare occurrence - they were usually found lurking somewhere nearby in the end. The books use reduced to my week long vacations when I went back home to Calcutta, and found the time to meet old frnds.
Then I got my mobile phone. With its 'phone book'. It was inevitable, I had to sit down and copy all my numbers to the phone, and weed out the unnecessary ones. After I lost my numbers once from the phone, I took a backup on a new paperback diary, but never completed that list.
Over time I lost my brown much-used diary, but Im sure it lies somewhere. Now, all the requisite details are in electronic form. My phone houses numbers of people I dont remember. Some names are stored in codes as I moved from one basic phone to smarter phones. Some names have multi-zillion numbers as they took new details everytime they moved cities, or travelled. So when I dial a number after a long time I cannot remember which number to use and sometimes call four different numbers before pinpointing the correct one. Remembering phone numbers is out of the question.
I have backups in excel, on the internet and on my outlook address-book. They are constantly evolving and fluid, changing over a week or a month, and I never know which is the latest one, except the one on my phone.
The phone book is either a disaster or a life saver. It has all conceivable numbers - right from home delivery places to contacts barely ever called. And, the unavoidable, un-cleanable mess of expired data. Yes, Im still not an organised person when it comes to my phone book.
When I lost my phones a couple of months ago, I decided to clean up my data, and got it all together on an excel sheet. All that resulted in was transferring of those 400 odd numbers straight off to my new phone, with editing of numbers where only email addresses remained. Infact, I lost some of the numbers because of my zest in wanting to clean up. The urge to do so remains, but the enthusiasm is lacking.

As I grapple today with a missing phone (its got a problem and lying with the workshop), I miss a handy reference to phone numbers. All my numbers are on a memory card which I cannot use with the replacement phone, and my SIM card has a few bare details. I long for my black-book with its turned up alphabet pages, which I can look up while out on the road, walking, talking, travelling, and not necessarily in front of a computer screen. The phone book may have become second nature and very much "e", but without a requisite device, its unreachable. It is definitely self-organising in its own way, with unending pages, but sometimes I wonder if a limited number of pages is a blessing in disguise.

I think the black book will be back, in a smaller, shorter version, adding to the junk in my purse, but a requisite for the days when I lack my phone.

Tags: contemplating, memory, thinking

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