From Prepaid Calling Cards to Zoom Birthday Parties!

When we came to this country in 2005, smart phones weren’t trending, only a few video calling options were available and portable GPSs were expensive. Well, we didn’t even have car for the first 6 months so a GPS would have been useless; but that’s not the point. I still remember the first phones we got, a pair of blue and pink Moto Razrs (the flip phone was cool, but how much I hated that pink phone, only I know!). We used them for a few years before upgrading to smart phones.

Our modes of communication have changed drastically between 2005 and 2020. For the first six months or so, we had to use international calling cards to call our parents. They were annoyingly expensive and sometimes unreliable, for the number of minutes available. Eventually, we got a connection from a phone service called Vonage that offered unlimited calling at a fixed monthly price. It was definitely a major upgrade from the calling cards and has since made talking to our families so much more convenient. Apart from the phone calls, we used to have scheduled weekly Skype calls with each of our homes, the only chance we got to see each other. Unlike today, when at the spur of a moment we can pick up our phones and do a video call via Whats App. It is amazing how this messaging platform has revolutionized communication and brought generations closer. Almost everyone in our families has a smartphone and even if they do not use it for much else, they surely have Whats App.

Talking about smart phones, another thing that has developed exponentially are the navigation systems. When we first started driving here, we had to rely on Map Quest and Yahoo Maps. We didn’t have a printer at home and would either take printouts from his office or write down the directions to keep with us while driving on unknown terrain. Then we got ourselves a GPS, which was such a blessing because my sense of direction sucks and Mr. P is the typical guy who hates to ask for directions if lost. And it is definitely not that easy, here, to find someone on the street to stop and ask how to get to the closest Starbucks. Today, we have amazingly sophisticated phones with even more advanced navigation software such as Waze and Google Maps — gone are the days when we had to follow a GPS that said, “Turn left and left,” instead of saying make a U-turn.

“What are you doing on our terrain???”

Since I am on the topic of the latest navigation systems and maps, it would be unfair to not mention this episode from a couple of years ago. We were on a road trip in Utah and while driving from Bryce Canyon National Park to Arches National Park, we decided to take an alternate route through a portion of Arches called the Devil’s Garden. The name should have given us a hint, but no, we were oblivious to any such hints and decided to go off the highway in onto what soon turned into a rather muddy, treacherous terrain. It was about 4 in the evening when we started driving on it and we soon realized that though the map was leading us from one unpaved route to another, it wasn’t getting us any closer to our destination. And trust me when I say this, the entire route was untraversed and we only had the company of a few cows grazing on the way. They gave us a weird stare as though saying, “There go a couple of crazy adventure seekers…they know not what they are doing, Lord. Save them!” We kept at it a little longer and then the terrain changed from unpaved to rocky, uneven and wet. At some point, the bottom of the car was bumping on the path and it only worsened. That was when we started getting worried; it was almost sunset, there was no phone service and we were literally in the middle of nowhere. We turned around and headed back, racing against the sun, trying to get out of the Devil’s Garden before darkness fell. The cows were exactly where we had left them, still smirking at us as we made our way back to civilization, guided by technology and a full moon. Later, we came to know that only all wheel drive vehicles were allowed there and what were we driving? A regular sedan, of course!

Back in the civilized world, we have all been going through a global pandemic and one thing that has kept the world going is technology. People have been forced to stay home and even be separated from their families, especially those who were stranded abroad with no means of returning home. But what’s the saving grace? Technology and social media, which has helped us all stay in touch with our loved ones. One of the first major virtual get-togethers I participated in was an aunt’s 60th birthday celebration, where over a 100 people attended via Zoom from different parts of the world. The trend took off from there and soon we were doing group video calls to wish close family members on their birthdays and hosting virtual reunions with classmates mates, whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. Schools have opened virtually everywhere and even weddings can now be viewed ‘live’ from the comfort of our couches. Here’s a fun video made during this lockdown period.

The journey from unreliable prepaid calling cards to Zoom birthdays has been exciting and it looks like we will be in this realm for some time to come. So until we see each other at another virtual event, au revoir and have a good weekend!

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3 thoughts on “From Prepaid Calling Cards to Zoom Birthday Parties!

  1. “They gave us a weird stare as though saying, “There go a couple of crazy adventure seekers…they know not what they are doing, Lord. Save them!”
    😂😂 ROFL!! Enjoyed reading this piece.
    And 15 years sounds like two different Eras.. can’t believe how fast technology is advancing.. and many more to come. Today my DH and DS were discussing about VR (virtual reality) 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When the mobile phones had just come into India, they were huge. The Siemens ad with punch line, “One black coffee please” brought in the views of much smaller handsets. Somewhere in 2002, my office insisted on a few of us starting to use mobile phones. I showed strong disinterest to the MD, but was overruled. Finally I had to go and buy about six handsets, all Siemens small handsets. I considered a mobile phone as a leash by which the company management could reach you anywhere, any time.
    Much water has flown under the bridge beyond that. A smart phone has become an essential gadget, without which I feel insecure. I do use some of the applications, but still have a long way to optimise use. Camera, maps, Office, Banks accounts, Amazon, Whatsapp, Google Meet, Emails, etc are so useful on the phone, on the move.
    Of late, I am a bit weary about the Phishing calls and financial apps usage though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the devils route through Bryce to arches🤩🤩🤩we kept at it and took a road that wasn’t too bumpy but definitely rural and reached arches close to midnight. It was a drive that I would never forget🙄

    Liked by 1 person

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