Voicemail and other cellphone woes

India has two kinds of people; those who understand how to handle voicemail and those who don’t. The vast majority, don’t. I know! I have voicemail setup on my cellphone and 80% of the times all I get is garbage when I dial in to check my voicemail.

Half the times, I hear static.

The other times…

“Hello, hello, hello….HELLO” and then the phone is cut.

“To Bhavin Bhavin sangtoy, pan kai bolat nahin (He keeps saying Bhavin, Bhavin, but nothing else…)

“Yeh kya system hai kuch samajtha nahin hai” (I don’t understand what system this is).

“Saala, apne aap ko samajhta kya hai” (What does he think of himself). This is usually (I think) when the person who is calling thinks he has already disconnected.

I would think that a voicemail is the simplest way of leaving a message. But apparently what may seem simple to me may not be so for many others. People like my wife, who don’t check their voicemails for days on end, are partly to blame and I also know friends who just can’t bring themselves to speak to empty air or to a machine and therefore hang up. And the rest probably just don’t understand what this is all about!

I am often at my wit’s ends!

To make sure that I don’t go mad with phone calls, SMSes, etc, I prioritize. I don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers (I have talked about this before and I know that many of you just don’t agree). Whenever I am with someone, or in a meeting or during dinnertime or when running or after 9.30PM, I don’t pick up the phone as well. And yet because of the demands of my work and as a matter of basic courtesy, I make it a point to respond to all calls and SMSes that I get!

SMSes are simple. Even if you don’t know who is texting you, you can reply back, without significant downtime. But with calls…each time an unknown caller does not leave voicemail, the effort involved in trying to find out who that person is becomes quite significant.

I have had this argument with a few friends as well and many of them genuinely don’t like to leave voicemails. Fair enough! And in any case if I know who has called, it doesn’t matter – I can text or call back! But in today’s day and age, people calling for the first time should not take it for granted that their calls will be answered…if they can’t leave a voicemail, they should at least then send an SMS to say who they are and what they want.

When we had only landlines, the world was different. All calls had to be answered, because you never knew who was calling and how important or not the call was. Voicemail and caller ID systems for landlines never did catch on in our country and people usually didn’t call at unearthly hours unless it was urgent. Today, too many people expect you to be available at all times because you have a cellphone. And while you can be a hermit and not carry a cellphone, I would rather use technology to beat technology and still have a life! Voicemails and SMSes allow us to better handle our time as compared to picking up the phone each time it rings.

A friend of mine who uses voicemail has this message for callers…“You know what to do!” And then comes the beep for leaving the voice message! Cool!


  • RAVI GADIYAR wrote:


    Short Message Service !!!! apt for this saturday’s article.

  • That’s why I’ve not activated voicemail. If i recognise the missed call number, i return the call.otherwise, if it’s important for the caller, he’ll call back at a more decent hour!

  • ravi ramakantan wrote:

    Bhavin, WHY, but, WHY do you have to live life in 10th. gear.. when you are as ‘old’ as you are that you have no time to Stand and .. 🙂
    What can one be so busy about life that even these things get irritating…

    BTW, “You have reached … the voice mail… of …Dr. …….. Bhavin .. Jankharia….. is 30 secs too long…..May be you should have it at leaast 4 languages.. Tamil included 🙂

  • If someone calls and does not leave a voicemail, I don’t believe one needs to try and track down and return the call. Just forgetaboutit! Following that rule alone may decrease your stress significantly. The caller should not have any call-back expectation in any case.

  • I agree voice­mail is the sim­plest way of leav­ing a mes­sage but I can not force other caller/people to agree it
    example is your own experience most of people are still layman to voicemail services.

    Mobile companies not advertised/marketed Voicemail Services that can be one reason of unawareness about Voicemail services, if they do so then it can affect their profit as most of people will start using Voicemail and it will reduce calling time/revenue 🙂

  • I share your thoughts on this…
    i think this concept has to yet catch on in India. I have relatives who know they have to leave a message and finish speaking before the beep. so all i can hear is “Aiy” which is the later half of bye..

    The other group of people are those who i know how to use a voicemail, but are very arrogant as to why should i state why i called, let them call back and find out..

    And one more… They keep holding the phone for sometime without leaving any message, hoping you will pick up.. and you get a whole big long message with all mixed up gargle talk in the background…
    followed by sounds of munching, walking, a thud followed by more scrapping noises…

    fun isn’t it….

  • I dont have a voice mail so am saved. Concept of Short message is simply not there.
    But it will catch on just as sms has

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ravi…I will shorten the voicemail and have it only in Tamil.
    Atul…the problem is the patients who don’t necessarily understand English or how to use voicemail and who have called my number for an appt because the referring doc has given only my cell number.
    Neelam…the last one can be quite funny and you can often catch bits of weird conversation in the background.

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