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Caught in the Net for one long week

Three hours passed with a series of disconnect, redial, and change of the receiver from the left ear to the right and back… An occasional relief was an abrupt two-minute silence, probably a mark of respect to the net connectivity that died last night!

As a Net savvy computerate, I had signed up for the BSNL Broadband Internet. On a lethargic Sunday morning (not that I am active on weekdays, having hung up my boots years ago), I found the Internet was not waking up. Remembering my professional days of pat-push-pull techniques adopted in persuading dissenting subordinates, I applied it to the cable route. However, I had to be content with the path getting cleansed, a feat not attempted for months!

Overcoming a mental block in calling BSNL helpline, particularly on Sunday, I dialled 1504. I got elated at the pre-recorded “Namaskar,” appreciating my patience while their executives were busy attending to others. I felt happy that they would attend to me shortly. But after a long wait, I couldn't help wondering if the authorities were so dedicated to addressing the minutest woes or it was due to a dense traffic of hapless customers. Hindi film songs of 1960s which played as I was put on hold did make me nostalgic to conclude that, the call was worth it. I was interrupted at five minute-intervals, with more appreciation of my patience followed by a listing of the range of services they provide. Three hours passed with a series of disconnect, redial, and change of the receiver from the left ear to the right and back, till I became familiar with the song sequences. My experience of viewing the same commercial repeated throughout a Test match proved handy. An occasional relief was an abrupt two-minute silence, probably a mark of respect to the Net connectivity that died last night! Decades of work exposure had moulded me to be composed, yet persistent to keep trying till 8.30 p.m., when I was about to give up with a yell, “And we maintain consistent disservice” in the recorded message. At last, a male voice responded, causing a momentary fright, after 7-8 hours of my listening to the recorded drone. In one breath, I provided the details and declared authoritatively, “modem dead,” giving no opportunity for online instructions or preaching and I followed it with a confirmatory SMS.

I answered with some trepidation a Monday morning call on my mobile, displaying “Anonymous,” the terminology often associated with bombs. Caller from BSNL! Alas, my joy was transient. It was their broadband promotional call.

Two days later, after a representation to higher-ups, an executive talked to me and concluded that it is line failure. I reminded her with all humility that she was talking to me on the same line!

Calls were received frequently over the next two days, all starting with problem enquiry & ending with “will check,” quite similar to condolence enquiries wherein conversations begin with what happened and the bereaved man recites the same thing from hospitalisation to death, sequentially.

Finally, on Friday afternoon, an engineer arrives. Glancing at the wiring (done during BSNL installation), he declared, “Too lengthy, modem won't function,” and recommended changes. My plea that the same length, route, and modem were in operation for months elicited a quip: “Lucky.” After persuasion, he checked the line with a modem he brought and declared that the line is indeed all right; it's modem failure! I was directed to collect a replacement from their office the next day. The disbelief cast in me and expressed in a hushed tone, “Second Saturday,” was dispelled with the retaliation, “WE WORK”!

I carried the errant modem, including the mutilated carton, only to face a closed gate. I squeezed through a side entrance only to be accosted by a burly securityman, who shouted, HOLIDAY, and almost necked me out. On my proclamation, with the modem held aloft, “Asked to collect replacement TODAY,” he pointed to a person with one foot on the road. I rushed towards him before his other foot and body vanished. He gestured abstractly, waving his forefinger. Frankly, I couldn't decipher it but I filed past the security, enacting the same gesture, with my fingers pointed towards the area of the disappeared man.

Finally, wading through many human hurdles, I collected the replacement and strolled out unnoticed, while securitymen were engrossed in deep discussions from Obama to Osama. In retrospect, could I have smuggled out other equipment?

Back home, fearing a repeat experience, I configured the modem myself. Against the backdrop of Sare Jahan Se Acha tune, an ad, “Incredible India,” caught my attention. I like to think of myself as a patriot with some faith in “the system.”

But I couldn't forget an incident of reporting Internet failure to a private operator on a Saturday evening, which was restored on Sunday. Will we have an Incredible BSNL some day?

(The writer's email is: r.ramani470@gmail.com)

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 1:53:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Caught-in-the-Net-for-one-long-week/article15789573.ece

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