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Urban Junkie

Friday, November 18, 2005

Not so easy after all

I have a mobile phone that doesn’t work in my bedroom. Or in the kitchen. It just about comes to life in the living room, but the only place it is truly happy and communicative is in the balcony.

This is the first time this has happened to me, in the 6 years that I have interacted with this otherwise wonderful invention. I have heard stories, sure – of phones that charged roaming rates beyond the 6th floor and which lost their signal completely beyond the 10th. Of phones that sulkily went dead if left alone on the table for a couple of hours. Recently I came across a story that made me feel immensely better about my own phone – of a colleague whose phone works only near a flower pot in his house. A finicky BSNL connection, with a refined sense of aesthetics. Calls home are thus prefaced with instructions to “Go to the flower pot and I’ll call back”.

Clearly, I have been particularly lucky with my cellular service providers thus far. I had a blissful time with Airtel in Bangalore and then an equally blissful one with Hutch in Delhi. I regarded as gross exaggerations all tales of woe told to me by friends, and until a few months ago did not fully understand the concept of a ‘call drop’. This time around in Bangalore, however, I seem to have made a mistake in opting for Hutch. (A choice driven, I must confess shamefacedly, by an addiction to their Tarot readings – which I subsequently discovered were not offered in Bangalore anyway. More cause for grief).

And so begins the journey to get a new mobile connection.

A while ago I had written this post about reveling in the convenience and smooth sailing that contemporary life in India seemed to offer. (No more queues at gas agencies, no more struggles to get a phone connection and so on.) Alas, I spoke in haste. The difference between smooth sailing and an obstacle course is how badly you are in need of something. They chase you with offers of loans when you don’t need the money; they chase you with free credit cards when you already have three. And they chase you with an Airtel connection only if you already have Hutch and are not looking to move.

But the act of applying for something – thereby revealing that you actually need it – seems to turn you into an apology for a human being. Not quite the scum of the earth, but just a couple of notches above that. Cellular service providers, at least, seem to be unable to intelligently differentiate between slippery delinquents who will not cough up their dues at the end of the month (not me) and morally upright, law abiding, bill-paying citizens (me, very firmly). The criteria for establishing such a difference do not help either. The concept of an address proof, for example. Is this the address on my passport? No, I’ve just moved into the house. Is it there on my driving license? No, I’ve just moved into the house. Do I have any registered mail delivered to this address? Any electricity bill? Phone bill? No, (patiently, but through increasingly gritted teeth) – I’ve just moved in. Yesterday. Oh well. Do I at least have the lease agreement? Er … no, again. It is in Mumbai, in the company’s name, not mine.

See the problem? No other option, then, but to do a physical verification – i.e. visit me and take a photograph of me inhabiting the house. And ask neighbours who I have not yet met to testify to the soundness of my upbringing. Between 9 AM and 6 PM on a working day, when I am least likely to be at home – which means, of course, that I do not live there after all.

Thus was acquired my Hutch connection. Now, of course, I am wiser. I will not call up Airtel. I will lie in wait for them to call me. I will sound reluctant and dismissive. After the third call I will be mildly interested but will audibly stifle a yawn.

I will wait for them to make me their most luscious offer. And then - grudgingly - allow myself to be persuaded.


  • LOL. But seriously, i know exactly what you mean. I have been a Hutch customer for the last 4 years and it still counts for nothing. And what is strange is their rationale for being difficult on the STD (and other 'value'-added services) front:

    "Madam, you are a high value customer (yippee)...so we cannot give you an STD connection without a deposit (huh?!!!!)"

    Will someone please explain this to me? Maybe in a different dimension, being a 'high value customer' is indeed being the scum of the earth.

    By Blogger Tara, at 11:15 PM, November 18, 2005  

  • "I will lie in wait for them to call me. I will sound reluctant and dismissive. After the third call I will be mildly interested but will audibly stifle a yawn. "

    Yes, yes, yes, the right way to go. Even after that, dont be surprised if they dont gt back to you with with what you need...

    By Blogger apu, at 8:19 AM, November 19, 2005  

  • They send u a message for caller tunes and u are charged for it (or atleast I am)
    My phone is more than just a phone...when am happy the phone battery charges by itself..and when am upset..it lets out a BEEP and show...NOT CHARGING>..
    Am tellin u...there are ppl out there who are watchin us...and they say...it's just a phone?

    By Blogger arvindiyer, at 11:41 PM, November 19, 2005  

  • Tarot readings! Er .. would you happen to know of a Dutch Hutch?

    By Blogger One in a Billion, at 11:02 AM, November 20, 2005  

  • ok, that was a great post...i haven't had any problems with Airtel in the past yr and a half, so i haven't any right to comment...but i know abt the applying thing...have been thru the wringer...

    By Blogger the Monk, at 12:32 AM, November 21, 2005  

  • hehe.. but you saw the airtel brand campaign?? they now say 'dil ki baat bata kar to dekho'.. :)
    but hey, i would be so happy if my house had 'not reachable' zones!!!

    By Blogger manuscrypts, at 4:09 AM, November 21, 2005  

  • tara: you're right ... when I'm asked by the sales rep what my usual monthly bill is, I'm not sure whether I want to inflate it (to make his eyes gleam with greed) or deflate it (to reassure him that should I abscond, the damage will be minimal). You just don't know what drives them.

    apu: you pessimist, you :(

    arvind: wow. who, may i ask, is this incredible service provider?

    the one: Ah, the Tarot is indeed a lure isn't it? So glad I'm not alone in this. Sadly though I don't know whether the Tarot exists outside of Delhi ... even if there was a Dutch Hutch

    the monk: thanks :)

    manuscrypts: in this case my retort to airtel will be 'dil ki baat samajh kar to dekho'. My lips are sealed!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 7:02 AM, November 21, 2005  

  • I can totally identify with cell provider woes. I have been stuck with airtel singtones which i dont want and there is absolutely no way of remvoing them. And am paying for it!! Basically because the Hello tunes IVR does not have anything for "removal/discontinue/whatever the heck its called"...and no service person picks even if u dial the wrong choice on the IVR. It has been designed to patiently start all over again after informing you that you made a wrong choice (grrr)!!!

    By Blogger Siri, at 1:00 AM, November 23, 2005  

  • I wrote on this subject recently, and chanced upon your blog through a comment on my post :


    Needless to say, I fully empathize with your Flower Pot experience!

    Interesting writings... Keep blogging...

    By Anonymous Naveen Bachwani, at 9:46 PM, November 23, 2005  

  • Siri: *shudder* ... that is a fate worse than mine

    Naveen: thanks for visiting - I went over and had a look at your post too, and can relate totally :)

    By Blogger Anjali, at 7:09 AM, November 25, 2005  

  • Was on the terrace just yesterday to check water (Delhi, you know) and of course, my phone enever fails to go off at that one spot - but only on the way down! The signal on the way up must be so totally different.

    By Blogger i wonder why, at 11:30 PM, January 16, 2006  

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