Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Break Time

I finally got what everyone said I was in for. After four months of defending and deflecting and rolling my eyes assuming that others were just weak, I got my comeuppance.

Yes, I have finally had my India breakdown.

I had heard from everyone that within a few weeks of living in India, I would have a nervous breakdown of some kind. I would get sick, and then things would take too long, and then people would cheat me, and then everything would break and suddenly I would just be consumed with a hatred for my new home. But it didn’t happen. I loved living in India and I found it rather humorous that other people had succumbed to their frustrations. It just takes a bit of patience, I always thought to myself.

I admit that we have had it pretty easy compared to most people who move here. Delayed shipments and apartment move-in dates can cause panic – ours were only delayed a week. Unsavory drivers or housekeepers can lead to multiple firings before finding someone reliable – we had no such experience. And every little thing (furniture, household items, internet, plumbing, electric work) takes longer and is harder than you ever imagined; but somehow we were able to get everything with always only a little headache.

So I guess in a country of Hindus, I was bound to get hit by karma eventually. After spending so much time assuming that I was just really good at handling everything India threw my way and keeping calm, I was in for it.

And it was the perfect storm.

Our internet, newly installed after months of agony, once again stopped working. The clutch on our car inexplicably broke, so we couldn’t drive anywhere. One last monsoon shower decided to grace us with its presence after weeks of retreat, and all the cushions on our outdoor furniture got soaked to the bone. A transcription service I was using for one of my video projects informed me that they just don’t do time codes (trust me, I know most of you won’t understand why, but this is incredibly frustrating). Five of our newly installed light bulbs decided to burst.

And now, this morning, there is some unannounced construction on our building and the pounding sounds are inescapable.

So, I broke down. I admit it. I curled up into a ball and just gave up for a little bit. And once you give up, everything you miss suddenly comes pouring out. I want milk that does not come from a box. I want people to not stare at me when I walk down the street just because I’m white. I want to drink a Starbucks chai (I know that one is ironic). I want easy public transportation. I want to not have to haggle over the smallest items. I want the time difference to not impede my relationships with friends and family.

I just let myself break down until I felt good and sorry for myself. It was a bit pathetic, but I needed it. I needed to just allow myself to be frustrated with India.

And after a little while, I got out of my ball. I stood up and made myself stop whining and I went back to attempting to be strong and patient and calm.

But I felt better. I guess I needed to admit to myself that its ok to sometimes be that Western person who gets frustrated being that fish out of water.

I am not from here. It’s a difficult place to live if you’re not accustomed to it. But I moved to India 115 days ago and for almost every one of those days I have loved being here.

So it’s ok to have not loved it today.

(*Note – I had 7 hours from when I wrote this until my internet started working again. And by now I’m ready to love India all over again – until I allow myself to be frustrated the next time)

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The Cheaters

Before I moved to India, I used to take for granted that internet was an ever-present being in my life. I could sit anywhere in my apartment and be enveloped with the wireless joy of reading or watching anything at any time. I just had to look up to the corner of my screen and make sure the bars were high enough to stay connected – and they always were.

Since I moved to India, I’ve had a new relationship with the internet. It has been one of bewilderment and frustration. It was as though I’d been broken up with silently, but I still held onto hope because he called occasionally. Yes, despite hours at a time of no connectivity and workmen who said they would come but never did, I clung on, hoping I could salvage my relationship with my internet company.

But earlier this week, I finally experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. My router, once again, turned from its friendly shade of green into a menacing orange – the internet was off. So I called my internet company contact.

“It’s not working again,” I said.
“Ma’am, did you turn the router on and off?”
“Yes, I always do.”
“Did you restart your computer?”
“Yes, I always do.”
“Are you really sure it’s not working?”
“Why would I be calling you if it was working?”
“I think it is working.”
“It isn’t”
“Are you sure?”

This conversation went on for some time. Finally he agreed to come and look at it. This was at 10:30am.

At 5pm he showed up. He didn’t apologize for the lateness. He tinkered and fiddled before finally declaring that the problem was our router.

“Our router?” I said
“Yes ma’am, it is not us. It is your router. It does not work properly.”

I didn’t really believe him. But what could I say? Maybe it was the router? So, like any woman attempting a last-ditch effort to make the relationship work, I tried to be agreeable. I hesitantly bought a new router.

And, as I had sadly suspected, it changed nothing. The router was just another ploy to string me along. I was fed up – so I decided to cheat on my internet company.

I couldn’t exactly tell them I wanted to change services before I’d found a new one, so I kept my mouth shut about the router and starting asking around. Who would be a better fit for me? I finally settled on a new company – they came to discuss the terms and I agreed to the fastest plan I could find. No more slow and unreliable! Blogs could be posted! Skype calls could be had! Time could be wasted on Facebook! I was ready to start over.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The guy came to install it and my doorman wouldn’t let him up on the roof without permission from the building owner. Then once we solved that problem they couldn’t get into the building across the street where they needed to run the cable from. I was foiled again. But I was assured that it could all be solved the next morning.

Finally the installation began. I sat in my apartment, using the last of my old internet connection while my new one sneakily began moving in upstairs. I was really looking forward to calling the old company and breaking up with them. But then, they gave me the final blow.

“Madam, you have to see this–” I was getting called outside by the man installing the new internet — “Look at this wire.” I looked. It was split in two. I didn’t really understand where he was going with this.

“What’s special about the wire?”
“Oh Madam, it is really terrible. They have been using your wire here to send your electricity to the next building.”
“What do you mean?”
“They cheat you! They been cheating you! They take your electricity for some bribe probably and give to someone else.”

Now I was angry. I picked up the phone and let it rip. They didn’t have to know that I was cheating and getting a new company behind their back – but I was sure as heck going to let them know I’d figured out that they were cheating me. I think the call ended with something along the lines of “Don’t ever contact me again.”

I hung up and felt vindicated. I was starting a new relationship with the internet and this time, it would be different.

It did take five more hours to make the new internet start working. And it may not be quite as fast as it was promised. But hey, they’re not siphoning off my electricity to the highest bidder. And for now, that’s a good start.

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One of the most interesting effects of the monsoon is how it can stop anything in an instant. And in a city as vibrant and full of life as Bombay, that truly is something.

Rickshaw in water

You can be driving along a road at a normal speed in normal traffic when suddenly the rain comes out of nowhere. It only takes a moment sometimes; clear-looking skies and dry weather are overtaken first by small drops, then persistent rain, then a heavy downpour, then rain so thick you can’t see your hand in front of you. And that whole shift can take place in a matter of seconds.

In that instant, the traffic snarls to a halt. Windshield wipers are practically useless in the deluge. Hazard lights are turned on just so that each car will know where the cars around them are basically located. A trip that could take 30 minutes suddenly takes two hours.

You can always spot a few victims once the rain lets up enough to let you see out. Usually in heavily flooded areas you’ll see abandoned rickshaws, not strong enough to get out of a flooded area.  Parts of roads will remain flooded for hours afterwards, since the water has nowhere to drain.

I’ve gotten sort of used to living this daily rainy existence – there’s never a full day respite, but some days aren’t so heavy or often it’s just a light drizzle. And I know what to expect once heavy rains start to fall.

But the one thing I can’t get used to is our internet connection.

Our high-tech cable running from our roof to our neighbor's roof

It was installed as soon as we moved in, and the process itself was humorous. A cable was run from a few buildings over – over and around and up the side of our apartment building the cable went. It’s not underground, it’s not through a wall, it’s just across some buildings and drilled neatly into our wall.  But it’s a cable and it seemed simple enough. We bought a wireless router and thought that that would be that.

However, nothing is so simple. It stops working at best for an hour a day. Sometimes, like now, it stops working for a few days at a time. And every time Daniel calls up the company they say “nothing works right in the monsoon.”  If the power goes out in one of the buildings along our one cable line, no one has internet (At least, this is what they say. I don’t know if I actually believe that this is the real reason).

Now, I understand why our cable dish doesn’t always work in the monsoon. We get a message on our tv saying something is wrong and I think of the small dish trying to get a signal through the deluge. But a cable? What could be so wrong with this cable every day? How can the monsoon be an excuse for constant failure of an entire product?

Our television during heavy monsoon...

Yet it’s everyone’s excuse here – our carpenter was late because of the monsoon (what exactly about the monsoon, we don’t know), people are always late to dinners and meetings because of the monsoon, our shipment was late, items can’t be delivered because of the monsoon. Doesn’t this happen every year? Don’t you think by now people could have figured out how to work around it? It’s a bad rain, but its just rain.   It apparently is also a great excuse.

So today I am only connected to the wider world via a wireless card Daniel can plug into his computer. It’s slow but it’s a useful backup – after all, there’s still another month of monsoon. Who knows when our internet will come back on again.

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