I’ve been having trouble with my ISP, BSNL. Due to a billing snafu, they cut me off on Friday and I only got my internet turned back on today. Now I could imagine Deutche Telekom doing something this stupid because they have shown me many reasons to. (For the record, I never had any complaints about Nynex when I lived in New York) What makes BSNL special is not just that they manage to screw up bills or mangle timing for turning things back on (both BSNL and T-Online are good about turning things off; it is the on switch that vexes them). At least T-Online works when it is “on”. With BSNL, actually being able to use the net is hit or miss at any given time. I usually have to click “reload” three or four times to get any page to load.
So I got fed up with BSNL and started shopping for a new ISP. Reliance seems to be popular with my neighbors and they tell me that it is more reliable than BSNL, so I’m going to give them a try. I called their call center to tell them that I want to switch to them. I was impressed by the call center woman I got.
Sir, I need to check what service availability is in your area. What city do you live in?
What state is that in?
This question floored me. Bangalore is one of India’s major cities. This is like telling someone that you are in New York City and having them ask you what state. Actually, I’d understand that better. If I was in New York and talking to someone in a call center, it would probably be in Bangalore and they could be forgiven for not knowing what state New York City is in.
I had an irresistible urge to say “Punjab”.
It was not in my best interest to allow the woman to get too confused.
Sir what is your PIN?
What in the blazes is a PIN? Is this some government issued ID number? Some special local code?
Ma’am, what is a PIN?
Your PIN Sir?
Ma’am, I don’t know what a PIN is, but I can give you my postal code
I need to know your PIN Sir.
That conversation went nowhere. She told me that they would be contacting me within a week. And for the record, a PIN is what they call a postal code in India.
I’ve been offline for the past five days due to a screwup at BSNL, my ISP. They have been interesting. The bombings kept everyone at home all weekend it seems. The newspaper even showed a photo of a “deserted” MG road that still had too many people for Daniela’s taste. It was however a fraction of the usual hordes. The kids can now find Gudjarat on the map. Newspapers talk incessantly of terrorists; what is wrong with the government’s attempts to root them out, how which groups work, the lucky and unlucky stories. There is even a wikipedia article on the Bangalore attacks, as well as the ones in Gujarat on Saturday.
I’m actually starting to get sick of terrorism. Honestly, I’m more interested in what they are doing about the electricity and diesel shortages in Karnataka. This part of India gets a big part of its power from hydroelectric dams. Until this week, the monsoon rains had more or less failed to make it over the mountains, meaning the reservoirs are low and power production is reduced. There are scheduled blackouts lasting several hours a day. This being India, people are prepared for public infrastructure to fail. Everyone and their pet monkey has a diesel powered backup generator. Palm meadows has kept our blackouts to a minimal duration, though even they seem to run out of fuel on longer outages (and always just 5 minutes longer than my inverter can hold out for). This sudden surge in home generated electricity also means a 50% spike in diesel usage; something that the gas companies have not been able to supply.
So we have a water shortage. Doe to the water shortage, we have an electricity shortage. Due to the electricity shortage, we have a diesel shortage. Most gas stations (called “bunks” here) have shortages. Those that have diesel develop long lines reminiscent of the 1973 oil embargo. My driver spent half a day last week finding fuel for our car.
I never dreamed that the amount of rainfall could affect my ability to get fuel.
Call me cynical, but I think that it is safe to say that more people have died in July due to food poisoning (that would not have otherwise happened if the power had not gone down for an extended time, making refrigeration unreliable) than terrorism. Tens of thousands die every year in India from bites of the common krait and russel’s viper. Terrorism kills a number in the low hundreds. People won’t go to MG road for fear of further attacks, but they’ll walk barefoot in the dark – risking snakebite – and the non vegetarian will risk e.coli tainted meat in an environment where refrigeration has become unreliable. People everywhere it seems worry most about what the newspapers are worrying about and energy shortages are last week’s news.
Ah and it finally started raining in earnest this week! FINALLY!!!