26 September 2007


Our state was exactly like that of a fish out of water on the day we were cut off from the World Wide Web. Being married to a fighter pilot meant living in remote areas of India. Places where even a journey by air involved 2 or three flight changes, clear and instant STD connections were something to rejoice, newspapers delivered to us were anywhere between 1-3 days old (you see it depended on the arrival of the flights) and so on and so forth. However we happily accepted all these and even more difficulties without any cribs.

After settling down in Pune and we have voraciously accepted all that modern technology and economic progress has to offer. I am referring to malls, mobile phones, multiplexes, specialty food hotels and most of all, the Internet. Merely having a fast processor and a 80GB hard disk was not enough any more. We wanted always on, fast and cheap connections to the cyber world. This magical tool has a tremendous control on our lives.

We had made the transition from dial up to broadband connectivity and were satisfied with the new offering. Disaster struck on Thursday afternoon when my husband was unable to connect to the cyber world. Now this does happen once in a while and he dismissed it as such preferring to enjoy his restorative afternoon cuppa listening to music. Another attempt half an hour later gave similar results. There was some restlessness but we were in a generous mood and were hopeful of the problem sorting itself out. He caught up with his afternoon sleep, a time usually taken up with watching stock market closing, reading various news, message boards, and tracking various interests, all on the Internet of course. Sleep seemed such a waste of time when there was so much to learn.

By 5. 30 PM, we still remained cut off. Now I too had joined the worry group since it was my time on the computer. I usually checked my mail, browsed through health and sci-fi pages of my favourite news channel website and chatted with relatives abroad. We had yet to graduate to the web cam but it was high on our list of wants!! We had already made a couple of complaints to customer care. Just then it began to rain.

We rationalized by saying the water must have got into the cables somewhere. There was no reason for rain in November and we blamed just about every body for it- the polluted environment, global warming, the PMC even the chief minister!! To top it all, the lights went off. I was actually glad, since now we could not use the PC anyway. These made us even more restless since we could neither read or write now. (You see we have not installed an inverter in memory of our stay in Assam where we have lived without power for 3 days at a stretch.)

Instead we decided to go out for a drive. The traffic was more than usually undisciplined since the signals were not functioning! Just reemphasized my husband’s arguments for a SOHO (small office, home office). We returned by 10 PM. Luckily power supply was restored and we made a beeline for the PC. Still no luck.

Something was really wrong. My husband wrote down his blog posts and read up a book he had downloaded from the net on the comp. I used the time to read “The Google Story” by David Vise. Some more calls to customer care gave us the standard call center replies, which was very frustrating. We caught up with televisions soaps, which was staple viewing not too long ago. There Bahu had become the Saas, B&B (Bold and Beautiful) was more like H&H (haggard and hopeless) and Friends was still fun in its nth rerun! We called it a day with the hope that our life would be normal the next day.

As I made our morning tea there was still bad news. No Internet. There was so much to check up on- western markets had closed and those in the east were just opening. We caught up with all the days’ newspapers, reading each one from end to end after a really long time. Then it was the turn of magazines and catching up with other administrative jobs. It was surprising that I still found interesting things in the papers despite surfing so widely daily. The joy of reading printed words (generally referred to as ‘hard copy’) is great and cannot be compared to reading on the monitor. Not dependant on power and can be transported everywhere. Trivial things became major irritants as decibel levels rose at home. We tried to call the local official- very conveniently (for him) his phone was switched off. I guess he must have had several calls from people like us! We took heart that many others also remained cut off from the World Wide Web!

At the gym, my thoughts in between every set were of modems, overhead/underground cables, wireless connectivity and latest ‘mashup’ technology (which I read of the day before in the newspaper!). There, I got a call saying that the problem had been rectified. A call home indicated otherwise. We contemplated going to the local office with a dharna! It was close to noon and we still remained cut off. It was the last day to pay some of our bills, how were we to do it now? I had to finalize travel plans for our holiday. This was becoming intolerable. We made an attempt with our old dial up and took care of the urgent points. This was an expensive service so we needed our broadband. We got through the service provider and gave him quite an earful. He tried to pacify us and we had really no choice but to wait. The verbal outburst did help to relieve the stress though!

Afternoon turned towards evening and we had become fatalistic by now. I debated going to the local net cafĂ©, to get my now overdue dose of virtual adrenalin! That’s when we were able to log on! Hurray!! We were on the information highway once again. It was only 24 hours but it seemed like so much more and each of us fought for time on the comp.

This made me realize how easily we had traded our recreational time for time on the Internet! I decided to go ahead with plans made the earlier day of getting out the carom board, squash rackets and Uno cards! Just like we must beware of smoking, alcohol, tobacco addiction, we must be alert for yet another potential culprit. Withdrawal symptoms set in very fast leading to anger, frustration, sleeplessness and depression.
Take time out; rediscover simple joys!

This experience of ours was first printed in The Statesman, Kolkata on 04 Mar 2007


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