walk a-musing

Monday, April 17, 2006

Did they rule my country?

"Just look at this inefficiency.... terrible.....! Whereas, in foreign countries......"
Are such comments still made?

2005. We shift to this town in UK, stay at a serviced apartment for a few weeks, find a suitable apartment to rent. So far so good. With three days left to move, the fun begins. The estate agent says he has mailed the rental agreement, but we don't recieve it. We go to the agency. A cursory "Sorry about that!" , and we get a new form. We find that our 'previous landlord' in UK has to give a letter saying we have always paid our rents on time. We call up the manager of the serviced apartment. "Sure!" she says and forgets all about it for the next 24 hours. When the letter doesn't arrive, we call her again. "I was busy. I will try to send it today". TRY......!?? She knows that we HAVE to leave the serviced apartment the next day and if we havn't got our apartment by then, we have nowhere to go! But the letter arrives the next morning. We move.

There is gas, electricity, and water in the new apartment, but we have to apply for the telephone. We do. We get a letter on the 1st, telling us our telephone number, and saying the line will be activated on the 21st. 21 DAYS?? This is a 'first world country'! Surely there must be some mistake? We call the service provider from the mobile. But the letter is right, no engineer is free before that date. On the 21st, the engineer will make the connections outside our building and the phone will start working. Sigh! We settle down to wait.

The much awaited day arrives, and I lift the phone every few minutes to see if there is a dial tone, but no, silence. Towards afternoon it occurs to me to dial the number given to us, from my mobile. I hear the phone ringing and....... a lady picks up the phone!! Ooops, I have dialled a wrong number! Since someone HAS picked up the phone, I tentatively ask if the number is such and such and the lady says no. Ah..., so I HAVE dialled a wrong number. I dial again, careful not to make a mistake. The same lady on the other end, a little exasperated. "No...! It is NOT that number!" .......Just where is my call going? Now we call customer service. After being on line for 45 minutes (no exaggeration!) we are told that the engineer has finished with our area for this week, and will visit us after 5 days. Wha...?? Can't believe this. Meanwhile a friend visits me from Bangalore and through him I come to know that Mysore is now completely Wi-fi!! I can sit in a park in Mysore and access the internet.

Five days pass and finally a mechanic arrives, checks all the connections within the house, tells me that everything in the house is ok. There must be some fault with the lines outside. I am assured that an engineer will arrive shortly to correct it. I wonder what 'shortly' means. A couple of hours later, I am relieved to see the engineer working furiously outside the apartment, in the midst of a tangle of cables. I learn that our cable had been connected to the apartment downstairs. They had TWO cables leading to the same phone! Cool! I just hope that the exasperated lady downstairs hasn't made long distance calls through my line.

I have just started reading a book called 'Empire. How Britain made the modern world', by Nial Ferguson. According to the blurb, the book discusses this: "....Just how did a small, rainy island in the north atlantic..... rule the plains of Asia, the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia". I would really like to know.


  • At 11:25 PM, Blogger satyapriya said…

    It is really funny that you had to face all this in a country like Britain....Now I know why things are always delayed in India, the old habit put by the rulers way back ;) They ruled us because we were weak due to our own diversity, not because they were any stronger. All these First world countries are nothing but Hypocrits. They only know to point out how backward India is, but they fail to check thier own loopholes...Good piece of work there. Keep going!!!

  • At 11:40 PM, Blogger Nirwa said…

    They managed to rule because they were shrewd and cunning.

    I wonder why people still think that India is a third world country.. sigh

    Nice writeup! Do tell me what the book says.. :P We should know other people's point of view too!:P


  • At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Ravi said…

    Wow...did all this really happen? By god, we are much better off than them here. AIRTEL can give you a connection - telephone, mobile and internet, in less than 3 -4 days flat! Man, am I glad I'm not in the UK!
    Thanks for a great writeup!

  • At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Rajani said…

    I can empathise with u. Similar thing happened to us here in the US!! We got our dsl internet connection and when we tried to activate it, our modem kept blinking red, meaning, no connection...After numerous calls to customer support and as many as 5 different techinicians coming to check the "inside line" and the "outside line" finally we got it up and running after 12 days! Not only that amidst making those various "checks" we lost our phone connection too a couple of times. And it took them 5 days to give us our connection back. Made me wonder whether I was living in Jhumritalaiya(Bihar) or a few miles from Silicon Valley, California!!

  • At 10:05 PM, Anonymous confused said…


    The service industry in the First World works fine till it is done on the phone. However when it comes to actual service-they suck. Primarily because of high labor costs and such.

  • At 3:23 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Satyapriya, Nirwa, thanks for your comments, I will tell surely tell you when I have completed the book.:))

    Ravi, I could give you more examples to make you feel happy you are not in UK :)). But having said that living outside for a while has its rewards. For one, you look at your own country with fresh eyes. Secondly there is something good about every place and there is always something to learn!

    Rajani, really....? But I thought US was different in these matters. Here even the locals make fun of the inefficiency of these services. If something doesn't get done soon, the Indians here joke that it is high time that service was outsourced. Things would move faster.:) I also read a news item about a british minister mentioning this incident: A company here outsourced some services to Bangalore. When someone in Bangalore called up UK at 10pm India time(!) to discuss something with the company in UK, the guys here said they were sorry it would have to wait, it was 5.30pm and it was time to go home!

    Confused, thanks for the comments. But I don't think it is just the labor costs. It is the attitude towards work. No one seems to be in any hurry. Things seem rather laid back.

  • At 9:22 PM, Blogger chitra said…

    Wow...too good !


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