Day 2 in Cyberabad
I am distraught that we don’t have a cell phone connection in India. I thought we had one but Idea Cellular disconnected us since we had not used it in 3 months!
I know its not vitally necessary but in India, not having a cell phone means belonging to the 48% of the population who don’t. Its the fastest growing cell phone market in the world, and with the keenest pricing too. But today after two trips to the Vodafone shop in Smajiguda I succeed in getting one. Its no mean achievement!
Its all to do with the rules laid down by the Government. No one can get a cell phone connection - at least not legally - until he can establish his identity and an address. So far so straightforward.
But the way the rule is interpreted makes it almost pointless. I produce my UK passport but it does not have an address in it so it is deemed less than useful. Apparently an Indian passport does show your address though so far as I know it is not illegal to hold a passport with an outdated address on it. I also produce a Hyderabad Municipal Corporation tax bill in my name and showing my local address but that is rejected - it has to be an electricity bill. Why? Who made up this rule? The fact that this latter piece of paper shows my address but not my name is okay apparently. Luckily my OCI card saves the day - not only is it issued by the Govt of India but it also shows an address - never mind that its a UK address.
But I also need a passport photo. That's easy. I have my laptop and my entire photo collection so I find an official photograph of myself, put it on a memory stick and take it to a photolab just down the road from the Vodafone shop. The guy reads it into Photoshop and with a series of speedy mouseclicks and key strokes crops it, resizes the cropped version, adjusts the color balance and prints off 6 passpost size photos. This guy knows Photoshop like a violin maestro knows his strings. 40 Rupees he charges me. You couldnt get this service in Jessops in Birminham. He might do 4 passport photos but a) he'll have to take it himself, b) it would cost 5 pounds.
A little more form filling and signatures and I acquire a Vodafone sim card for 42 Rupees with 28 rupees talk time on it. Some victory.
The question I am left with is how on earth do poor, ill-educated folk cope with all this bureaucracy. Clearly they must be managing somehow if you believe the figure of 600 million cell phone connections in India with 2 million being added every month.
In the evening V and I venture out on the roads again
First stop the Titan watch showroom to see if they can fix V's watch strap which got damaged when she fell and hit the watch against the bedstead. Easy, of course they could; the clasp needed bending into shape and a woman in overalls who was obviously the chief repair technician took a small hammer to it, before handing it back to V with a smile and a flourish. Oops, too tight, once you fastened the clasp it wouldn’t open. No problem. A few more sharp taps of said hammer this time with a chisel between hammer and watch sorted the problem.
No charge; its a free service. Really! Titan Watches had acquired one satisfied (potential) customer.
On then to G Pulla Reddy Sweets in Greenlands. But that involves crossing 2 roads. The traffic is never ending and no one really stops at the pedestrian crossing. Looks daunting and almost impossible but there had to be a technique. You need to put yourself in the same frame of mind as a buffalo that slowly ambles across the road in a vaguely diagonal direction, looking guardedly but defiantly and without blinking, straight into the eyeballs of drivers of vehicles potentially capable of major damage should you happen to collide with them.
G Pulla Reddy is unlike any other shop in Hyderabad. It has the air of old world charm and quality about it, an ambience that projects service and style. The range of products is almost the same as when I first came across their Nampally Station Road branch in 1980. The large shop floor is deliberately kept spare and empty. A glass enclosed counter runs along just one wall behind which attentive shop assistants assign themselves to each customer by an unwritten system that involves catching the eye of the sales assistant. As you make your choice the sales girl collects your purchases for you, totals up your bill and accompanies you to the counter to pay and collect your bag of delicacies. Its a kind of old world personalised service you might find in the finest delicatessen. Its all very quiet and unhurried, feeling refined and unpressured.
What a contrast - buying a cell phone connection and buying sweets from G Pulla Reddy. Not quite a clash of cultures but I'm glad they've kept up their practice of selling the finest sweets with their distinctive style of customer service.