Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting 'Bangalored', getting 'BillGated'

I overheard this angry phone call while on the Staten Island Ferry that my daughter and I took, to look at the Statue of Liberty.

The American was unable to use his credit card and was trying to get it reactivated asap. 'Listen, this is the 10th call I'm making. Bangalore is completely, totally, phenomenally useless, I've called god knows how many times already. I am running out of cash and you've got to do something', he said desperately.

And so, Bangalore was painted at one stroke as worthless (and thus, India? Or is that just my uppity Indian perspective?).

What an intriguing line of thought that opens up a whole range of possibilities on how nations and cities get perceived in this post-modern world.

Funnily enough, I had had to make a similar 'ten calls or more' just a day earlier, in relation to activating the Windows Vista package. On a spanking new HP notebook that was supposed to have had this pre-installed. Like some unaccompanied piece of baggage, I was passed on from section to section (including the disembodying experience of talking to a bodyless voice, or should I say, a simulacrum of a woman who asked questions I needed to voice-answer. It is called something in the new-fangled terminology of nowadays. And let me not go off on yet another tangent of what happened when the simulated voice and I were unable to 'communicate' with one another ). A few times, I actually got through to flesh and blood humans at the other end - 'Good Afternoon, this is Prashant', or 'Vinita'... while for sure, Prashant and Vinita were actually in the middle of the night. Incidentally, Microsoft plays it safe, the voices stick to Indian names and not some fake Westernized monikers of 'Percy' or 'Vin' or something. I was even bounced over from back office to back office: Microsoft to HP to Microsoft to HP once again, in the process going from Bangalore to Kerala to Bangalore to Kerala - I know because I asked whoever I was speaking to..

At no point did I write off Bangalore or Kerala. In fact, my increasing grouse was always against the 'Big Bill' who I felt ought to have made the access to his Vista far simpler and less temperamental, even as he continued to amass his zillions as the world's richest-getting-richer man.

And so. I come back to my original thesis. The perennial relationship of antagonism and ambivalence between the 'colonizers' and the 'colonized'. We continue to live in a binary world of the enlightened West versus the ever- ignorant desis - here, Bangalore; the civilized folks at the center versus the savage and marginal Johnny-come-latelies who have learnt to speak English, the 'rich-getting-richer' First World versus the 'emerging, constantly and perennially emerging (but never quite emerged) Third World, even as we march forward in a globalized world that stays up at all hours to 'synch their times' even if not their attitudes.

Whatever happened to the much touted hybridity and 'multi-vocality' that the 21st century was supposed to be the harbinger of?



Prateek, Natalya and Nastassia's Poconos dacha - happy times spent here!


sudeshna said...

Ha Ha, Our Tata broadband connection went wonky and I phoned up their help line in Hyderabad. This guy was spikking enlishe but I could not understand his accent. Guess I was Hyderabaded.
cheers anshuman

sudeshna said...

what was most irritating was that how blissfully unaware these guys were. calcutta that morning had seen a terrible thundersquall.a few people had even died after being struck by lightening. the vsnl towers were badly affected. this we acme to know much later when we had somehow got hold of a calcutta phone number.there were atleast a 1000 lines down in saltlake alone and all hyderabad could tell us was they will look into the matter!