"Jis vyakti se aap sampark karna chahte hain, woh vyakti is samay vyast hain, kripya line par rahe ya thodi der baad dial kare" (the person you wish to speak to is busy at the moment, please stay on the line or call back later).
The calm, soothing recorded voice played over and over again on the phone in different languages- first in Hindi, then in Marathi and then in English. All this while I am seething at the other end, using the hold on option and willing someone to pick up the phone! That way at least I have some hope that the person I am calling might pick up the phone. It's when I hear this that I lose all my patience, "Aap jis number ko dial kar rahe hain voh number moujood nahin hain!" (The number you are trying to call is not present.)
Now this is something I refuse to believe as I would have dialled that very number a zillion times in the past!
It's great to come on a holiday to my home town Mumbai and stay connected to my roots, it's a different story that this 'connection' takes up all my patience, understanding and the love that I have for this country. Every year when I come here I use a local sim card. I dutifully put in the required money for local and international calls and also for internet and data connectivity, thinking I am all covered. That cover however is pretty flimsy, like having a delicate Japanese umbrella for the Mumbai monsoon. I have a feeling of protection but get drenched anyway.
The building that I live in is quite old, so it is not very network friendly. Every time I have to make a simple call I have to rush to the balcony. In order to get a smooth connection that can last upto 5 minutes, I have to lean my body out of my balcony, clutching on to my dear IPhone 5S punctuating my conversation with "Sorry? I can't hear you?" "Shall I call you again?" "Sorry ya, got cut!"
When I step out of my house and manage to get good network, I have another problem to deal with - the 'vyakti' (individual) is always busy! But then there is no use cursing a recorded voice message. I think part of the problem lies in the endless number of phone calls that people make out here. These are not essential calls in my opinion, things that I would normally what's app or text about about back in Hong Kong. A call to a friend to plan a dinner, a call to the neighbour to ask if she has extra eggs, a call to the football coach to ask if there is practice today, a call confirming the time of a meeting, a call to say you are on your way, a call to say that you might be late and a call to say that you have reached! All these calls certainly cut out that individual who might be stranded in the middle of the road and desperately needs to connect. And yet ".......kripya thodi der baad dial kare!"
Ok so that was my view for the first two weeks I was in Mumbai. I refused to give in to the 'calling' system. I texted my friends about dinner plans, I ran down to the neighbour's if I needed eggs, I what's app-ed the football coach, the bank manager and everyone else I wanted to meet. Simple, isn't it? That is if the job got done! My friends messaged me back, we fixed the venue and date, but the time was never fixed "I will call you when I leave home." Knocking on my neighbour's door would yield nothing as the neighbour wouldn't be at home and the football coach never replied as he had no connectivity in his area! The bank meeting never happened too. "Oh, I wasn't sure if the meeting was confirmed" Says the senior manager of a reputed International bank. "After all you never called me to confirm Ma'am!"
Finally by week 4 in Mumbai I surrendered myself to the system, joining the "calling" bandwagon. My phone became my latest accessory - glued to my hand, hung on to my neck or stuck to my ear in any awkward position. Needless to mention the balcony became my favourite place to be in my home!