Friday, June 5, 2015

BSNL: A Love Story

BSNL: A Love Story

By Zubair Ahmed

On 28th April, when I checked my BSNL broadband, I found it not working. I thought it might come back in a while. But it didn't. So like any typical Indian, I looked out, but it wasn't a power failure to see whether lights are on in my neighbour's house. So, I called one of my friends. He told me that he too had same issue with broadband. I had that sadistic satisfaction like any typical Indian. On 31st April, I thought of reporting it at the local exchange. I carried my modem too, to make sure that the issue is resolved without wasting much time. And, the TTA at the exchange was very sympathetic and got busy checking the ports and when he failed, he called his counterpart at Telephone Exchange at Port Blair, Incharge of Broadband. They did speak something and he handed over the phone to me. In a layman's language I told him all the symptoms and about the different lights blinking on my modem when there is connection and when it doesn't work.

The guy at Port Blair said something about authentication issue and 'assured' that he will resolve it. I waited for a couple of days. And finally, one day suddenly the net came and it went too suddenly, before I could even smile with satisfaction. In fact, I wanted to thank the TTA at the local exchange for resolving the issue within a week. But, before his mobile rang, my internet LED on the modem had gone. I left the issue then and there and got busy in other mundane activities.

Meanwhile, whenever I met my friends during that week, like any typical Indian, after enquiring about their wellbeing, I made it a point to ask about their broadband connection too. A few of them said, they had constipation issues, which was resolved after taking Kayam Chooran, but the broadband connection issue continued. A few of them said that connection was made, but no use without any data transfer. A few of them had authentication error, and a few of them had forgotten which LED on the modem meant what! Finally, I too resigned to my fate and looked outside for my internet needs. Fortunately, an alternate connection at my workplace was working.

Thanks to the guys at the local exchange, I could spend quality time with my family and kids without the broadband connection. Now it was the turn of my friends, who kept calling me and checking the status of my connection. They were concerned. My heart goes out for them. I had almost spend 20 days now without seeing the internet LED blink on my modem. I wasn't that emotionally attached to my modem, but that green light sometimes started blinking in my dreams too. Some connection it wanted to make.

On 25th day, I decided to give it a try again. And, my ordeal started, an emotional one.

I went to the local exchange and met the TTA. He had two pairs of cable in one hand a list of phone nos. in other hand. He looked tired. I felt bad, and in a withdrawn mood, he showed the list, and there were more than 20 phone numbers which had same problem. Was I shocked? No. The issue was getting bigger now. It was not just about my connection now. I kept wondering, why is it not getting resolved. I took my phone with an Airtel sim and made a call to DGM, BSNL.

A very compassionate voice answered me. I was happy. He was not arrogant. Explained him in detail about the problem, 25 days and 25 broadband connections. He gave a sensitive hearing and asked me to SMS my landline no. and he assured that he will look into it. And I didn't want to be selfish, so asked the guy sitting next to me and enquired about his wellbeing as well as his broadband connection. He said he faced same problem. So I messaged the DGM two numbers.

I waited till evening. There was no reply. I called the DGM and asked if I can meet him. He assured me that he has conveyed my complaint to the concerned SDE as well as JTO.

On 26th day after my first formal complaint, I made up my mind and directly reached the Telephone Bhawan opposite Bengali Club. The building bore a deserted look. I went inside and I was directed to one SDE. Very politely, he heard my complaint and when he learnt that it was about broadband, I could see a sigh of relief on his face. It was not under his jurisdiction. But as a human being, he listened and even spoke to me for a while. I didn't know I had become so confident that I could convey my technical as well as emotional issue with him. Slowly I was falling in love.

As directed by him, I reached the Telephone Exchange near Central School. It was lunch hour. I just walked in and enquired about the guy who handles broadband. After a few queries here and there, I met one guy who asked me about the issue. I enquired whether he is handling Broadband. He nodded but with a caveat. The concerned SDO had proceeded to mainland to bring his family. So he just took over that morning. I asked him if he was aware about the broadband issue in one of the exchanges. He nodded negative. I named the exchange. He couldn't place it anywhere. I knew if he can't even pronounce the name of the exchange, there is no chance he would be acquainted with the broadband problem in that exchange. So, politely I asked him, whom I should meet. He asked me to wait in the chamber next door. Some SDE will come and meet me.

Whiling away my time waiting for the SDE, I looked around. I could see a few very motivating quotes pasted on the glass partition. And, one quote which grabbed my attention defied all my sympathy and emotions for the TTA of my exchange. I had high regards for him, for whenever I visited him, I saw him working very hard meddling with cables, checking this port and that port and not even wiping sweat from his forehead.


I saw a very normal, humble looking gentleman coming out from the equipment room. I smiled and just followed him into his chamber. He too gave a patient hearing and told me that the DGM had called him. When I enquired about the progress, he gave a blank look. I was confused. I asked him if he is aware of the issue. I liked his honesty. He said he is unable to diagnose the problem.

I was nobody to suggest a solution. But as a common man, I asked if he tried replacing the ports from the faulty equipment to a functioning one, he said, he is scared that it might spoil the working one too. He then told me that he can't find any fault with the equipment. So no blaming the equipment. I asked if they tried the Electricity Dept way. He looked perplexed. I made him relaxed and told him, if they could switch off another equipment and shift the faulty ports and check it. He said no. I couldn't find any breakthrough coming from this guy. I just asked him why is the whole department so sober and demotivated. He just smiled. I wished him well and came out.

Next what? I took an auto and went straight to the new building of BSNL opposite the Fire Station. Had planned to visit the DGM, but couldn't meet him, and finally went upstairs to meet the CGM.

Another personality that impressed me. Had a bollywoodwala Bihari look. The CGM was in a relaxed mood, who appeared to be the kind whom stress can't takeover.

When he learnt that I am going to write about it, he called the DGM. One guy came with a bunch of files. Serious looks. He just sat through. All the talking was done by the CGM.

I asked why nobody gets shocked to know that the problem is 25 days old. I even asked why they are not shocked that around 25 nos. in one exchange is not working.

Looking at my face, he might have gauged the emotional trauma.

"Don't be so emotional, it happens in India. Hamare desh mein shishtem aise hee kaam karta hai." he said munching something.

When I explained my predicament, quietly he asked for my landline no. I gave it. He dialed someone and spoke for a while and said, " There is some problem with the DSLAM."

I felt relieved. Here is someone who finally cracked the mysterious puzzle. But, the relief was short lived.

Then he took me on a long ride about the origin of internet and the nascent stage of internet in the Islands, lack of bandwidth, the issues with the satellites, the OFC between Kolkata and Patna and Mumbai, Delay in transportation of equipments, and about his concern for the 5000 broadband connections. Finally, hammering the final nail, he took a huge file and started flipping it and said, "These are the proof of correspondences we are making with the ministries to solve the problem."

I just felt ashamed. What a fool I was to take such a frivolous issue of just 25 connections in one exchange for just a small delay of 29 days, not even one month. I felt that instead of becoming part of the problem, I was gradually becoming a problem, and should desist from demanding anything more.

"Sir, please delete my no. I won't mind if my problem is not resolved, but I was concerned about the other 24 nos." I told him.

"You should become a minister or a politician," he said. "If you have any problem, please come and meet me," he continued.

What a bunch of nice guys, whose doors are always open for anyone. Yes, of course, what if net is not working, you may pay a visit and chat with them, of course, offline.

An awesome experience it was. If you are too motivated, to get grounded kindly pay a visit to BSNL office and meet them from bottom to top. Any spark of motivation left in you will extinguish in no time. And if you find time do pay a visit to the CGM. Though he may not be able to help you about your connections, his sermon would be a blessing in disguise.

What I had heard about BSNL was lack of bandwidth, but the way people from top to bottom in the hierarchy functioned strengthened my conviction about their lack of motivation and zeal to redress the complaints. They are revered for their services stretching from Campbell Bay to Diglipur, but can’t say much about the quality over quantity. How can you not love such a lot?

I looked at the signal on my mobile phone, and pressed the FB app to check the notifications if I could get through, knowing well that my phone was not ten times faster than my dad's phone, and my dad's phone is neither.

After 30 days, I may be still waiting for that green LED to blink, but I am still alive, because I have never considered internet to be a lifeline.