Journal - India (Week 3)
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
The following content is from the journal I kept during my internship with UNICEF. It documents my reflections during a field trip to India in 2006.
Third Week: June 26-July1
Buying a SIM Card
One day, I wanted to buy a SIM Card. So, I asked my Nepali colleague, Ashish, about how he got a SIM card in Patna. But Ashish cynically replied back to me, “Do you really want to get one?”He sighed and explained,
DAY1: “First, the Airtel people said, I couldn’t get a SIM card, because I wasn’t a local of Patna. A new rule is that you should be a local of this place to get a SIM card here.”
DAY2: “I persuaded the Airtel guys that even though I am not a resident of Patna, I would stay here for two months working for UNICEF and would be staying at the A.N. Sinha Institute. Then they said, “If you have a proof of residence singed by registrar from your hosting institution and passport-size photographs, as well as ID, and then we can issue you a SIM card.”
DAY3: “So I took my pictures and got signatures from my institute and brought them to the Airtel.” They responded, “Fine.” But they said they cannot do it because I didn’t have a visa to India. Then I spent half an hour explaining that Nepali nationals do not need visas to enter India because of an open immigration policy between the two countries. But the Airtel people still said they cannot do it because I don’t have a visa. This led to my question ‘there is about a million Nepalis in India. How do they all have cell phones?’ So they got confused, and said, ‘Ok. You can have it without the visa. But we still need to have the proof of your identity, so we are going to need an attested letter from your institute with your picture on it.”
“So even with my passport and my face right there, they refused to recognize me. So they need a STAMPED photograph on the letter from the A. N. Sinha Institute.”
“I came back, I took all the required applications including, photo and passport and stamped letters with my photo attached.”
DAY 4: “The Airtel lady told me ‘OK now you can have a SIM card. BUT, you cannot use it today because we need 24 hours to verify.’”
DAY 5: Ashish’s SIM card finally works. Ashish visited the Airtel 5 times, spending a total of 8 hours to get a sim card. It took a week. His unceasing efforts to get a SIM card finally reap the fruits.
Impression of Indians
“What do you think about Indian people?” My teammate, Deepika asked me while I was taking a measure for my Salwar Kameez. I didn’t like generalizing but I tried to think. The first thing I came up with was “People do not seem be that interested in customers. I don’t think they are eager to sell things by pleasing customers.” Deepika nodded, “People in Patna are slow. But in Delhi, people are different.”
Having said that, I realized how much I was deeply into materialism and take that for granted. Obviously, working hard and earning a lot of money is not the only and right way of life. But having been born and brought up in capitalist societies, I feel that not seeking money is strange. In fact, this way of thinking itself is strange.
Library and the Possession of Power
We needed a report with a blue cover because it is directly related to our topic. However, the library was virtually too hot to stay in even for a minute. So, we asked for a photo copy of the report.
Two days passed.
But we never heard back from the library.
So, we wanted to check out the book. But it is not possible because we did not have a library card.
We had to ask UNICEF and our hosting institute to issue us a library card. Four days had passed, and we finally had a card.
But we could not check out the blue report even with our card, because it was a REPORT, not a book. The library card was only valid for books. Periodicals and reports were to be read in the library, no matter how hot it was.
A week had passed.
We wrote an application to issue a report and received a signature from our supervisor. We brought the application to the librarian.The librarian said they needed a confirmation from our supervisor in person.
Two days had passed, but we still did not have the report in our hands.
We were frustrated, and complained, “A library is not a place to display books! It should disseminate knowledge. We stay at the institute! We are not going to run away with a report.”
Responding to our complains, our local resource person, Bhupendra said,“Librarians are not there for you to facilitate your checking-out.” He continued, “Librarians are there to show you how much power they have on you by delaying the checking out process.” The inefficiency in managerial processes may partially explain why Bihar has fallen behind the rest of the nation.
We go up to the roof during the blackout. We look at the stars and the moon. We talk and play soccer in the chilly breeze. We wait until the light is back. Sometimes, we all need to take a rest from the light and computer work. Our eyes turn red; our brain does not function in the sleepless metro life. Blackout is a great break time.
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