Sunday, July 24, 2011

The week end

I am back from my U.S. trip a few days back. It took awhile to get into the routine mode. I had made proper arrangements to keep my utilities such as land line phone and broad band in force at minimum cost. This time the trip was of 5 months and the house was under lock. So, as soon as I came to Shimoga, I attended to certain pending works on priority. Everything was on track within a week.

There was a series of on line problems yesterday. First it was ICICI bank. When I tried to transfer some funds to a different account in Axis Bank, it failed; it simply informed me that my mobile number is not registered, but I was regularly getting alerts from the bank of my off line transactions such as cheques and deposits. There was even a couple of on line fund credits made by my daughter. And I got all alerts of these few transactions in my account. Now when the portal denied on line transaction citing that I have not registered my cell phone number, I was surprised. (Just before effecting a transaction on line they SMS a unique number to mobile to authenticate the transaction on line and the customer has to mention that number to complete the transaction.) My repeated trials gave the same result and I gave up. Let me go to Axis Bank and deposit the cheque to the account, I thought.

Soon after coming back to India, my eldest daughter from Hubli had advised me to do my such works on Internet whenever and wherever it is possible instead of taking pains to go physically and do the work. We old couple live alone here and have to attend all the chores ourselves. I thought it was a good idea she gave me to reduce physical strain. So I started with my on line bank account.

Next I tried to pay my AirTel Broadband bill on line. The site did not accept my log-in at all on repeated trials. And even when I clicked on 'Forgot' pass word?', the process failed repeatedly. Then I called the bill collector as usual and he came promptly. He told me the service is being underway on a major upgrading work on all India basis requiring 30 odd days and the process is in midway; only in the first week of August, everything will be fine he said!

After failing to pay Airtel on line, I tried to make my payment of BSNL land line phone bill on line. The Govt. of India owned portal pleasingly told me that there is no dues from me! I was holding the bill in my hand and following their instruction to make payments on line! The portal was repeatedly making merry by telling me that there are no dues! OK, let me go to their counter and make the payment as I used to.

I made a chakkar this morning (Saturday-yesterday)physically making payments and trying to put the on line things in place. First it was ICICI. The officer I approached was very cordial. There of course is a toll free number (call centre) to set right everything. But I have some speech recognition problem on phone, especially digitally created voices. The person at ICICI also dialed the same helpline and gave the phone to me as he was busy (Saturday - last working day of the week). I politely told him I have hearing problems and that was why I came to the bank office, he obliged smilingly despite the helpline taking a lot of looooooong minutes. Finally he got the account straightened, and on line transactions can be made after one working day, probably on Monday, he said. But I got the message on my mobile by around 3:30 PM that the account is enabled for on line transactions. The officer had told me that, because of security, as I did not do any online transactions right since I opened the account over six months back, the concerned Internet managers might have pushed my account to dormancy. That exactly could be the case as the SMS read that my account is reactivated.

Well then I took the chakkar to BSNL bills payment window. While paying, I asked the cashier why the portal was showing no dues to me when I tried to pay on line. The fellow simply told me, "I don't know sir, you go to the first floor". I climbed four long flights to the first floor, - yes, sure, four long flights to the first floor! There was only two windows, - one accounts section and the other inquiries for Mobile Service. I went to this and the officer there was cordial. But he did not know what was wrong with the portal and promised me that he would ask the concerned people to look into the matter. Thank God, he didn't ask me to climb another flight of stairs to next floor.

There were days when BSNL, then called the P & T department, a monopolistic Govt. Of India enterprise and one had to wait for a few years to get a connection after booking by paying an interest free deposit. Cell phones were not even dreamt of. Doctors and such other essential service professionals were provided a phone almost immediately after submission of application. without an extra charge, but an emergency connection was available to public on a payment of a hefty sum. The service was shoddy, and the department was filled with highly inefficient and arrogant people. The stink of inefficiency is still ruling the roost though the department was rechristened with a grand name - Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. As soon as my eldest daughter passed her medical degree, I made her apply as a doctor. I got the connection almost immediately. The ownership or the subscription was transferable after three years. Promptly I applied for a transfer of the phone in my name providing necessary documents as required by the Nigam for the transfer. But no the connection remained in my daughter's name till this date though I had made an application with necessary documents at least half a dozen times in these long 15 years! I still get the bills in my daughter's name! And the beauty is the connection is mentioned against my name in the directory! Reason? The computer accepts all changes except the name of the original applicant. Do you get an idea of the extent of the stink of inefficiency?

Well, it is a rather long deviation from the story of my week end.

Right at the beginning, the car gave some starting problems as it was not regularly run in these last six months and the battery is getting old. It somehow started and I drove it to my old office and cut off the engine and did all the work by walking; didn't want to take chances with the starting problem, by repeatedly cutting off the engine and trying to start again. Also unfortunately, I had worn a newly handmade footwear and the bite of the new leather straps is still soring!

That was it; I returned home by lunch time with some wonderful Neelam Magoes, which were selling at throw away price (Rs.15/- per Kg.) due to incessant rains in last four days, and some other sundry purchases. That was a strenuous but ultimately a satisfactory week end I had, right?" target="_blank">" />

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