After all the adventure setting up the network in Mysore, we moved on to Pilani – a small town in Rajasthan, where I grew up – to spend the last leg of our India trip. Needless to say, after the experience in Mysore, my expectations were a lot more modest.
As soon as we reached home, I powered up my dad’s computer and to my utter delight the connection was up and working (apparently the stolen cable had indeed been reinstalled). At home, my dad has created a nice setup for managing the spotty power situation, by installing an inverter and a generator. So all I needed to do was to connect the DSL modem to my laptop and I will be off and running. I quickly figured out the setup that required a username and password, created a broadband connection on my laptop, hooked up the Ethernet cable and I was online. That night, I slept a happy man.
In the morning, I setup up a conference call with my team and we started chatting via Skype. I was really excited as the connection was working great, and even the speed was a lot better than Mysore. Suddenly though, the whole thing came to a grinding halt. Upon further investigation, I noticed that the third light on the modem that indicates an active ADSL link with the telephone exchange was not lit anymore. After frantically trying to power cycle the modem, I was able to restore the connection and join back the conversation…Things were great but after another five minutes, no connection again. After going on and off 4 times, I decided to drop out and let the rest of the team carry on.
“Dad, what’s the story with the DSL connection?” I asked my Dad, as soon as I saw him.
“It used to work great before…I have never had this kind of issue.” Dad replied. “If you don’t believe me, talk to Rajesh ji, our neighbor.”
“Nope, never heard of any problems like you are seeing” Rajesh replied, when I called him up to check.
May be I was hitting a rare rough patch, or it might be a classic case of exaggeration, so typical in India. I looked into all sorts of possible reasons like the quality of the line, setup of the modem etc. to figure out what could be going on, but to no effect. The connection continued on and off for the next couple of days, until one morning when the ADSL link light did not turn on at all.
I called the SDOT (Superintendent of Telephone) to report the issue. Right of the bat he was upset, as I explained the situation to him:
“You should not fiddle around with the connection we setup for you”, he complained.
“Well, I needed to connect it to my laptop to get some work done…In any case, moving the Ethernet cable from our modem should not make a difference”, I retorted.
“It’s the government modem that we have leased to you…Don’t think that the modem is yours”, he countered.
After some back and froth, he agreed to investigate the issue and get back to us.
“Should I expect a response in a couple of hours?” I asked before hanging up.
“Look, these things are complicated…I can’t give you a timeline. We will get back to you”, he said and hung up.
I waited eagerly till the end of the day but got no response. The next day, again, I waited…we were told that the linesman was on his way, but again no one showed up. We called Banglore to connect to the head office but the toll free number listed for BSNL did not work. I decided to go over to the neighbor’s to at least catch up with the email. Rajesh had the DSL working so I hooked up but ran into the same on and off issue. I pointed it out to him.
“Oh, that’s what you meant…I guess we don’t browse as fast as you do, so we never have this issue”, he explained.
The next day I was getting desperate. Starting 11:00 AM (that is usually the time the government offices in Pilani start getting active), I and Dad got on the phone and started calling everybody in the exchange we could find. After a couple of hours, we got hold of the JEN (Junior Engineer).
“I checked your line and there is noting wrong with it. My guess is that your modem is shot. You need to take it to the SDOT sahib to get it checked” he said.
I and my Dad got on a scooter and went to the exchange. It was 3:00PM. SDOT sahib was nowhere to be found. We were told that he was out for lunch. Luckily, we found a JEN who hooked up our modem and splitter to test it out.
“The modem looks perfect”, he said. “These line engineers are not thorough. They must have made a mistake”.
He called the lines JEN and asked him to route our connection over to his office line, so that he could test our line. Again everything worked great. He asked the lines JEN to reconnect our line. He assured us that everything is fine, and it will work for us, when we reconnect the modem at home. We eagerly got home and hooked everything up, but again no ADSL link.
Around 6:30 PM, I decided to go over to the neighbor’s to get the emails. I was working when my Dad called me.
“The linesmen are here to check everything out. Why don’t you come back?” He said.
I sprinted back home. The linesmen were fiddling with a number of things but to no avail. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that something must be wrong at the exchange. We offered to drive them to the exchange rather than letting them bike back. When we got to the exchange, it was 7:30 PM and the power was out. The massive exchange was humming nicely in the dark. The linesman took out the torch (there is a backup power supply but for some reason it was not on) to locate our switch. They replaced our switch with the switch next to ours and we raced back. When we got back home, the most beautiful light in the world, the ADSL link light was on and the connection was working. We got the linesman to promise to replace our incoming cable with a better quality cable, the next day, in order to ensure good stable connection in the future.
This time the connection turned out to be a lot more stable. I worked till 1:00 AM but when I got up next morning again the connection was out. It turns out the switch that we have replaced the night before was the switch to the SDOT’s office, and he needed his connection back. Again we were without a connection.
In the evening, the linesman showed up and replaced the line, but again had no success establishing the connection. Eventually they called the JEN. He did something and eventually the ADSL lit up. Unfortunately, I had to leave for the US the next day so I didn’t get to enjoy the new connection. I hear, though, that the connection has been stable ever since :-).