No other company in the history of Indian business can be more aptly synonymous with the word, Red Tape, than the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited or BSNL. It is also perfectly synonymous with the word- lethargy. Did I mention the word- slipshod? and unreliable…you get the picture.
This is an anecdote from my time in the blood red corridors of BSNL.
I plugged in my BSNL EVDO internet data card that warm Saturday morning and much to my fury, it had stopped working, again. A BSNL message displayed that the ‘Username’ and ‘Password’ of my device was not recognizable.
To many this would be the beginning of a string of attempts at fixing the problem as per the message; which meant:
A couple of restarts to your computer
re-installation of your device’s software
The classic: shaking the thingamajig in an ill-advised effort to ‘resuscitate’ the device.
Me? No chance! I’ve been through way too many wars with BSNL to fall prey to one of its sloth induced shortcomings. I knew there was nothing wrong with my ‘Username’ and ‘Password’, rather its more to do with an unpaid bill. Does it kill them to send the right message to me at least once in my lifetime?
I make my way to the BSNL branch office near my home. Block-like, unimaginative and utterly boring to the eye, the building’s messy appearance should have been a sign of things to come. I walked past the cadaverous security guard into a hallway that hasn’t smelled Lizol in weeks. A lone tube light hung incandescent at the far end, and beneath it a signboard read- ‘Welcome’. I certainly wasn’t feeling it! Sweaty from the relentless summer heat, I opened the door to a gush of a cool air. Admittedly, it calmed my fury and it was promising that there was a person at every desk in the office. Spotting the cashier’s office to the left I walked up to him,” Sir, I want to pay up for my BSNL EVDO. I have the 750-a-month plan.” Dull and uninterested, the rotund little man knuckled his moustache and reached for a drawer beside him. He started flipping through the BSNL handbook, unconcerned and seemingly deaf to my pleas.
Five minutes pass by until he finally claimed,” There’s no such plan in here. Are you sure this is the plan?
Of course I was sure! I have been paying the same amount for the past three months. This man seemed vexed at that particular piece of information.
He leaned forward and pointed towards the ‘Mobiles’ section,” Go there. They’ll know what to do.”
Being a veteran of red tape experiences, I soldiered on to the new destination without a fuss. A long semi-circular desk ran along the length of the room, and right at the end of the semi-circle, towards the corner of the office, hung a multi-bulb signboard- ‘Mobiles’. Here we go again I thought. Much to my surprise, the lady at the desk greeted me with a bright smile, “Hello Sir!” Refreshing would be an understatement. Upon letting her understand what the issue was, she started accessing previous records of my bill payments.
However, things turned pear shaped soon enough. For all her etiquette at treating customers, Ms. Smiles was technologically challenged. Watching her fumble over the mouse like she had Carpel Tunnel Syndrome was a test of god!
“I am sorry, Sir. Your payment is no longer vaild”, she said mechanically.
“What do you mean no valid? I’ve done this three times before, at this very office!”
“Maybe, you can talk to the Tech Support?”
Mortification came upon me as I soon realized she was one of those processed reception girls; a creation of the training programme existing within every company. Every time I tried to reason with Ms.Smiles she deflected, rather defended herself with a: “You should speak to Tech Support, Sir.”
Growing increasingly fed up, I laboured over to ‘Tech Support’. Just as I sat down, Mr.TechSupport picked up his bag, gave me a wink and left. That was the last straw! Why did he leave? It was 1:29 PM. Lunch.
The previously dormant anger within me erupted with a vengeance. It took me two whole hours but I stood strong as I ploughed my way through enough red tape for a lifetime to finally reach ground zero- The Branch Manager’s office.
This man would soon be the object of my ire, the vent to my frustrations, the victim of my wrath. The dummy to my…
“Next!” yelled a giant of a man seated slouched in his chair. That was surprisingly quick access.He seemed tired and angry. Sweet Schadenfreude! I guess I was not the only one who had a tiff with BSNL. Mr.Big rested back onto his chair and readied himself.
“Sir, I have a few problems with this,” wielding the data card like a weapon, I listed out all the problems I had with the data card and all the frustrations I had endured on my journey to the Manager’s office. He listened patiently, attentively and seemed to raise his eye brows at a few things I had to say about Ms.Smiles. Fifteen minutes later, I had expressed everything I needed to. I even felt a little lighter with three months of angst finally off my chest. This man looked like he meant business.
“Right. I will make sure all your grievances will be addressed Mr. Arjun Menon…”
But I was naive.
“…this is the email ID of the Circle Manager of BSNL. I am sure he will be able to help you.”
Some things are beyond redemption.