“Where’s the Exploder?”

They say that Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India, and I might be tempted to believe the hype if it weren’t for the fact that no one appears to have a computer, and the ones who do, have no idea how to work them, or the internet.

After six weeks, countless hotel rooms, and two stabs at having wireless set up at our house I’ve dealt with probably a dozen “engineers” or “technicians,” none of who had the vaguest idea of what they were doing.

The language barrier doesn’t help.

“Mam, vhere do you hab exploder? Exploder mam, were is exploder?

“No explorer,” I say. “Safari. Safari same same.” I find it helps to repeat things. Unfortunately I can’t help repeating them at a higher and higher volume the longer the discourse goes on.

“Yes, yes. Exploder.” He pokes at a few keys on the keyboard with a vacant look on his face.

“Safari” I say, and move him out of the way before he breaks my machine. The fact that Phil and I roll with Mac’s makes the problem just that much worse.

Right now in India, innocence, tradition and history far outweigh techno savvy, and while it can be infuriating when you’re waiting for the little man to fill out the recei-PT for your purchase by hand and in triplicate with carbon paper pressed neatly between the sheets of paper, there is also something charming about it. It makes you slow down and remember things from the past, like penmanship, and math. It makes you realize that the world doesn’t come to an end if you have to spend another three minutes at the checkout counter.

If the Indians are able to meld their bureaucratic mindset, that is the lasting legacy of the British, with the efficiency technology can provide, they will eventually be a global force to be reckoned with. But that is still a ways off.

I grew up in Silicon Valley when it was still just beautiful California farmland, and there are similarities between the 1970’s Santa Clara Valley, and 2009 Bangalore. In Bangalore cows and camels and monkeys roam the streets, along with packs of wild dogs that we assume are rabid. In pre-boom Silicon Valley we rode horses and ponies, there were chickens and dogs, and we were chased by wild boar. Here, fruit sellers push wooden cards down the streets hawking their wares. At home there were apricot trees, strawberry fields, and walnut orchards everywhere and fruit stands dotted the sides of the road.

I’m guessing that in another 30 years or so carbon paper will fall into extinction in India as it has in the US, and nearly everyone will know the difference between dial-up and wi fi, Safari and Explorer.

“Would you pleash shtay on the line for just annatto turdy years sir, while I check with my superwiser to be connepting you with da footure.”

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