experiences with Reliance Indiaphone and the parallel
universe of Reliance Infocom customer service
Disclaimer: I do not know whether it is Reliance or
me at fault. I do not know because on the *366 customer service
number, I always end up talking to a shudh-hindi speaking customer
representative, while my preferred language of communication is
The love story - love saga - starts almost 2 months
back in our own regular work-a-day universe. From there, the story
moved to meta-communication through primordial ether, a short but
lively visit to the Reliance Customer Service Universe (near the
Restaurant At the end of the Universe), back to our middle-class
universe and finally ended in ether-based communication again.
First, quick snapshots of my initial weeks after
receiving the Reliance Indiaphone. This was the first time I came in
touch with Reliance while being aware of it, though some tell me
Reliance is everywhere, even in the air we breathe.
Snapshot 1 (Week 1 & 2) : People who can't get through to me
on my Reliance phone call up my cell and abuse me. I take it. I take
it for a competitive marketplace, the destruction of BSNL and MTNL,
a level playing field for the telecom sector. I take it for
Dhurubhai Ambani, I take it for all the capitalists in the world.
It's easier to take abuse if when you think you a reborn Adam Smith
at the frontlines of a new telecom/capitalist revolution.
Snapshot 2 (Week 3): I get an SMS saying "Your usage is
high, please pay an interim amount of Rs 1000 plus at the Reliance
Webworld outlet." I ignore it. What high usage?? 10 local calls
a week, 4 STD calls a week, 1 hour a day of internet is high usage?
Come on, this is Mumbai, not Bihar. I almost feel like my miserly
pop is in kahoots with Reliance to keep me from spending.
Snapshot 3 (Week 4, 5 etc): I keep getting SMSes regularly
warning me to pay up the interim amount. I do not. Why should I?
When I receive the bill, I pay up the amount, I reason to myself.
Summary of what happened thenceforth:
1) First bill amount - local calls + STD + internet
usage is Rs 2100. Very reasonable. A little wary of the interim
ransom amount warnings, I pay up Rs 3000 instead - just to
communicate that I have more money than you can take from me, HEH
2) I come back home, and there is an SMS waiting for
me. Pay up interim amount of Rs 4000... !!! I ignore this one. The
the SMSs stop and my STD stops too.
And I pick up the phone and dial *366. My voice
travels through Reliance-trademarked ether and reaches the English guy who tells me that
I better go make the interim payment to get my STD back. Explaining
to him that I have paid my bills, and fully intend to pay any
further bills, cuts no ice. Questions on how come my minimal usage
of Rs 400 worth of local calls, Rs 600 worth of STD calls and one
hour per day of internet usage amounts to high usage falls on deaf
I go to www.relianceinfo.com
and check out the customer feedback section. I can either type out a
one paragraph mail or have to upload an attachment. I choose the latter.
I write down my sorrows in MS Word and upload it. No response for
Time to personally enter the Reliance Customer
Service Universe, I decide. I locate the nearest Reliance Webworld.
The Webworld exists in its own
parallel universe, pretty close to the Restaurant at the End of the
Universe. Outside the Reliance Customer Service Universe entry-point
in Vashi, I encounter the
first alien. The alien has
blocked a human from entering the parallel universe. Sorry sir, this
place is open till 8 PM only, and now its 8:05 PM. The human gets
frustrated, declares that he has not made his travel encountering
the various dangers of traveling through time to be denied
admittance. The alien is unperturbed, and displays considerable
hostility by actively exercising its vocal chords and making various
loud sounds. The human is
persistent, and manages an entry. I sneak in alongside.
The universe itself is an interesting place. First
thing you notice is a food counter. I almost thought I had landed up
at the Restaurant at the end of the Universe or an Udipi hotel by mistake till I saw
the Reliance customer service counters in a corner.
Near the toilet (it looked like one - I am not sure
if aliens pee) I saw two aliens negotiating world peace by
describing each other as sister-fucking aliens and mother-fucking
aliens. If there is one thing that is common throughout the
universe, I have long learnt, is that whether or not aliens have mothers or not, they abuse each other just
the same. Perhaps its watching too much Earth TV.
typical day at the reliance Customer Service Universe
At the counters, multiple aliens are entertaining themselves.
Of course, they are talking to the humans too, but their eyes are
glazed as if they are in two universes at the same time. That is
quite possible, as their boss too has decided to be present in both
the Political meta-universe and the Business meta-universe recently.
Trickle-down theory seems to be at work, and probably it works more
efficiently at the Reliance Customer Service Universe. I am
impressed by the capability of Reliance's customer service
department in training them so well.
Almost all humans are looking variously bitter, angry, red
hot, white hot and incandescent. They make loud sounds and angry
gestures, and some repeatedly declare that the Reliance Customer
Service Universe must be closed down. The aliens reply monotonously
by reproducing verbal answers through their frontal air outlets. I
wonder if they are communicating below humanly discernible sound
frequencies using their rear outlets. But then, as a human, I
wouldn't even know if they have rear outlets.
I listen in on one conversation
between a particularly interesting alien and human. The alien is apparently female, and is attired in
black T-shirt, black trousers and black hair. The alien is not too
tall - about 5 feet, but I suspect it could be because it might be sitting
on its rear single leg and could very well be taller if it chose to
stand up. Its eyes are inordinately large, and are painted with
black ink. The human screams and shouts, declares that the parallel
Reliance customer service universe should be permanently shut down
and flushed down a toilet blackhole.
The alien is not impressed. When the human persists, it just left, almost presents its rear to the human (why? I was
at a loss) and declares - "Sir, I can't talk to you!" The
human is left to stew in his own juices. Are Reliance customer
services aliens trained to say that? I have no idea. What does it
mean? Do all customer services universes respond in a similar
fashion? I am enthralled. The human is
stunned, and fumes standing there alone.
I approach a milder looking alien, who directs me to
a desk manned (alienned?) by someone apparently human in a
salwar-kurta. Hesitantly, I sit down and explain my problem. The
alien/ human seems to comprehend. Yes, I have to make the payment.
Yes, it is better if I make it by cash. Yes, my usage does not seem
to be high. But, no, I have to follow the Reliance Customer Service
Universe practice, and pay up. A different universe, a different
logic. A passing by
green-shirted alien (possibly female) intervenes, re-emphasizes the
rule condescendingly, and walks away.
Can I make the payment now? No sir, its past 8
PM. I explain that I will have to make this dangerous journey to
this universe again, could you please include the amount in my bill?
After all, I have paid my first bill on time. I am not a cheat, or a
beggar. The human/alien seems to believe me, but expresses
helplessness. I am asked to return on Sunday, a day when I usually prefer my own universe, however small it is.
So here I am. I will make this trip again to
the parallel universe, kow-tow before the security alien
outside, and pay up the interim amount in Earth-money. And pray to
the higher beings to please return my Indiaphone STD. Will keep you
pathetic single-universe-inhabiting humans posted.