Letters to Home: An Ode to Mike Malsed

September 15, 2012 (+05:30 GMT): At 8:30 p.m. on the evening of my 21st birthday, I find myself at the ironically-named Shree Ganesh Net Café. Good ol’ Ganpati is the remover of obstacles, but right now, whiling away my time on the grubby keyboard at the only place I can find Internet is proving to be a serious obstacle to my birthday enjoyment. The phone and broadband access that comprise the majority of my monthly expenses here in India ceased to function at exactly midnight. Amidst the gamers of Pune—more than expected on a Saturday night, hunched over their monitors in silent solidarity—I send messages to my parents and twin sister to assure them of my existence. There are days when my "Internet stick" fails to maintain even its slowest connection—when it rains (read: India during monsoon season, as in now), or for random spats of days, devoid of explanation. Back at my homestay, I stare once again at the default screen of the Himalayan vista on my computer background; while scenic, it’s no replacement for the solid blue lines of Facebook.

This being India and all, in the interest of shanti, I’ve made peace with my lack of Internet connection. The dulcet sounds of Nicki Minaj and Neil Young play on repeat as I write this, cycling through a set of the twenty songs I managed to cull from Spotify before my Internet connection went AWOL. At moments like these, I am grateful more than ever for the technology services at CMC; Mike Malsed surely wouldn’t have let anything come between me and my Mumford & Sons. Corny as it sounds, I’m about ready to prostrate myself at the temple of Poppa, because I’ve really been missing:

1) Flowing Internet. Out here in the “real world,” people actually have to exchange their own cold, hard cash for wireless and broadband services. Constantly shelling out thousand-rupee notes to acquire sporadically‐functioning Internet service is a study in frustration; I’ve certainly never had to worry about the wireless connection on Green Beach.

2) RTAs/LTAs. Flash back to my birthday. Were such problems to arise in Claremont (which, in my experience, they don’t), all it would take to sort out the issue would be a quick text/call/yelp to the nearest student technology assistant. I’d have help at any hour in mere minutes without the worry of venturing out alone past curfew into the dark, Indian night. Back in Claremont, I would’ve been caught up on Homeland already.

3) Proximity of labs to sources of caffeine. Though unrelated to the IT department, having solid sources of sugar and caffeine near our study spaces is, frankly, an under-appreciated luxury. Since the chai shops in my area generally close well before my curfew of 10 p.m., I have to do without both while stenciling the life of Indira Gandhi until three in the morning (not my proudest moment). Appreciate Poppa’s proximity to the almond milk dirty chais at the Motley and the short stroll from South Lab to the Coop; Fresca doesn’t actually have caffeine or sugar, but I’d highly recommend the peach citrus variety, regardless.

4) Printing. As a tour guide at CMC, I’m used to waxing on about the free printing available on campus. Majoring in social sciences, I certainly appreciate avoiding any triple digit fees for the countless scholarly journals I’ve passed through the Poppa printers. However, after a recent printing experience, which entailed venturing to three different print stalls, switching flash drives twice, and spending 40 minutes looking for a Xerox business that employed both a working printer and stapler, I value the convenience and efficiency of Claremont’s printing facilities more than ever. Never again will I complain about a paper backup in South Lab that is unfailingly resolved (in what seems like hours but is really a matter of minutes).

5) Emails, in English. Back at Camp Claremont, we receive emails at the first sign of technology trouble. Most of them merit a quick scan and trip to the trash because the issues are resolved before the email blast even has a chance to circulate through campus. Not so in India. Here, I am barraged instead with Hindi text messages and email blasts about new bleaching methods and hair growth serums that manage to materialize though my Internet does not. Spam of this magnitude on campus would certainly warrant a tech investigation.

As I write this, I'm hurtling full-speed on a Magarashtrian train toward the bustling megapolis that is Mumbai. Once my Internet kicks back in, I'll send this off to (digitally?) print, but at the moment I'm far too mesmerized by the rail-adjacent shanties, temples, and gleaming towers of glass to trouble myself with the travails of Indian Internet; the subcontinent is as fascinating as it is frustrating, and I'm simply trying to absorb every Internet-less morsel of it.