Since we are staying longer in India, we finally decided to get a local sim card for ease of communicating with our families and friends. Airtel is highly recommended as it has the biggest coverage in this country. The evening before we headed to Hampi, we dropped by an Airtel outlet in Mysore. The process is rather straight forward. Fill out an application form with a copy of passport and visa, choose a number, install sim card and finally test it. Within an hour we got a number and tested fine. We walked out happily ever after. Well, ‘happily ever after’ would only happen in the Bollywood movies… In real life, it doesn’t seem to happen this way!

The Airtel reception in Hampi is weak, “Only on the roof you get Airtel’s signal.” The guesthouse’s boy told us. Poor Alex spent a few nights standing on rooftop, catching Hampi’s evening breeze, trying to send New year’s greetings to families and friends. But mostly unsuccessful.

Back to Mysore, we sigh for the phone is finally working, a lovely sms came, ‘Limited period offer! Get FULL TALK TIME, NO TAXES! Easy Recharge with Rs150 TODAY & get Rs150 talktime. Zero validity. Rush to your nearest Airtel outlet now! From: Airtel’ We recharged Rs300 at the nearest Airtel outlet as instructed. It turnes out: No full talktime, tax was still applied. “Foreigner doesn’t have this privilege.” The counter lady told us after a few phone calls. Though her reason sounds silly and unconvincing.

Another sms came the next day, ‘Dear customer, as we haven’t recvd ur Airtel Enrollment form & documents, outgoing call on ur mobile will be barred as per TRAI order. Pls submit same for reactvn. From: Airtel’ Then the phone connection went dead. We called helpline 121 and was instructed that problem can be solved at a nearby outlet. We went but the people there couldn’t help. Instead, we were put through another helpline and this time, we were instructed to go back to the Airtel outlet where we first signed up. We felt being pushed around. The first helpline pushes us to a nearby Airtel outlet, this outlet pushes us back to the phone helpline, then we are pushed to our original sign up outlet. Till then, my patient was finally wear off, my anger blood is rising…

We jumped into an auto rickshaw with steaming heads, instructed the driver where to go and charge on meter fare. Instead, he tried to take us to other sightseeing spots. Unsuccessful, he then turned around and says, “My meter is not correct, you pay me Rs50.” It is more than double the fare we usually pay. “Stop your freaking car right now!” The two of us screamed real hard and scorded him like a dog. “Ok! Ok! Please sit! Why so angry? Where you come from?” I pulled a face it wrote, “Shut up!” and Alex was more gentle, “I have no mood to talk now.” He still tried to converse but hitting blank wall.

Finally at this Airtel outlet we learned about our form requires a residency address and a letter or receipt to proof. That’s also the reason why we didn’t get full talktime as our application was incomplete. Why didn’t these people tell us in the first place when we apply? And why didn’t the helpline tell us when we call? These people at the outlet have no idea what goes wrong. They were calling the same helpline to check for status too. We ran around all night to get a letter from our landlord and immediately submitted it the following morning. Now we are keeping our fingers crossed…