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Disconnected, Disoriented

When mobile phones and laptops stop working amid nationwide lockdown, desperate measures are often the way out

Imagine being stuck at home without your phone or laptop at a time when the world is continuously devising new ways to function online and work from home. Unthinkable, right?

More than 2.5 crore mobile phone and laptop users in the country are estimated to be without a functional device, according to a statement by India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA).

This number will shoot up to 4 crores by the end of May due to faults and breakdowns if the restrictions on the sale of handsets and spare parts continue, ICEA added. The numbers have been estimated keeping in mind past records of an approximate 0.25 per cent of breakdown on a monthly basis. The body has written to the government to list mobile phones as essentials.

This has left most users frantically looking for options online and even making a run to their neighborhood phone stores, but in vain. Some are even going to the lengths of visiting a hospital in an attempt to get their devices repaired. Revati Laul did exactly that, and it paid off.

Based in Anangpur, a village in Faridabad, Laul’s laptop started malfunctioning and she had no option of getting it fixed in her village. An independent journalist and author, Laul was in a dire need to coordinate via emails as she was providing relief to people in distress due to the lockdown, along with reporting.

Desperate times calls for desperate measures, and off she went out with her driver to look for solutions. Her search ended at a hospital where it fortunately got fixed, and right from this laptop she shares her unusual account on social media.

Her first stop is a mobile repair shop in the village, who couldn’t help her as it was a “computer wala maamla hai, mobile ka nahi” (a computer related issue and not a phone). They drove two kilometres ahead into an urban market but were turned down by a mobile shop owner on the same grounds.

They further drove eight kilometers to a bigger market and she walked into a bank. She asked the visibly perplexed staff for the IT person in the station, but they informed her that the back end support works from home these days.

Dejected, she got back to her car and was driving past a hospital when the idea struck her. The guard at the hospital gate stopped her and Laul named a doctor she had visited as a patient and walked into the reception counter.

“Excuse me but I really need your help. Everything in the city is shut and my computer has stopped working and I used to be a patient here…so I thought let me ask if you have an IT person I can show it to,” she pleaded. Laul shares that they looked at her with sheer disbelief but the desperation on her face perhaps made the girl at the counter buzz someone and directed her to the second basement.

“I pushed the door open to find six people sitting at six consoles… and told them my story. They tried telling me they’re not allowed to help an outsider with their computer. This was a hospital after all and not a computer repair centre,” reads her post.

Over 2.5 crore users are facing difficulties working from home due to lack of functional devices

She pleaded humanitarian grounds as she was in the middle of relief work and they decided to take a look at her laptop. “I am typing this out to you from this laptop that went to the hospital for repairs and was out breathing healthy 15 minutes later,” she shares.

However, not all got so lucky. Stuck in Agra, a red zone during this lockdown, Vivek Dhakrey has been without a phone for the past one week. As he lives with his extended family, a three-year-old cousin accidentally dropped his phone while running around the house. “She fell on the phone and the screen cracked. I checked my phone first before helping her up,” he adds, laughing.

Perhaps a regular scene at most households. However, with no functional spare phone at home, e-commerce being shut and no available stores he has no option but to wait till the lockdown is over.

The situation is particularly testing for those who are working from home. Based in Noida, Mansi Dua works as a social media manager for The Indian Express. Her laptop charger became defunct on the third day of the lockdown.

“Initially I was managing through my phone but it was hampering my work and I had to ask my colleagues to help me out,” she adds.  After a week her office arranged for a small Notepad. “However it is very old and slow. So it is definitely affecting my work and my productivity is not 100 per cent,” says Dua.

Some who did manage to order their phones before the lockdown began are yet to receive them. Ranit Das, had pre-booked a Samsung S20 for Rs 2,000 before the lockdown began but unfortunately the crisis has postponed the release of the phone. His current handset has a faulty battery and he is unable to make calls. Das also cannot buy a new phone in the current situation and the booking amount is also stuck.

Whenever the government lifts the lockdown, among the rush will be people trying to fix their gadgets.

(Cover image: Representational image // Credit: Getty)