Internet Service in Agra:
In an almost back-alley of Agra, where our hotel is located, there is the usual scuffling and shuffling energy and garbled clamor that seems to be a signature of Indian afternoons. The pungent, but not altogether unpleasant, aroma of burning cow poo, a constant in Indian cities and towns, drifts past like a nearly palpable entity, an old friend. You half want to say hello.
A guy is guiding little white donkeys that are carrying gigantic loads of bricks—what seems like 300 pounds, from the visual. The donkeys do not appear to be particularly distressed over the matter, but I am distressed for them.
We need to use an internet service somewhere, and are delighted to note that there is an “internet café” across the alley. It doesn’t really look like a café—more like a cave-y thing with crumbling wall stuff going on all around it. It’s shaky, but it is what is available. (We all thought India must have internet cafes at every corner, given that they hold every phone-answering and computer service job in America, but that’s just not the case.)
We head in, not at all clear that this almost literal hole-in-the-wall can actually get reception of any kind. There’s a little kid there, probably 6 years old. Maybe 5. A couple other kids drift in and around–smaller, younger. Four, five years old maybe.
The Elder among them struts up and announces “You Need Internet—no problem.”
“Yes, we do—who runs this place?”
“I do. One hundred rupees.”
Wow. The six year old is the IT guy. The four and five year old are his tech support staff.
They get on the rickety old jalopy computers and jump start a couple of them. I thought they might need jumper cables.
“Oh, come on, now, twenty rupees maximum. “
“Fifty rupees!” He is bargaining. Wow.
“Twenty five rupees.”
“Thirty rupees. Best price.”
“OK, thirty rupees.”
We know we are getting hosed by this little guy, but it’s 30 rupees. It’s practically free. And we like him a lot.
Business guys, entrepreneurs, hard bargainers, and IT Guys. For the thousandth time in a matter of days, our ideas of how things are supposed to work in the world are shown for what they are—just one very limited notion of how the world can work.
Four, five and six year olds running an internet café.
But it’s India. No Problem.