A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet - grimy and uncleaned, I enter & enquire:
"Can you fix a Blackberry ?”
"Of course, show me”, said the lad.
”How old are you”, I ask.
‘Sixteen', says he.
Bull-s-h-i-t. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T-shirt and pyjamas! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been procrastinating for a year now.
"What's wrong with it ?” as I hesitated, he asked again.
"Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It's kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”.
He grabs it from my hand, looks at it and retorts, “You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Rollerball get greasy and dirty, then no working”.
Look who's talking? ...telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back.
”You come back in one hour and I fix it"
Eh, I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid's hands for an hour. No way.
“Who will fix it?” I muster up.
"How big is ‘big brother'?"
"big... Umm... thirty"
Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ? He is no more than 19, I assess.
"What problem ?" He says grabbing the phone from my 'greasy' hand into his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette - as the upmarket retail store managers are.
Before I could say something, he reminds me, "
What is this about me washing my hands suddenly ?? My brain keeps repeating.
19 year old 'big brother' rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball, packed in cheap cellophane wrapper.
Original part ? I doubt it. But by now I am in the lap of the real
“How long will this take ?” I ask regretfully.
This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space.
People crowd around to see what's happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious Blackberry back and making a quick escape. Though at this juncture leaving was impossible.
But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my Blackberry back. He had changed the part, cleaned and serviced the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together as well.
As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.
"you have more than thousand phone numbers ?”
"yes", I retort in disdain.
"backed up ?"
"Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up"
"You are telling me that, now ?" I was getting agitated...
But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching the episode laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show.
I asked him how much.
"500 rupees" He ventured in uncertainty.
People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation.
That's $10 - as against the Rs. 30,000 ($600) I was about to spend on a new Blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘quoted price‘ and calmly paid him. Much to the disappointment of the expectant crowd.
"do you have an I-Phone ? Even the new ‘4′ one ?" he softly enquires.
"no, why” I demand.
"I break the code for you and load any ‘app' or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee".
I went home that day having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid'. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers, aged 10 and 19 - that set up a ‘hole in the wall' shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them.
I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential.
"Please wash your hands before use" were his last words to me.
Now I am feeling seriously unclean.
but Frequent Traveller.