There’s a new deity in the Indian Pantheon: the ‘System’. Also known as the computer or the computer network.
It is omnipresent and spans all aspects of our lives. Whatever the System says, we hear and obey. We exist only if the System says we do. We could be alive and kicking, and bawling out loud for that matter, but it becomes real only when the System acknowledges it.
The System has many forms — avatars as it were. One such avatar is the much-loved Orrtell, which provides mobile telephone services to deserving Indians.
Late last Saturday evening, I got a text from beloved Orrtell telling me that I was “nearing your Fixed credit limit” and that the “usage amount does not include monthly charges, roaming usage & discounts”.
One look at this text, and I my knees turned to jelly. I mean, I was “nearing” my “Fixed credit limit” and if I didn’t send some monetary offerings Orrtell’s way, the System could bring the wrath of the Gods and nameless other beings down on my head.
So I quickly scurried over to the nearest Orrtell Relationship Centre (ORC), where a warm and welcoming relationship management acolyte (RM acolyte) accepted my piffling monetary tribute to the System.
In its munificent magnificence, the System gave me a little gift — a slip of paper acknowledging my monetary tribute. I held that scrap of paper close to my heart, for now no one could torment me with threats of “nearing your Fixed credit limit”.
But I was getting too uppity. And so, on Monday morning, the System came down hard. As I struggled to battle the ‘beginning of the week blues’ with some apple juice, the System intoned via a text: “Your Postpaid Bill Pay was not processed. Trans ID: 123456789.”
Panic. “Why me? What did I do?” “Please System, forgive me my sins, whatever they are.”
Then, a sliver of rational thought squirmed up through the dread: “But I have the gift that the System gave me on Saturday evening. That slip of paper.”
That stiffened my resolve a little and I called the sainted helpline 121 — aka Orrtell Customer Care — where I was told that I’d be charged “50 paise for every 4 minutes” I spoke to one of the System’s RM acolytes. I pressed ahead, selecting the option that would connect me to an English-speaking RM acolyte. And an acolyte eventually answered, but in Malayalam. “Never mind,” I thought, “at least I get to speak to an acolyte.”
Bubbling with enthusiasm that could only have been feigned, the acolyte remarked that it was my first call to 121.
“Is that a mistake,” I wondered and the panic attacks were back with a vengeance. I quickly stumbled through a spiel about money paid and acknowledgment slips and all that.
“But the System does not show you paid anything on Saturday,” declared the bubbly RM acolyte.
Crushed by the System’s divine betrayal, I whispered: “But I did pay. I have the receipt.”
Oozing graciousness, bubbly acolyte chirped: “Your last payment was several weeks ago, something like 2,000 rupees. That’s what the System says.”
“What do I do now,” I queried.
“Go to the ORC. They may have a solution for you,” declared the RM acolyte.
So overwhelmed was I at this straw thrown my way, that I ended the call even as the RM acolyte rattled off something about hoping that I was happy with his responses and whether he could help me with anything else.
Off I went, back to the ORC. The chirpy RM acolyte there actually threw a smile my way and even nodded in recognition. Before I could get a word in, he said:
“The System is not accepting your payment.”
“So what now? Will the System block calls to my number since I’ve now probably exceeded the ‘Fixed credit limit’,” I asked.
“Not to worry,” was the confident response. “The System will take care of everything.”
“But… suppose… they cut,” I stuttered.
“The System will take care of it,” he repeated. And then, in a gesture of great generosity, the RM acolyte gave me his ‘personal mobile number’ to call if there was an emergency.
“So you will help, if the System blocks calls,” I exclaimed in relief.
He smiled beatifically, ushering me out.
As I stepped out of the ORC, my phone chimed.
A text message, from the System: “Thank you for calling Orrtell. Hope your query has been solved to your satisfaction.”
Several hours later, another text message popped up: “Thank you for payment of Rs 1,234. Your e-receipt number is 1234567”
The System had accepted my little offering. Bliss, for now.
PS: Any resemblance to anything or anyone living, dead or in-between is a coincidence and will be attributed to the System.