How poor internet connectivity helped me make new friends today

Global citizens connected by food

"Excuse me, can you help us. I need to book an Uber to go to our hotel as we have a flight to catch. However, I don't have an internet connection"

I looked up from my laptop. There was a couple standing in front of me. Not Indians. The gentleman who addressed me had a hopeful and yet hesitant look on his face.

"Yes, the signal is very weak here," I replied. "Even I can't access my mails. It's very frustrating. Wish I could help".

"Aah, we do not have a roaming data connection, and are in Mumbai for a short while, but no problem, thanks for trying," the gentleman replied.

I saw him go to the delivery counter at Candies and speak to the staff but I don't think they could help them either. So he went and sat down with the lady who was him.

I got back to typing out the article I was working on. Then I looked out and saw it was pouring. The couple was witting at the table opposite me and looked forlorn. 

I felt bad. I knew how difficult it can be if you are in a foreign country and are trying to navigate around the city by yourself. Plus I couldn't catch up on my pending work due to the poor net connection. So I shut my laptop and walked up to them.

"Let me try and see if I can book you a cab."

Their faces lit up.

I didn't want to raise their hopes. I hadn't been to download my mails or check Facebook or do Google searches earlier that morning as Candies, where I was working from, has very poor network. I use Ola and Uber both and have faced problems while trying to book them from Candies in the past due to the poor internet.

I opened the Ola App first. Tried booking a cab. The cursor swirled a bit and then a miracle happened and a cab was booked.

I gave the couple the good news and their face lit up.

"We can pay by cash?" the gentleman asked.

"Well, it goes from my account but don't stress," I said . Their hotel was close by and it was a small amount.

"I insist we pay," he said.

The advantage of both Ola and Uber app is that you get an estimate of the fare. I showed the amount and the gentleman gave me the cash. At the end of the ride, it was ten bucks more or so quite ok actually.

The cab was at Lilavati and took a bit of time to reach. The driver wasn't able to use the navigation map but I guided him on the phone and he was quick on the uptake.

The three of us got talking while we waited for the cab. Turns out the couple was from Dubai and had moved in there a few years back. This was their first visit to India. The gentleman was originally from Lebanon and was happy to hear that I had enjoyed the Lebanese meal that I had had in Paris recently. He smiled when I described the dishes.

The lady was from Turkey. She seemed happy to hear about the lovely time K and I had in Turkey years back. I told her about K's love for Orhan Pamuk.

"Even we find his writing heavy," she said. "Wonder how foreigners find them".

She told me that Turkey has had problems and the bomb blasts were really unfortunate, but Turkey is 'normal' on a day to day basis.

As we all grimly observed, the whole world has problems today but that we need to carry on and not give in.

The couple told me that they loved their meals at The Table ('not local but very nice') and Pali Bhavan in Mumbai and that they reached Candies by looking at Google Maps and Tripadvisor. I told them that the restaurants they went to are good and then told them about some of the more traditional places here. They were interested to know more about Parsi food when I told them about the Irani Cafes of Mumbai.

Then the cab reached and the cabbie called. I spoke to him and then my phone blinked again.

There was a text from my mother, "your ilish bhaaja and khichudi are ready. You can come home."

The khichudi and ilish that mom made
The perfect Bengali rainy day food

I decided to pack up for the day, especially as it was raining and I wasn't sure about getting an auto and it was past 1 pm.

I took a lift in the cab to my house which is close to Candies and then  said bye to my new friends who headed off to their hotel. 

They have hopefully now reached Delhi for the last leg of their trip with happy memories of Mumbai.

Funnily enough, it's thanks to the poor internet connectivity that we got to meet. This is what they call 'turning poison into medicine' I guess.

As I sat down to write this post, I wondered why I was doing so. Perhaps this is my small tribute to the kind gentleman in Stockholm who had taken in my father, mother and a 1 yr old me in his house, when we had landed in his city during a road trip in 1975 and didn't have a place to stay. 

Booking a cab seems a pretty small thank you gift back to him and the universe.

You can read my mother's post about what happened in Stockholm here