Work from home, coronavirus, cyclone Amphan

When you work in an office environment, you don’t realise just how dependent on technology you are. You tend to take for granted the large monitors, quick processors, fast Internet and round-the-clock IT support. And then comes a Covid-19 situation and you wake up to a laptop you aren’t well-acquainted with, a most unpredictable Internet connection and a deadline.

Working from home has been a revelation for many reasons, not least of which is the influence Internet speed has on my mood. Coffee, I used to believe, was the only mood-lifter I needed, my only addiction. During the lockdown, however, I gave up.

The first day I had to work from home, things went swimmingly. Of course, working on the laptop felt like walking under water — excruciatingly slow and a little blurred — and there was the constant tension that the dongle might give up. But that apart, I had beginner’s luck.

The next day too, the Internet behaved impeccably, lulling me into a sense of security. A false sense as it turned out because when I needed it most, the dongle just stopped functioning. What was worse, my mobile phone data, too, decided to take an impromptu holiday. It was a colleague’s good old BSNL broadband that came to the rescue.

I turned to IT support — they were still functioning, though remotely — and was asked to download two apps, one that measures Internet speed and another that tracks a user’s location. The first one told me I had a very slow Internet connection — nothing I did not know. And the second came up with a string of random letters and numbers and the latitude and longitude of my home. Not necessary, nevertheless good to know.

I sent screenshots of both apps and waited as patiently as possible.

The first day of waiting, I scrubbed the kitchen and snapped at my mother. The second day, I dusted and rearranged all the books at home — and believe me, I have quite a few stuffed bookshelves. The third day, I took my children to task for all the things they were supposed to do that week but didn’t. The fourth day, I called IT support and it was explained to me that it was out of their hands and in the service provider’s. I took a sleeping pill and went to bed early that day.

All through, I was technically working from home. By now, I had learnt to alter my work hours to suit the Internet speed. It seemed to favour early mornings and late nights. I arranged my household and childcare chores accordingly. In the meantime, my son’s online classes started and I had to forego my old standby, the mobile data.

At one point, I had a major meltdown, a screaming-in-public, only-second-time-in-my-life major. As soon as I finished apologising, I called everyone I could think of to understand how to procure pronto a broadband connection. It wasn’t too difficult and the very next day I was in possession of one 70Mbps fibre-optic Internet connection guaranteed to work come rain or storm.

I was walking on air and could barely stop smiling. At last I had an Internet connection that would work whenever it suited me and not the other way round.

I enthusiastically powered up the laptop that afternoon, raring to tackle all the pending work when I discovered that I couldn’t log in. Back I went scurrying to IT support. I was told my broadband categorised my office connection as unsafe. Really!

They provided me a workaround and also pointed out that my dongle would now work. I did not tell them that I had recently discovered a workaround of my own. If I left the dongle on the ledge of the balcony, it worked perfectly. So, after more than a month working from home, life was looking good. I had got used to working on the laptop and I had not one but two stable Internet connections.

It was, of course, too good to last.

Remember the fibre-optic broadband’s promise to work through wind and rain? Well, when it came to the crunch — in this case Cyclone Amphan — it did not. It did not even put up a fight; the connection stopped working as soon as there was a stiff breeze, way before the power went off.

The power did not come back for three days and the broadband connection kicked in after 10 days, with an apology from the cable company for the delay. The office Internet connection, too, succumbed to Amphan, putting paid to all our efforts to work from home. Back to office we went that week and what do you know, I was never happier to see a desktop computer.

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