The task, you see, was simple enough. While in New Delhi – that great, chaotic city of technology outsourcing and IT heroes – get my broken Mac Air fixed at one of the city’s many Apple-certified resellers. Though, in India as I was to quickly learn, few tasks are ever so straightforward. And that’s what made the mission perfect.
After arrival at the Zen-like oasis of Thikana Hotel at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. and a brief sleep, we hit the relatively quiet streets of our hotel’s neighborhood to walk to Centre Pointe Computers, the nearest shop that handled Macs.
We reached a shopping center and a dilapidated building which may have been partly under renovation, or partly in decay, or perhaps, both. Crumbling cement and brick steps, piles of rubble in doorways, faded and dented signs eventually led me up a dim flight of stairs into the realm of Centre point where I met the Manny, Mo and Jack of New Delhi.
The computer was presented, met with head nodding, head scratching and much chatter. It was poked. It was prodded. It would need to be assessed. It would need…to spend the night.
The afternoon had long faded, and we hopped into our first of countless autorickshaws, which, in my opinion, may well be god’s great gift to automotives. A ubiquitous sight in Delhi, the green and yellow autorickshaw is without fail a beat-down, snarling, shivering and smoking hunk of metal that never, hardly ever fails to weave amidst bicycles, motorcycles, cars, animals, stray humans with the agility of a prima ballerina. Crash-defying merges, fearlessness on highways — these suckers and their drivers rule.
Day 2 in Delhi and text messages with the boys at Centre Point led me to realize a repair would cost $1000 USD – total dealbreaker. Another trip to the shop ensued, with much discussion on the merits of computers that are cheaper to fix (and buy) than Macs, and then we took a trip to the great “Everything Mac (and Some Things IBM)” shop around the crumbling bend.
Again, up 3 flights of twisting, unlit stairs, into a dark room filled with Apple memorabilia, circa 1996, including the rainbow Apple logo and giant desktop monitors. Still in the midst of the seeming antiquity, iPhone 4’s were being worked on, iPod Touches repaired, and all the latest equipment was lying around. These peeps know what’s what. Still, they couldn’t help me either.
And so it was off to DHL, to ship the poor thing home to the US. There we met a lone man, in his tiny shop, who took no less than 1 hour 20 minutes to fill out the paperwork and start (mind you, not finish) packing up my computer. I left the box in a crumpled state on the DHL desk, while visions of the battered FedEx package in “Castaway” danced through my head.
More autorickshaw rides led us to the local high-end mall where we hit up a Bollywood flick in a theater with plush reclining seats, and waiters (I ordered a Snickers bar!). At the mall we found a new electronics store, and it’s here that I bought a new netbook computer, which seems to be getting the job done fine. I even got a scratch-off discount of 200 Rs!
It was only after all this that we settled into Day 3, touring the sights of Delhi: Red Fort, the mosque, Huyaman’s Tomb, Gandhi’s house, bazaars, the presidential residence. And they were all incredibly interesting, and some, like the tomb, breathtakingly stunning – or like Ghandi’s, moving beyond words.
But still – my two days of running errands – of autorickshaws, bike rickshaws, Delhi IT guys, computer stores, neighborhoods, malls and movies felt so much better, bigger and like a REAL experience than any of the sites combined.
It was my foray into life in Delhi – real life, not the one filled with street touts and ticket queues, and gorgeous but ultimately intangible sights. And it was perfect.