Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sim Card Sagas

Many times I have enjoyed shocking American friends telling them that cell phones in India (Iran, Morocco too) are prevalent and much cheaper to use than in America. However, I have discovered that although this is still true, the bureaucracy to actually reactivate the Indian cell phone that we had purchased last visit to India is a labyrinth of rules, and of course, I only discovered each rule one at a time, thinking each time I returned to one of many Air-Tel shops first in Bangalore then in Kovallam Beach south of Trivandrum in Kerala having accomplished the needed requirement, there was another to meet. The general rules, and there were exceptions in each shop, are that a copy of your passport front page and the page with the Indian visa, a head shot photo (called a snap by English speaking shop workers) proof of a local address (which hotel desk clerks are loath to give) will allow the sale of a new sim card which expires in one month and some air time. Air time can easily now be added (at least that is the theory) After several days and fulfilling all of the rules, signing many forms and paying 200 rupees we now have an activated cell phone and I was able to call my mom briefly last night. These rules are apparently part of the Indian government requirements to track cell phone use by criminals and terrorists. Just who keeps the records of all the hundred thousands of forms and snaps would be one interesting thing to know. Presumably if a cell phone is used for nefarious purposes, the police would come looking for the owner of the sim card, so you can be sure that if my cell is ever stolen I will certainly report it to Air Tel!

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