Douwe Osinga's Blog: Technology and traveling

Friday, November 21, 2003

I was dragging quite a bit of technology around, while traveling through India; a digital camera of course, a laptop to store and sort the images from the camera and my cellphone, not so much to call with, but because it contains all the addresses of people who I need to send postcards to.

India is full of tech, but electricity is sometimes a problem. It goes down a lot and the hotels I stayed in, usually had only one free wall socket, so keeping all devices charged was a challenge. Mobile phones are really cheap in India, but using a Dutch sim card isn't, sometimes up to 50 times as expensive. I should have bought a local one probably.

But what a difference 15 years make, the first time I was in India. Back then, plastic money was unheard of and it was traveller checks on the black market, where one bill of hundred was worth more than 100 bills of one. Calling home involved finding the one central phone office with International calling. Now you have GSM coverage in the middle of Kerala's backwaters and ATMs are all over.

Generally India is taking the digital revolution great, except may be for museums where they tend to not like camera's (not particular for India maybe). Flash photography, I can see, that could hurt paitings, but why forbid camera's in museums, in order to shore up picture card sales? I don't know. So I turned in my camera visiting the central palace in Mysore, but was arrested never the less.

A guy in green starting pointing at my pocket, demanding to know what the bulge was. It wasn't that I was happy to see him, it was my phone. My camera-phone. 'Very big problem', he said. 'Police matter', he insisted. 'Okay, let's go to the police', I said. 'Well, maybe that wasn't necesary', he said. 'It would get me in trouble'. 'But I respect Indian law, let's go', I countered.

He was going to return me my phone, if I promised not to use it. There was just one thing. He was a coin collector. Did I have a coin from the Netherlands? If possible, a large one, he already had the smaller ones. I gave him 20 cents and we parted our ways.