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Surfin' Hindustan

Text: G Vinayak | Photograph: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee

Webcam to the bride's rescue

Sixty per cent of India's Internet users access the Net through cybercafés. India has more cybercafés than post offices and an estimated 200,000 cybercafés play a vital role in everyday life across the country. On the occasion of 15 years of the Internet, takes a peek at what goes on in cybercafés around the country. After checking out Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai and Kanyakumari, today we travel to the northeast


In less than a year after opening a Sify I-way cybercafé in Guwahati's busy Maligaon area, Abira Roy has had a variety of experiences and varied clients. "Everyday brings in a new experience although now, after nearly a year, we do have a host of regulars coming at a pre-determined time," says Roy, who is in her early thirties.

Customers range from business people, who come to the nearby railway headquarters for work, students from Pandu College, one of Guwahati's oldest educational institutions and new converts to the cyber world, usually in their mid and late-30s.

Two experiences stand out in her memory.

"Once, two cyclists from Malayasia, on a world tour, dropped in to my café. Though they couldn't speak very fluent English, we got into a conversation. It seemed they were looking to get a taste of Indian food. On sheer impulse I invited them home and served typical Bengali food. The two Malaysians, SK and Shawn, got so friendly with our family that later on a weekend we also went to a picnic spot nearby," Roy, whose husband is a medical representative, recalls.

The other incident was completely different.

"One day, a burqa-clad woman came to my café. She wanted a corner PC with a webcam. After nearly half-an-hour of futile attempts at trying to use the camera to chat with someone at the other end, she was desperate and panicky. As I fixed the problem a little later, the expression of pure delight on her face was worth its weight in gold."

Apparently, this woman in her mid-30s was trying to fix a match for herself in Dubai since two of her sisters were already married there.

"The moment she started chatting with her prospective groom, I moved away. I don't know whether the match materialised but that day, I felt nice helping out someone in need," Roy says with a sense of satisfaction.

More frequent clients are students like Manish Jain who visits the café to play games, sometimes online. A higher secondary student, Manish is among several young men and women who frequent Roy's café after college hours.

As she approaches the first anniversary of her café's opening on December 23, Roy is thinking of offering small gifts to her frequent users as a token of her appreciation.

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