1995. The Internet officially arrived on a Tuesday—and everything was shut: it was August 15, Independence Day. Roughly five years after the Internet had been let loose upon the world, the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) squeakily pushed and shoved open its Gateway Internet Access Service (GIAS) and let us, trepidant and self-assured, in. The VSNL had spent a meagre Rs. 2-2.5 crore to launch the service. It showed. It was terrible. Calls would disconnect and obdurately refuse to reconnect. Systems crashed. Imagine a stampede of gremlins.
I was there. Among the first 100 ‘citizens’ to get Net-connected in India. It should’ve been a red letter day—technically and governmentally, was—but what a slender thread of spider silk for us to hang on to! That dial-up TCP-IP connection snapped every five minutes (often less), reintroducing into the middle of catatonic perusal a rage-inducing, adenoidal dial-tone and an avalanche of digital snow.