The Internet Men Commeth

Every couple of months a group of at least three men turn up at the front gate of my house/office, wearing grave expressions and carrying a mysterious tool box. There are usually two or three older men, smartly dressed, and a fresh-faced younger man, who regards his seniors with a mixture of admiration and fear. I ask them who they are and how they can help them in either Hindi or Nepali, but they brush my questions aside; this is a matter for ‘Sir’ (referring to my manager). They walk into the flat in a sombre line (going up the stairs in order of age and status), make a reverential gesture to the Sai Baba poster that our landlord has put up in the hallway and greet ‘Sir’.

‘Sir’ knows exactly why they have come, and the men sit down to business, speaking in hushed voices as if they are concluding a dodgy business deal. They sit in a confidential huddle at the kitchen table, and I understand that I am not wanted here. This is serious business; business for men.

‘So, we want to pay our internet bill – do you prefer cheque or cash?’ says Sir. ‘And the modem is playing up too. Can you take a look at it?’

The men look at each other and communicate with a mixture of nods and head waggles.

They have come from the local internet company to gather their dues for our dial-up connection in our office.

Wiring

Things for Men, clearly

This mafia-esque ritual takes place every couple of months when it’s time to pay our bill or if there has been some problem with the connection, and is repeated with the same machismo and poker-faced seriousness on each occasion. The last time the Internet Men came I made the error of attempting to sign the company cheque book myself and then asking them for a receipt. The Internet Men looked at me with a mixture of horror and embarrassment. I had been too forward.

I know that I’m a girl operating in a different culture, and that things are done differently here. But where is the need to behave like gangsters when dropping by to pick up a cheque? Many South Asian men do just feel more comfortable dealing with white guy rather than a white girl, if a white guy is available to deal with, and that’s something that I just accept now – social interaction anywhere in the world is always like a dance and you have to learn the correct steps, and this happens to one of them. But the Internet Men performance always strikes me as, well, a bit extreme. After all, this is Nepal, not the North West Frontier Province.

Looking on the bright side, we are online, the Internet Men have gone, and will not return for another three months. Putting up with a little bit of male posturing in exchange for internet access seems like a trade-off I can live with. But next time they visit, ‘Sir’ can open the front gate to them himself.

(Thanks to Nepali Keti for the inspiration for this post – see her piece on ‘Rasexism’ here)

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One Response to “The Internet Men Commeth”

  1. you should be persistent, tell them “sir” is unavailable and insist you are paying the bill. ugh. men.

    i refused to bestow random men i worked with for a few days with a “sir” and i got stared at funnily. i told them i haven’t said sir to anyone my whole life and have yet to meet anyone who deserves it. one man in particular no longer talks to me. but that’s his loss. not mine. he’s also the same guy that asked me who i was to question the decision made by parliament to award rs. 50 000 to anyone who married a widow. who am i? who am i? i am a citizen of nepal and any law called on my country is worth my critique! also, my chances of one day becoming a widow and then having a man be given rs. 50, 000 like he needed a consolation prize for taking me are slightly higher than his. you know, with me being a woman and him not… so i lectured him for a7 minutes straight….. no longer he avoids me these days ; )

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