Stranger things


For many B’lureans who went to their hometowns for WFH during the pandemic, logging on is easier said than done

If her company is looking for an employee of the month in the time of Work from Home (WFH), they won’t have to look beyond her. Sindhu N has gone to great lengths to ensure that internet connectivity will not interrupt her work.

Like many others, after the pandemic broke out, Sindhu too went to her hometown to start working from home, undisturbed. But alas, there was one small thing that she hadn’t factored in. Varamballi, which is around 340 km from Bengaluru, in Hosanagara taluk of Shivamogga, is where Sindhu is from and once back home, she had some painful internet issues.

So what does Sindhu do? She just walks a kilometre away from her home daily to an isolated farm where there is internet connectivity, pitches a tent and logs on to start work.

Speaking to Bangalore Mirror from Varamballi, Sindhu told us about her journey. A former resident of JP Nagar, Sindhu works for a chartered accountant. The covid pandemic changed her career course as she headed back to the village to work from her parent’s home.

Initially, it was easy as she could access the network from her mobile. However, as weeks went by, the network became sketchier and sketchier. One of the reasons, according to her, was the increase in the number of people returning to the village for work from home and students shifting to online classes. With so many people trying to log on to the internet, there just wasn’t enough bandwidth.

I began walking all round the farms to see if I could find a network and finally, I could get better signal in the middle of my farm land which is a kilometre away from my home

– Sindhu from Varamballi, Hosanagara taluk of Shivamogga

“The network was so poor that I couldn’t even get phone calls. So, based on suggestions from some people, I installed a booster at home. This helped me get messages and calls occasionally but still there was no internet. For a few days, I tried working from a neighbour’s house which was at a higher elevation. But, gradually the network declined. So, since then I began travelling eight kilometres to my relative’s place for work,” she said.

Till recently, things were working okay, but the lockdown in 2021 made things worse for her. With bus services cancelled and people not allowed to move, she had to stay back at her village and there was absolutely no network to work. “I began walking all round the farms to see if I could find a network and finally, I could get better signals in the middle of my farm land which is a kilometre away from my home,” she said.

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Sindhu said, for her, finding this spot was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert. And there under a tree, Sindhu started working. But the oasis was not shaded enough. As the village experiences severe heat and intermittent rainfall, the tree shelter was just not enough. “So, my father pitched a small tent for me and placed a table so that I could work from there,” the 25-year-old said.

Though the network issue was temporarily solved, there was another major issue. “With a fully charged battery, I can work on my laptop for four hours. Though there is internet here, there is no power socket in the middle of the farmland. Even the dongle battery went off soon which could be managed with a power bank. So, after four hours of working, I have to return to my village to recharge the laptop and then again head back to the work tent where I stay till 7 pm to finish my work. As it gets dark, one of my family members comes to escort me back home,” Sindhu said.

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Ask her if anything scares her out in the farmland all alone and Sindhu says she has not encountered any fearsome experience such as a run-in with a wild animal. However, she had a close encounter with a rogue ox which came chasing her several times. Sindhu says that due to personal reasons she has to continue to work from her village for a year at least and her only hope is that internet connectivity will become better one day.

Her neighbour Vinayak Prabhu told Mirror, “A few years ago, I had written to the Prime Minister’s office to highlight the plight of Digital rural India as we were not getting good connectivity. And, we were happy to receive a reply from the PMO directing the Shivamogga district administration to look into the issue. However, nothing has been resolved so far.”



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Sagar Biswas

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