My devotion to the Doctor is unquestioning. Wherever I am in the world, I will follow his attempts to save the universe. The Information Age makes this relatively easy, of course, and my only dilemma in India has been whether to get a friend to download Series 4 in readiness for a return-to-Zion marathon, or whether to make do with YouTube. Like a seasoned addict, I’ve plumped for the latter. Every Sunday night, no matter where I’ve been, I’ve made my way to the nearest cyber-café in order to watch the latest episode.
Two Sundays ago was the same; the only difference being the pull of the start of the series finale, and an episode penned by the Guru of the new series, Russell T Davies. Turn Left promised counter-factual craziness with political undertones (the south of England wiped out of a car turning left, instead of right), as well as the return of Rose Tyle (Bille Piper). Seeking familiarity, I headed for the same café where I had watched the previous episode, in High Bank, Rishikesh. That time I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to watch, as a sign on the wall read “No Downloading or Uploading.” Seeking refuge in my technical knowledge, though, I reminded myself that YouTube constitutes neither downloading nor uploading; it simply streams videos from a remote server, leaving no trace on the computer. Nonetheless, I decided to check, asking the owner for permission to watch. Permission duly received, I started watching.
A week later, and I was just coming to the end of Part One. Infected by a mysterious time-feeding bug, Donna Noble was on the verge of turning right, a move that would lead to apocalypse upon apocalypse. Excited to get started on part two, I was disturbed by the boss. Pointing to the sign, he menacingly told me, “No downloading or uploading.” A disputation ensued. I explained to him that YouTube didn’t break the rules as stated on the sign, he said that they did. I said that it hadn’t been a problem last week; he said that that was then. An appropriate response, I suppose, given that the topic under discussion was a programme about a time-traveller.
It didn’t stop me though, and I continued to explain to him that I wasn’t downloading (or uploading, or sideloading) anything. “If I’m downloading it, you would be able to find it on the computer,” I told him, “Where is it?” Again, no answer but his authority as the boss; I was fighting a losing battle, and my exasperation was starting to show, particularly in my inarticulate arguments in favour of the “YouTube is not downloading” motion. The temperature was rising.
Now a moment of schadenfreude for my parents, who have always told me to cut down on my swearing. “It’s not fucking downloading,” I told him, desperate to watch, and now the gloves were off. He totally lost his cool, jibbering and jabbering and threatening to call the police, whilst I stood my ground, telling him that I would welcome their intervention. Swearing had been a mistake. Now I was as calm as possible, but it was too late to save the situation.
He wanted to charge me 100 rupees, I refused to pay a single paisa. I reminded him that I had been a good customer throughout the week, using him for rafting, internet and telephone calls, and was happy to sit here for another hour, on the condition that I could watch my programme, which after all wasn’t doing the other customers any harm. Unmoved, he dismissed me, telling me that he didn’t need my money. That night, I always walked the mean street of High Bank accompanied, out of the exotic feat that he might send his goons after me. The next morning, I left town, in search of an internet-café where disciples of the Doctor would be welcome.