By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, June 24: It was April 28. A month had passed since the lockdown began. Nitika Silwal, 27, was in the middle of teaching Social Studies to her students through the virtual meeting platform Google Meet when her laptop screen suddenly went dark and subsequently turned off. She tried turning it on numerous times in vain. She showed it to many of her friends who tried to fix it to no avail.
This left her in quite a pickle. “It dawned on me that I had no choice but to take it to a repair shop. But the situation was such that all the shops were closed,” she said. Fortunately, a few days later, she found the number of a computer repairman who offered home service during the lockdown. As it turned out, her Random Access Memory (RAM) had crashed and needed to be replaced. Now her laptop works fine.
Ilam Kunwar, 35-year-old writer and Nepali-English translator, has a similar story. His laptop stopped working last month for no apparent reason. He tried fixing it himself, looked up YouTube tutorials and consulted his tech-savvy friends, but this yielded no results. This forced him to use his smartphone for his work to his utter frustration: “The pain of having to write and translate nearly 50 pages every day on one’s phone is indescribable.”
After suffering for a whole month, Kunwar was finally able to bring his laptop to a shop in Tebahal, New Road. He has been told that his laptop will be ready for use by Friday.
Silwal and Kunwar’s laptop problems are far from isolated cases. According to Niranjan Joshi, who is a computer technician and has a repair shop in Sorhakhutte, Kathmandu, many people’s laptops failed them during the lockdown. “I have received nearly a hundred laptops since I opened my shop nine days ago,” he said. “During the lockdown too, I was getting more than five calls a day regarding laptop issues.”
Going by the calls he received during the closure period and the complaints he is hearing from customers bringing their devices to his shop, he hypothesised that people’s laptops started quitting on them during the last 40 to 50 days of the lockdown.
“People worked their laptops to death,” Bulanda Shakya, who offered home repair service during the lockdown, explained. “People used their laptops continuously from morning to evening for 10-12 hours straight. They put in apps and updates that their devices could not handle. Work from home arrangements and online classes practically required people to live on their laptops which led to overheating too.”
He also called out laptop owners for not caring enough for their personal computers. In his opinion, people research a lot and pay much attention while buying laptops but do not follow it up with decent upkeep. They do not service it regularly nor do they care about how and what they are using it for. He particularly directed his anger at those who in his words “get too comfortable”. “People place tea on top of their laptops and they are eating lunch and dinner with their laptops on their laps. People also give them to their kids,” he said in anger. “As a result, they spill stuff on it and it breaks down.”
At the same time though, he is enjoying the surge in business. Before the lockdown, he made one to five house calls a week. During the lockdown, he was even making up to 40.
Shakya predicted that the broken laptops would now lead to an uptick in the sales of new ones. “A significant number of people are now planning to replace their old laptops with a new and better one instead of spending money on fixing it.”