Yes, we've come a long way in our Internet revolution. But even after all these years of living in the digital world, our existence there...

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Yes, we’ve come a long way in our Internet revolution. But even after all these years of living in the digital world, our existence there remains fragile.


One slip or a few wrong keystrokes and documents are deleted, e-mail is misfired, files are shipped to the unknown recesses of our hard drives. And the technological mortals among us are helpless.


Madan Venugopal, of Cupertino, and his father-in-law, Narayan Kutty, know this well. They’ve been on a months-long mission to fix an e-mail hiccup that had been afflicting Kutty, who lives in India.


The problem? Every time someone sent e-mail to Narayan Kutty, a copy showed up in the inbox of G.S. Kutty, a man Narayan Kutty said he didn’t know and has never met.


OK, for Narayan Kutty it was a hiccup. For the other Kutty, who also lives in India, it was a royal pain.


“He’s sort of upset,” Narayan Kutty, 70, said by phone.


The trouble was most likely of Narayan Kutty’s own and inadvertent making. But even if we are our own worst enemies, this stuff just shouldn’t be so hard.


Narayan Kutty’s problems started late last year, after he opened a Gmail account.


Gmail became a family affair. Venugopal got an account. So did other family members in India, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.


Kutty, a former United Nations official specializing in aquaculture, encouraged colleagues around the world to use Gmail, too. Gmail’s prodigious storage was great for the files of fish-farm photos and technical papers colleagues would send.


“You have a lifetime account where you can put all the junk you want and people are sending you massive folders,” said Venugopal, a product planner for a graphics chip company. “The possibility is that the other guy does not have a gigabyte of storage.”


The other guy does not. Still, Narayan Kutty’s e-mail poured into G.S. Kutty’s mailbox.


“I get a lot of mail,” Narayan Kutty said.


Eventually, G.S. Kutty started writing to Narayan Kutty’s correspondents demanding that they stop sending e-mail to Narayan Kutty.


“He has no right to do that,” Narayan Kutty said.


Narayan Kutty and Venugopal say they sent e-mail to Google’s help center, but never heard back.


Google spokesman Nathan Tyler had no specifics on the Kutty case, but said the company does its best to get back to people as soon as possible.


And it’s not just Google. Who hasn’t spent hours on Web sites clicking help links and reading FAQs and “Contact Us” lists to find out why something that worked fine one day has come to torment us the next?


Kutty has found some relief. At a certain columnist’s suggestion, he checked his Gmail settings and found his account was set to forward mail to an e-mail address that was one letter off from his own alternative address.


One letter.


Kutty says he doesn’t recall choosing the forwarding option, but he is glad the problem is fixed. So is G.S. Kutty.


“Thank the Lord,” he said by phone from Mumbai.


The other bright side to the delayed solution? If Narayan Kutty had fixed the problem immediately, he never would have gotten to know the other Kutty.


And isn’t that what the Internet is about? Bringing us together?


Mike Cassidy is a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News.