Friday, October 29, 2010

Tring!!!! Tring!!!!

Yes- that’s how my phone rings; and if it is an unknown number, all it brings to me is anxiety… its like down the rabbit hole feeling…

I recently had a meeting at work with a company offering telecom service solutions for marketing purpose. The meeting was primarily academic for me meant to know what kind of latest service is being offered on the platform. So no matter how low the neck was, how often the bending or strong eye contact- I wasn’t buying anything.

Representing an American company, the lady tried to tell me about how the US market was different, how Japan was going and the greatest distinction about mobile maturity- “Do Disturb” as an option rather than “Do Not Disturb”. So people actually subscribe to calls or SMS they need- considering no one wants to get sued for flooding data to anyone.

I never knew how priceless that can be until today. Sure I do get messages and calls from obscure sources- but what came today was simply the most stunning bit of conversation I have come across in a long time. Not only it left me somewhere between enraged and stunned- I possibly gave the maximum X-rated response (from me) ever on phone.

The call came from some agency in Hyderabad facilitating Visa formalities for overseas resettling (yes, not jobs). I believe all Calling Executive have some basic training- I wonder how this lady might have got through. Every sentence in that call was a notch above on the stupid scale to what ever the lady said before.

The conversation began on the note:"Sir am I talking to Tushar Jamb... whatever... "… (Did she just call me WHATEVER??? – can’t even read a screen but have some prospect for me- wow). Ignoring the error, I decided to go and hear out beyond.

“We help with migration Visa for 7 countries...”, “So U wanna send me abroad- ok... to where?...Sir to Singapore...” (Sure I didn’t enjoy the place but it might be good to earn in dollars for a change)…”Sir, we will do all your PR Visa work... it takes about 6 months”…

Now this is strange stuff, no job offer so far… what is this call for??? “Can you tell me what's PR Visa?”… “It is Permanent Resident- so u can go with your family to Singapore for ever…”- This certainly is not a HR Consultant. I decided to go on just to get to the bottom of this- “Ahem!! Ok... and what do I do in Singapore” ... “Sir, we will organize job interviews for u, once u go there...”

I knew of job scams in Punjab and Kerala, this one is not even offering a job. But I just went on expecting sadistic pleasure. “Amazing- what kinda jobs” ... “Sir u in Marketing- so lots of jobs” , “Really??? I haven't seen one”; No sir, lots of jobs- we assure interviews…”

So I land in Singapore and they gimme interviews, what a scam. I tried my smart trick, “ok... so fix me an interview, I get the job, go on a work permit and then u start for the PR Visa”, “No Sir, Job only after PR Visa”

I decided to call it off and said thank you and thought it was over. But with the persuasiveness only rivaled by Insurance agents or the Sindhi shopkeepers in Gandhi Market, she struck back with renewed spirit: “Sir, are u married?”, “What??? How does it matter here?

The next line was the killer blow, a testimony to the fact that English is a foreign language and we still at time have no clue of what we speak-

“Sir, why don't u try?”

(huh, what the hell is this lady talking about?) “try what? Getting married or Singapore?”

The conversation beyond had to be edited due to high blood pressure effects, use of language ranging from astronomy to gastronomy and overall displeasure explicitly expressed.

All this while, I thought my English was not the best, the world just never seems to end with surprises for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Asian Awakening.....

I recently got back from a small vacation and it became a major talking point. For some it was what I did on the vacation and the rest- okay he actually took a vacation… so he has a personal life after all eh?

So I was going to Singapore and a major part of why Singapore was- well it had a Grand Prix. So it was a part of my cherished dream to watch a race with Schumacher racing in it and me wearing the Ferrari colours and cheering my team. So some friends were happy that I was gonna watch F1, rest for I was off to Singapore.

Now every travel abroad has its phases- much unlike traveling within the country. The first being pre- travel information that was sincerely being contributed from the more experienced travelers. So ‘don’t go to Mustafa on a Friday with a heavy wallet’, ‘make sure you don’t break the rules’, ‘buy a MRT card- it’s the cheapest to travel around’, ‘Zoo and Night safari is a must’, ‘Sentosa is a paradise’…. That was all I could hear from most. The rest contributed about where to find ‘chicks’, rules in the Casino and so on. On return, I was faced with only one question- ‘How was it???’

Now just over six days and I made up strong opinions about the country- which is the size of Mumbai, population of Andheri, Government Housing (like MHADA) and 50% taxes on salaries. And most of my opinions were not first impressions, they gradually changed over this period.

The Changi Airport is splendid- well, it resembled the new Bengaluru Airport to a very high extent with space no constrain. So I did not have an orgasm with its layout of aesthetics. What I did manage was chocking on a Burger King burger and coffee as I sat waiting for my friend (whom I stayed with and saved money) to come and pick me up. The preliminary Burger Index calculation told me that prices in Singapore were 3 times of all you pay in India for a burger. So the ‘Now I know what was missing in life’ soon had changed to ‘You are on a vacation, keep the conversion tables aside’.

Now by the time I walked off the aircraft, the only Asian girl I had spotted was one airhostess- could be caused due to traveling on an Aussie airline. The airport had people in travel attire and not appealing. So I will confess that the first girl I flipped for was the counter girl at Burger King. By end of Day 1, I was already seeing myself amidst the F1 after parties and the feeling of being in an Asian paradise was growing.

By Day 2, I had reason to believe that like a 100 rules to be followed in Singapore, girls with pants below 5 inches under their waist attracted less attention and were liable to be fined 1000 SGD. In fact, when I was joined by a Brit colleague of my friend as the only non resident member of the group, we both shared a joke on how our blokes manage to keep the mind off girls who wore clothing as a liability.

By Day 3, Singapore was a country with a fine for everything fun, sold expensive beer and smokes and gave you the feeling of being in a Big Boss house; thanks to the millions of CCTV camera’s that throng the place. It also offered Asian girls crafted from the same mould with no distinguishable features, who peeped through the hair they pull on their eyes to hide their large foreheads and looked like chopsticks with mittens wearing a bra as a sign of optimism. By Day 6, I was actually looking forward to seeing Indians.

I have a feeling that Singapore is a country living in fear. There is a CCTV everywhere- though I’m not sure which authority watches all of them. To make matters worse, they have screens that show you what’s being seen as well. But even then, the locals have found a way to get cozy in public. The best place to lip lock is the escalators. They are almost everywhere, provide the height advantage to the person in front- so no one bends, and only the top of the escalator comes on CCTV. So I’m confident that an MMS scandal will never happen - there’s no novelty factor.

Singapore and Sentosa especially are destinations built entirely on marketing and the mystique created by providing half information. To see anything worth a look, you have to pay amount which are never worth it. The beach front in Sentosa is an artificial beach of white sand. The view is the same what I see at Sewree creek in Mumbai. Same merchant ships, same oil tanks- even coconut shells in the water. And I still paid for it. Singapore River passes through the city centre and you see the buildings around. Sadly, the Mithi does not have buildings facing it- else I had a proposition.

So finally, what makes a country worth a visit? Yes, it is clean- but isn’t big brother watching you all day? People are warm and friendly; provided they have their head out of the mobile phone. My local friends were happier underplaying our country to justify the highs of Singapore. My final word will be it is a place worth a visit for what it is. But if you want me not to compare the price points, I will honestly say that you should not compare it with my homeland as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

At 35000 feet above the ground.....

When ever I go to Paris or Spain, I like to go on an Aeroplane,
I’ve been a few time and now I know, How they turn the propellers and off we go…

I don’t recall whose lines these are (certainly not mine), but it did capture the joy and excitement almost everyone has to travel by air. Why not… it still is an elusive experience, not everyone gets to do it on a regular basis. It is also the closest you can come to space travel. I mean even the cabbies look at you differently if you carry a bag and say Airport vis-à-vis Dadar- Pune Volvo stand.

Over a 100 years old, but this mode of travel still holds a lot of curiosity in itself. It begins right from is the flight on time? Is my seat an Isle or Window? Is my baggage within limits? Is the aircraft a Boeing, Airbus, a DC or Tristar? Do we get an aerobridge or it will be the airport bus and ladder? Did we push back on time? Which of the Hostess is gonna be serving me? Damn…. Too many variants…But that’s a part of the excitement I guess.

So what do I like once airborne- well there are too many things to choose from; the animated safety routines, the food on the tray, the views through the window, the In-flight entertainment…. Too far routine.

Arguably, the most delightful place in a plane is the compact lavatory. I say they are simply amazing. That dingy 6’ x 4’ cabin can provide what I say is divine- pure relief at 35000 feet. You cannot imagine a moment of privacy in your own office or home at times, but this one does offer it. Besides, it is designed to please you in every way. That small space has virtually everything you can ask for.

Close the door and turn the knob to lock the doors and… Surprise!!! The lights on the mirrors come on and just brighten up your day. The fellow passengers are usually in their best behaviour (unless they had a few extra pegs) - so you do not end up with the public utility feel. Now the best part is, there is a specific disposal bin assigned to every probable waste- which kind of baffles me.

Now I can understand disposals with markings that read ‘Toilet paper’, ‘Soiled diapers’- but what about ‘Razor blade’??? Now there is no way you can carry a razor inside the cabin of an aircraft. I mean people are so skeptic these days that International airport check in has a showcase of objects not permitted aboard an aircraft with a warning at the bottom reading “For display purpose only”- how do I get a razor in there???

Now I’m sure someone has already thought of the counter argument that airlines offer a shaving kit- yes I know, but not in the Economy Class. That is a facility for the Business Class or First Class passengers. And those are good quality razors… I mean who goes around like- swipe- swipe- swipe; throw it now, its worn….. No one chucks a razor off after one use. I mean that seems to be designed expecting a werewolf.

What makes those units so clean is the flush in the water closets. They seem to like suck all the bad stuff away- along with those amazing sci- fi sounds. I actually am yet to see how that is actually taken off the plane- which I will update the day I do find out…

Friday, October 8, 2010

Living a Dichotomy

Very recently, facebook has helped me get in touch with an Uncle of mine I have never met or spoken to in person. He is about the same age as my father and has spent close to 45 years in the US. This has actually presented me an opportunity to interact with someone from my father’s generation who has been long exposed to a foreign culture, raised kids in that environment and also has had a taste business and work environment.

During one of our online chats, I was discussing how upset I was for the fact that my brother is a workaholic. I was not happy that he was home after three years and still going online virtually every week to sort his work. I figured it as a weakness of not being able to manage personal time away from work. Going further, I was also feeling that he was not the person most comfortable in delegating work and having faith on his team.

My uncle was quick to point out that this was ‘Corporate America’- more or less like a norm. Add to it, this was like a must in times like today, when job retention was a key concern for most. What came for the next few minutes from him was revolving on how working in US was more demanding and called for sacrifice of personal time.

Now it is no secret that passing a bitter pill down my throat is not easy job- so all this time I had organized my arsenal. How different is ‘Corporate America’ from the ‘India Inc’?

Most of the Indian Corporate sector works from close to 50 hours a week with no extra perks. We adjust our working times to suit our clients from Australia to US. If we are unlucky enough to have work coming in from Nepal (Saturday working) or UAE (Sunday working), we end up 7 days looking after our clients. India is an outsourcing hub as the world knows that we are work horses. Corporate Governance is still a low priority function in India. So how is Corporate America more demanding?

My reply to uncle was simple. We live in an environment where technology, management systems and processes are replicated in India the day next to their success in any part of the world. The output quality from India is by no means sub standard to anywhere across the world. So the argument on work pressures and time to invest is not a US localized phenomena, we live it in India and still find personal space.

The whole discussion did not go anywhere since I was not in mood to convince him that his absence of 45 years from India has isolated his thoughts in the past. But it brought me to a certain revelation. We are living a dichotomy everyday of out life. We are somewhere stuck in transit between the World and India.

Think- we are all today global in out outlook, thought process and work culture. But being in India, there are some areas we are expected to maintain the Indian value systems. So if a girl in India cannot cook or a guy takes no offence to do the dishes- it can be greeted with awe. A girl or guy working till late and coming home, not having time for family will still be suspicious for our society. Do the same in US and see the same people up in praise for it.

What is disturbing though is that this dichotomy is most visible to people who are living it rather than people around us.