Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One month @ a call centre

Posted by Picasa thank you for calling ...

note: Except for the title of this article, it has absolutely nothing to do with Chetan Bhagath’s book. On the other hand I feel that this has more meat than the one by him, as this is more factual than his cooked up work. Wholly my perspective, arguments not welcome yet again!

A call center to me would be what the church of Satan would be to a catholic. I had not the faintest of ideas as to what went on behind the high stonewalls, but whatever the deeds were, they were as black as hell. I despised it with more conviction than Manchester Untied fans hated Chelsea. I don’t know why. Despite Mr. Gandhi’s sermons about every job having a dignity, I couldn’t find anything dignified about picking up a phone and reliving pre-1947 yet again. So much for our father of the nation’s inspirational charisma.

I left my job at my ad agency, Opus, at midnight. Freedom at midnight part II. Reasons were aplenty. I don’t want to list them, as you would find them as meager and amusing as the ones Chandler Bing uses to dump his girlfriends. In the process, my bloated up ego prevented me from seeing the financial crisis that was lurking across the ‘month-end’ street. By the time sanity punctured the ego blurb and cleared my vision, the crisis had me by my balls. As my struggle for survival continued as per the ‘one cheap meal a day’ policy, I realized that the drinking curve was at an all time low and was hitting the ‘x’ axis with so much pressure that it could fall into the negative zone. Well, I can stay hungry for a day, but thirsty (in this case, thirst for whisky, rum, vodka, etc.) for a day is unheard of in my part of a self-created Utopia. I needed a job. I had begged. I had borrowed. It was now time for me to steal. I decided to steal my vow – the one that said - I would never ever work at a call center.

Time and circumstances change people. Time referring to the time of poverty and circumstances being the ones under which one turns to a pauper from a prince.
In spite of the long list of jobs I can boast of, trust me, an ad agency job is a hard nut to crack…especially in the creative department. Hence I looked for options.

I had a few optional jobs on hand – ways to quick money.

1. Looting the World Bank - Italian Job, Ocean’s Eleven inspired

2. Ingenious billion dollar ransom generating kidnapping of Laura Bush

3. Auctioning the torch statue of liberty carries, courtesy of my adulterous great grandmother’s French Connections.

4. I could cash the cheque for a million dollars; the one I found under Mr. Bill Gates’ table in a state of trance a couple of days back.

But I needed an option that was quick, easy and ‘possible’; therefore I opted for a call centre job.

I joined the Lloyds Bank Collection Process at IBM on the 24th of February. Very contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t a shit-hole. I was reminded of my college days as I walked in fashionably late into my training hall on the first day. I was greeted by the sweetest of the voices, cutest of the faces and the warmest of smiles – all the three belonged to my communication trainer – Kala. Mrs. was prefixed within a week when some bugger wanted to know whether she was married or not in a stupid game of ‘truth or dare.’ I would have preferred to have a Ms. Kala any day in the above mentioned, self created Utopia. Moving away from the unapproachable Kala, Raja was my best friend in the training room. He was a brand of chewing tobacco. As they don’t allow smoking on the premises, I had to find my ways to meet the nicotine demands of my blood. Shamim, a godforsaken heavy metal drummer from Darjeeling helped my cause. He was my second best friend.

Process training was ‘banking’ raining cats and dogs. I have had the fear of numbers since the year 2000. It started when I met this particular section in my largely unused mathematics text book called Calculus. Truckloads of numbers on the black screen brought back ‘not-so-fond’ memories. I conveniently renamed the black screen as the ‘Black Screen of Death.’ I smiled proudly at the baptism performed. I scared myself when I started liking banking. I was supposed to hate this. I was supposed to pick up my first salary and leave the damned job and head back. Against my will, I was liking it. I scored the highest in process tests. The last time I scored the highest in a batch was when … I can’t recall. It is not my fault. My brain is incapable of remembering and recollecting things that never occurred.

‘Credit card collections’ is indeed an interesting process. First of all, you get the British to listen to you; secondly, you get to boss around a bit - giving them threats as to the fines that will be imposed on them on late payments; how we could go ahead and hand over their case to outside agencies (money extorting thugs) and remind them of England’s poor show against India in the one-day cricket series. People were cribbing about and damning the process while I was bathing in the unforeseen and uncommon limelight.

The training was cut short. My heart broke with such a loud crash that it set off the fire alarm in the building. The requirement was urgent, or so did we hear from a cute, fat and ugly bong lady, who wore the assistant manager’s badge. What I understood was, in spite of all their ethics and principles, the Brits were just not paying back the money on time. If I were the bank, I would have unleashed the extortion dogs on them. Grrrrrrrr….

Call center, to me, was not anymore what the church of Satan was to the catholic. The walls had fallen down, the deeds were fairer and dignity had stormed into the scene and was in the spotlight. It was indeed a nice place to be. But as you know, some habits seldom die. I had to quit didn’t I? ;)

I had to take calls from the next day. I collected a few hundred pounds. As I left for the day I collected my salary. At the transport room I collected my ad hoc transport request, without which you were as good as a flat tire. At the cigarette store I collected my pack of cigarettes, paying 20% extra on each. At the gate, I turned back and looked around at the overwhelming building. I was going to miss the place. I collected the first and last memories of the call center, and in whole, and boarded my cab.

another note: I have nothing against the Brits. They have produced the finest writers and football players in the history of the world. Manchester Untied, William Shakespeare, Hugh Grant, Iron Maiden, David Beckham’s right foot and David Beckham’s left foot – they all rule.

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