Yes, it is your Disgusting Call Centerrrrr!

Mom returned from the market with loads of clothes and shoes – Puja shopping. While I was excitingly trying them all, she said: “I met Neelam Aunty (name changed). We talked for quite some time. She was asking about you. I told her that you were working at a call centre. And she exclaimed: ‘Chheeee! Chheee! Chheeeeee! Ask her it’s a shabby sector and not to work there anymore’. I could not speak further. You disgusted me!” I packed the newbies back and quietly left the room.

FLASHBACK:

Mom was getting old, plus she could not have worked due to my ailing sister. I was the only hope for a single-parent family. But, I wanted to study. So, I welcomed to work for a Call Centre: good money, financial security, plus night shift – so I could easily continue with my regular studies at day time. I remained sleep deprived until I completed two graduations and two post-graduations –three of which in regular set-up, as I aspired to live a dignified life. Still do!

Six out of seven years of my work experience have been more or less in about six call Centres: for a month or less in few, to about three years in others. Luckily, in the several companies I had worked, I got promoted or was given different responsibilities too fast also – in the last one, I was off-calls in four months, and was looking after site’s customer service score for the next three years.

I started working at eighteen, during the concluding teenage, when I did not even complete my 12th. Still remember, how ambitiously I listed down a wish list of 47-goods to gradually purchase from an internship stipend of Rs. 8000/- a month. Call Centre industry, if has empowered me to be addressed as ‘Mam’ (which I have always opposed), to remake my house from 2 Semi-Pakka room sets to three floors for self and tenants, with my own personalised room now; it has also gifted me a 3% spine disability (office cab accident that was never compensated).

COMING BACK

To everyone who knew us, I was growing exceptionally, well above my family standards and was only committed to social change: speaking in English, knowledge of computer, confident in public speaking, talking about social issues all the time. Thus, perhaps the Aunt could not digest me working at a Call Centre. But, where was her advice when I was helplessly conflicting between my responsibilities and aspirations? Why couldn’t she provide me an equal alternative during these six years? Because, there was none! Or she got scared on foreseeing me as another Nirbhaya (Delhi 2012 Rape victim, who too worked in a Call Centre to support her family while she studied physiotherapy)?

Although, I could myself see some traces of ‘exploitation of labour’ (Marx) in Call Centres, but it remains a refuge for a major Indian youth population. Call Centres in India are the assured employment options for all the English speakers (even average):

  • who graduate from schools and colleges with average marks,
  • who cannot afford further education,
  • who cannot afford to live in a city in pay-outs of other jobs meeting their skills,
  • who support big families,
  • for civil service aspirants who try to meet their financial need while preparing,
  • for the many engineers, the MNCs and technology companies cannot accommodate, yet have to repay the student loans
  • for all those to whom the government cannot promise a secure future… and so forth.

Even interns at Call Centres get a minimum wage unlike in development sector, who would only explore advocacy mechanisms for labour rights.

Now, I have left the Call Centre industry to work in social sector. But, this sector too keeps reiterating the same tenets that of a BPO to me; somehow not letting me feel any different. Be it ‘empathy’ for the customers versus victims, or ‘root cause analyses’ for low customer satisfaction versus the social problems. By the way, ‘positive phraseology’ taught at both the sectors condemn the use of problem, but ‘issue’, since the latter is attached with a solution. Further, an ‘action plan’ is designed in both the sectors and ‘success rate’ is measured at definite time intervals – with different tools though. Call Centres have taught me to ‘analyse and prioritise’ in multiple-issue cases, to ‘change approach’ when Plan A fails to work, to seek ‘feedback’ throughout, to ‘look at micro issues at a macro level’ yet drive change at micro level only (local-regional-national); and, most importantly: ‘to TALK’. All of which I am going to use now at the social sector. So, why would two sectors working primarily on the same principals, have such pole-apart acknowledgements? One should think before vaguely stereotyping – this ‘waste of time’, ‘time pass’ or ‘Chheee Chheee industry’ is fuelling many gas stoves and restoring many smiles, which many highly reputed sectors also cannot  very well do.

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Should you Kill your Child?

When in news we hear about any parent, who have miserably hurt their child for the latter’s notoriety, we disgust the act. We consider the accused as either a Psychopath or a victim in need of HELP. Would you Kill your child for their mistakes, misunderstanding or miscommunication? Do you justify horrible punishments when you see terribly notorious kids around you? Then, what happens to our conscience when India too is the parent of the child: KASHMIR?

We are a country that does not even hang a criminal, unless debated multiple times. Then why do some of us justify the barbarian invasion of forces on Kashmir? Why does not our soul stir on seeing the dreadful marks on the victims’ bodies, or the grave loss caused to them – some losing their vision, some their lives… because, they are separatists and intend to divide our ‘sacred mother nation’? Regardless, whether they really want it… and even if they do, why would they want it?

My fellow citizens claim that India is spending so much on Kashmir for its prosperity and sustenance, and for the continuous recovery of losses that the Kashmiris keep damaging. Strangely, no one is introspecting why would one damage their own homeland, their ancestral belonging? And, why would they want to KILL ANYONE without reasons?

Some also justify the unrest Kashmir, AFSPA and what the army is doing to Kashmir, attributing to the atrocious behaviour of  Kashmiri Muslims over Kashmiri Pandits during the insurgency, which finally led to the latter’s displacement in 1989. The facts state something totally different though. It was an extremists-led atrocity, which was indeed opposed by few Kashmiri Muslims, some of whom even provided shelter to the Kashmiri Pandits and few lost their lives while attempting to help. Hadn’t similar migration took place in 1947 too, with atrocities to the Kashmiri Muslims? None is justified, but why communities that have been staying in peace with each other from inception, would wake up one fine day with an unending motive to kill the other for no reason? Doesn’t that indicate to a conspiracy or hate gradually infused to gain political dominance? So, if two brothers fight among each other, to an extent of going to kill the other, what should the parents do – kill one? Or, find out the root cause and mediate!

Kashmiri Muslims demand to be separated – because we have already been separating them with our treatment. Being an eternal part of India, Kashmir is a family member to India, who’s rebel, protest, being influenced by outsiders and so forth has to be looked through the lens of how we would have treated the minuscule of the situation at our respective home. This movement is nothing more than a helpless child demanding to be separated from his parents because he feels insecure with them. He is feeling empathy fatigue with his own parents, and getting sympathy from everywhere else – some unconditional, some with vested interest against the parent (enemies of India), which the child can’t see now.

 The solution would not be this simple though, would need a lot of submission perhaps from India’s end, however, there has to be this holistic approach with intense efforts to make Kashmiris feel deeply associated with us. Recommending chilli-pepper bullets over pellets won’t fix the situation, nor would refusing UN to introspect the situation would hide the agony from the world. Considering the disappointed and agitated state of mind, perhaps it would be difficult to convince them for a peaceful talk. This is where we need a wise and sensitively-thought action plan, and representatives.

References of some personal accounts of Kashmiri Pandits:

  1. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/kashmirtheforgottenconflict/2011/07/201176134818984961.html
  2. http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/a-tale-of-two-ethnic-cleansings-in-kashmir/