Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Press @^$#%* for assistance

Welcome to Crappy Customer Service Ltd! If you are a moron, press 1; if you are a moron who thinks u r intelligent, press 2; if this menu makes no sense, press 3 (Customer: Snoring....), If you regret calling us, press 4 .....if you thought you wud get prompt response, press 7, to go back to the previous menu press 8, to talk to our customer care exekutive, press 9, (Customer: Snoring....) - Sorry, we have not received your input, your call is being transferred to our customer care representatives. This call may be recorded for internal training and quality purposes (Customer: Snoring)

Helpful Exekutive: "Hello, welcome to Crappy Customer Service Ltd, My name is Parthasarathy. I am glad to take your call this morning, how can I help you?.... Hello? ....Hellow?

Customer (with a start): Oh...so you are here finally!

Helpful Exekutive: Hello, welcome to Crappy Customer Service Ltd, My name is Parthasarathy. I am glad to take your call this morning, how can I help you?

Customer (groggy): Hmmm, let me see how you can help.... what company did u say you are?

Helpful Exekutive: Hello, welcome to Crappy Customer Service Ltd, My name is Parthasarathy. I am glad to take your call this morning, how can I help you?

Customer: Oh! Yeah! I just wanted to know an additional entry in the statement for this month.

Helpful Exekutive: May I know your Customer Identification Number Sir?


Helpful Exekutive: Can you please enter your Telephone Identification Number, Sir?


Helpful Exekutive: Thank you very much sir. Do I have your permission to put your call on hold while I retrieve the data sir?

Customer (dozing off again): Huh-uh

Music, sounding like lullaby

Helpful Exekutive: Thanks for your patience, Mr. Sleepyhead. For verification purposes, can I know your address?

Customer: Prem Gali, Kholi number 420

Helpful Exekutive: Can you also help me with your date of birth?

Customer: Sometime in the last century

Helpful Exekutive: Thanks for the information Mr. Sleepyhead! Are you an authorised signatory on this account?

Customer: No, this account belongs to my wife and I just want to know about one entry in the statement.

Helpful Exekutive: Sorry sir, we cannot provide information to only the authorised signatory.

Customer: But she is out of town and I need to know this

Helpful Exekutive: Sorry sir, our process doesn't permit us to do it.

Customer: (Disappointed): Alright

Helpful Exekutive: Thank you for calling Crappy Customer Service Ltd. It was a pleasure talking to you sir. Hope you have a great....beep....beep.....

Saturday, May 8, 2010


To me, there’s something truly enchanting about stepping into a mall. It could be the 4th time in a week at the same mall. Still, my heart jumps with the same joy each time. Of course, the free air conditioning makes it a welcome option in a humid place like Mumbai. The sprawling space with rows of showrooms waiting to be explored gives me a real kick. There is an uncanny charm about brand new things i don’t intend to buy but am happy to just look at. i might have looked at the same windows before but there’s so much in store that i’ll never be bored even if i were to pass the same floor a hundredth time.

What i like best about malls is that they can be just as calm as the sea during low tide, on weekdays. So those are the days (i’ve had the luxury of haunting them on a lot of weekdays) when you can stroll along the deserted corridors and get to choose your table in the food court. But i am more excited and look forward to making my way to my favourite haunt on weekends. Bustling, noisy and energetic, malls have almost a festive look on weekends. It’s like a celebration for no reason every week. i love to become one with the crowds and lose myself in the throng. Its futile to expect any vacant chairs in the food court but it's this swarm that truly portrays the defining spirit of our times. The zeitgeist is evident in the masses that have learnt to enjoy life irrespective of whether they can afford the brands showcased at the mall.

Malls represent the transformation of family time for the middle-class. Its no longer the occasional eat-out and a movie. A weekly trip to the plush mall and pop-corns while sauntering around is very much a possibility. Budget-friendly and comfortable. It is also heartening to see that the older generation also is game for trying out different cuisines. i find a lot of parents and grandparents sitting in restaurants along with the younger lot trying out pastas and burgers. The mall-culture has caught on fast and caught on for good.

The next time you step into a mall, take a moment to feel the gush of human energy that’s palpable around. For me, i shall soon be the first member in the new category of people called malloholics!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Views, not news

It’s a beautiful sunny morning. i settle down with my morning cuppa and pick up the newspapers to glance through them. This is probably my 259th attempt at making a habit of reading the newspapers. After all i’ve woken up every morning of my life with my dad sitting with his paper and morning tea and now my spouse is no different (except that he likes coffee).

A little background to the failed attempts. For one, newspapers aren’t an ideal size for comfortable reading. There are too big to fit into my lap so i can’t snuggle in my sofa and read them. i have to stretch my arms wide or resort to the dining table. (silly reason but i shall please myself) Also, i’ve somehow not been happy with the idea of starting the day with newspapers. (guess there are 2 ways to react to things that you see since childhood - you take it as a way of life or reject it as a way of life!) Wouldn’t there be a better way to start the day than to bolt for the newspaper after a cursory nod for a good morning? Maybe with a cheerful good morning to others in the family and catching up with them before moving on with the day with positive vibes from our loved ones ? i've had my parents lecture me all my life about how good a habit it is to read newspapers. And like everything else that is imposed, I dislike the idea. (Who loves to do things that parents' lectures insist are important for survival in life!)

Back to my beautiful morning. i look at the front page and the headlines scream at me about some scam a respected politician is found to be involved in. Sighing wistfully, i move to the bottom of the page only to be told that a 12 yr old girl was being repeated raped by her cousin and 9 others for over 2 yrs. Horrified, i move on to page 2 and read that the city lost millions of litres of water because a couple of pipes burst in the city and the administration had not yet taken any action about it. i am, by now, done with yet another attempt of being among newspapers readers in the morning.

There is something about news that is repulsive to me. It's no longer what it used to be or what it's supposed to be. The story isn’t any different on television - for instance when hubby darling wants to catch up with news during dinner. The stories on the idiot box can put any Ramu thriller to shame! As if it’s not gory enough that an 11-day old infant is stoned to death in Kashmir, the story begins with special effects with shots of a mob on half of the screen and an innocent child on the second half. Is it one against the other? Can’t we just report it as it happened? Do we need to be shown repeated shots of mobs pelting stones and the mother in tears? Repeated shots of a minister kicking a party worker while the bloodied man lies helpless on the floor is another case in point. Am done with my dinner already!!

Coming back to newspapers, i guess they were a nice way to start the day in yesteryears when news was reported and not written to entertain, scandalise or shock. Reporters didn’t go nosing around to find newsworthy items. They had enough sensible stuff that a common man would want to know. There weren’t too many supplements to fill and crime wasn’t the daal-roti of news presenters. News items had credibility and the writing, a sense of style. Newspapers were just that and not a magazine that cover a variety of topics to ensure broadest readership with no depth.

As for me, i am very happy banking on my spouse, who is a regular, for my occasional dose of "The world at 8!". And i am thrilled whenever i hear him say, "it's there in the papers today". i know i have the newspaper intelligence in my life without having to read it!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick trip down the memory lane....

When was the last time you looked up for a word meaning in the dictionary? You can take a minute to recall. Honestly, i don’t remember my last time!

i just finished reading a fantastic book on the craft of writing by William Zinsser. One of the important things, William says, a writer should do is to frequently dip into a thesaurus to find the exact word for a given context. i brought out my thesaurus to look up a word. And this is where my musing over the charm of the old world began. It was truly nostalgic to turn pages of a huge volume of Roget’s thesaurus and chant alphabets in my mind while looking up a word!

Wow! This is how i’ve looked up words all my life. i didn’t even realise when this wonderful habit of school days was replaced by online dictionary and thesaurus. It’s so convenient to google a word and look at the limited meanings a website chooses to throw up. For me, it’s simply ‘right click’ and ‘look up word in dictionary’ from the set of options that show up on my Mac. It suffices for the current need and i move on with my writing. The transition from holding words in my hands to mechanically hacking away at the keyboard, just because it is quick, seems to be so seamless.

i guess it’s the same with reading. We have become prolific online readers. Carrying a book is passé. Welcome wi-fi-enabled cellphones, ipods and other devices equipped to let you read any topic under the sun on the world wide web. The latest - Online Library - will ensure that the next generation gets to see libraries only in museums! Thankfully, online reading isn’t very appealing to me. i can’t spend hours online wading through the tangle of links. i still miss my books and go back to them often. In fact, feel guilty that i don’t read regularly enough.

i don’t think i need to even invoke personal touch of the snail mail lest i get carried away too far and you guys decide to bypass my memory lane. Though it does seem incredible now to think of having written reams to my best friend in college days. Hah! Just pick up the phone today and talk to her wherever she is! Simple! From entertainment to academics to business, technology has pervaded all!

Technology is great but are we losing the fun and innocence of the old world? Is it so difficult to occasionally tune the radio to our favourite channel? (I don’t mean the FM in your mobile phone, silly!) Or just log out of the websites, switch off your laptop and go talk to your neighbour. At least find out who lives next door. Pullout snake and ladder and roll the dice.

Or just look up the dictionary!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. - More thoughts

i am on Season 7 and overcame my addiction for the sitcom long back. It’s still dumb and funny. “What next?” has kept me glued to the program. i have a better understanding of the characters and so i know Joey is dumb but not sensible, as i thought earlier. The others are pretty much the same.

Though shocked initially, i’ve digested that Monika got together with Chandler, my least favourite. It feels, to me, as if it was a move out of desperation to induce some change in the equation between the friends. The stories of other friends is not parallel for sure since none of the others is any closer to finding their mate. Why only Monika and Chandler? Weren’t there any other combinations to explore, i wonder?

i am also a little surprised at the flatness of the characters. There isn’t any development that they seem to have gone through. Guys still lusting after boobs and gals still drooling over men. i thought it would have been great for the characters to evolve along with their audience over the decade that it was aired. Or for the story to lead to some substance in it.

i was thinking about how appropriate the serial must have been for the Indian viewers back in the 90’s. i have lost count of the number of times people mentioned ‘sex’ and the deluge of sexual innuendos throughout the series. i consider it inappropriate for my kids to watch till they are old enough to understand the suggestive remarks and are capable of handling the innuendos. i might sound like i am going to be an old-fashioned mom but as much as i know about bringing up kids, things have not changed one bit. i don't think i would have enjoyed it as much as i do now, 15 years ago. The fun is in being one with the characters and enjoy the quips and puns.

Wishful thinking, the last one but i can go back to enjoying it since i can handle it!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Train the Trainer at Dale Carnegie

The last 3 days have been the best days of my life in about 2 years now. Sitting through the Dale Carnegie session for Train the Trainer was such a fantastic and eye opening experience. i believe there’s so much to learn and a bit of formal education helps instead of learning everything by experience which can take ages. After hunting high and low for a course that could help me formally learn the ropes of training, a friend suggested this. I grabbed at the opportunity since Dale Carnegie has an international name.

The first thing that i realized was that training had spread to every sphere. It’s no longer training the untrained youth to place them in jobs or the general HR training that i thought training was all about. Training has applications in Nationalised banks and govt organisations that have made training a regular dept and have regular trainers. There were a few senior people taking the course since training had now become an inherent part of their job profiles and they wanted to do it well.

i was a little nervous initially about facing people during my presentations after a gap of more than 2 years. i guess all the participants were a little knotted at the thought which is quite natural. But all of us did a great job, made a few mistakes and invariably ran short of time for our 7 min slot each.

The trainer, Mr. Rajesh Parekh, (the most suave gujju I have come across!!) was exemplary and taught us so much by just being himself. His voice projection was just amazing. He didn’t jump around to create energy levels but his presence itself made everyone sit up and pay attention. There wasn’t one dull moment during the 3-day workshop.

The training methodology of Dale Carnegie ensures a great mix of slides, presentation and participant activities. When I look back, I don’t remember one stretch when we had to wait for the trainer’s monologue to finish. At all points, we were engaged in giving ideas, doing activities or listening to the trainer who made complete sense. Sticking to only 90-minutes of training between breaks was a great technique to keep us alert all the time.

It was training and fun. The group of 28 participants were from a variety of professions and age groups, added to the learning. On the third day, when we were divided into 2 groups to make presentations at the same time in separate rooms, we really missed each other. We were eager to watch each topic and get everyone’s feedback on what we did. That quite didn’t happen but time was managed extremely well due to the division. Each group had enough time to make their presentation and discuss feedback at length.

Final word: I can safely recommend the TTT at Dale Carnegie since it truly lives up to its name.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Favourite Fruit


Don’t bother to wash before eating it

Don’t bother to wash even your hands since eating it is mess-free

Doesn’t need a knife to peel it

You don’t have to worry about it being sweet while buying it.

Comes in a lot of varieties, all of which are sweet.

Can be used raw or eaten ripe

Available in red, green and yellow colours

From tiny to Bigg in size

Well, i know it's not rocket science to guess my favourite fruit. Just trying to get your mind off the fact that it's not really been a great comeback like i said in my last post. i almost lost the motivation to ever come back. i mean, it’s been a month since i scribbled here and i don’t know if there is a valid excuse for being absence for this long. i don’t know if it happens to other bloggers - this losing-the-drive-to-write thing, it sure happens to me. The key lies in the determination to stick on to something. How many times have you found yourself making a plan that goes bust in a few days? Remember the number of times you resolved to stick to your gym routine but...the less said the better! I understand! What happened to your resolve of calling up your old grandmum once a week? And your promise to yourself about learning two new words everyday?

There is something inherently repulsive about things that we have to do. (No, i am not talking about writing my blog). Or rather things that we need to do regularly (No, i am not talking about popping a piece of chocolate everyday after lunch....i’d love that!). Probably because these are just nice-to-have goals. They are at best enabling goals and not critical to our everyday functioning. It’s nice to write my blog regularly and unleash my otherwise redundant creativity at hapless people who choose to read it. But the point is, how many people actually visit my blog. i know there’s no one waiting for me to write a post and dying to read what i’ve written about. i am no great bongali with expectations of thousands of readers across the world. So what’s the incentive for me to go on writing? Me, Myself. i had a good reason to start a blog (which has nothing to do with boring you guys) and i need to keep focused on it.

There i go again ! i’ve successfully written my first post for this month. Achieving this goal is sufficient for now despite the fact that this post doesn’t spout out profound gyan about the politics of the women bill or the status of uranium production in India. So I am off to seep with the happy thoughts of this noble deed that I did today..

Good night! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hey! I am back!

It’s been quite a long time since i posted (i go by the fact that I forgot my blog address when i had to type it on my desktop since i am so used to one click on my bookmarks in my laptop). From ill health to being busy with work, lots of reasons for my absence. The world moves on though.

Meanwhile, a lot of news items caught my attention and set me thinking. Surprising because i am not a news person at all! Newspapers are a waste of time and too big in size for comfortable reading and there are better things to watch on TV than news. This seems like masala for a separate post, catch you there!!!

First of all, what left a sour taste in my mouth is the whole political arm twisting about the release of My Name is Khan. (decided not to watch it at all). i mean it’s just a movie and has to do with the personal profit and loss of the people involved. Should the government have deployed over 40,000 policemen (some of whose leaves were canceled for the extended weekend!) to ensure a safe release of a movie just because Shah Rukh Khan, the businessman (not the actor) happened to mutter a sentence related to his business?? The level of manoeuvring involved threatening the Sena big bosses that their men under custody would be treated as criminals. The theatre owners were forced to showcase the film or they would lose tax benefits leaving them no way out. i have a problem with the degree of the government’s involvement in the whole issue. If a movie is a threat to the peace of a city, just stop the release. If our respected Chief Minister were to act so promptly in matters that require urgent attention, we would probably not be spending millions on Kasab’s security. I don’t remember any such action being taken to ensure successful screening of better made films on better on important subjects where the creative freedom of the makers was at stake.

i hadn’t got over this when the news of blasts in Pune filled the TV screens. What else can we expect when our dear rulers are busy protecting the personal interests of a few influential people? The lapse is unpardonable since this was yet another classic case of intelligence failure. There was intelligence as early as November 2009 that German Bakery was in the radar of attacks. Wasn’t it the duty of the government officials to prioritise saving the lives of innocent people by stationing their armed forces at a sensitive location like this than at the theatres of Mumbai?

Talking about the country as a whole, Maoists were also given easy access to killing innocent lives in Bihar despite the officials being informed 3 hours in advance about the attacks. In Amethi, the bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, a dalit woman was brutally beaten up by the upholders of law to make her confess murdering her husband. (I thought the world was celebrating the liberation of women, sic!) Such is the extent of human apathy in today’s times that a woman constable remained a mute witness to the heinous act. Though what takes the cake is the comment of Renuka Chaudhary on one of the channels. Madame says she’s not surprised that it happened in UP which is not safe for anyone anymore. The CM, Mayawati might be party to such vandalism by the police since she doesn’t pull them up for such barbaric behaviour. Do we commit the blunder of electing such people to power??

I am happier not watching the news on TV. It only debunks the myth of India shining well on its way to becoming a superpower. I don’t think my country can ever be a superpower in the real sense while women are being beaten up and the government is more interested in safeguarding its prestige over paltry matters. Economic figures might suggest otherwise.

On a different front, Arnab Ray of the greatbong fame has started pre-order booking of his book, May I hebb your attention please. The preliminary reviews suggest the book has “politically incorrect” take on a variety of topics that formed the culture of the 90’s. I can kinda guess the experience of reading the book written in Ray’s typical style. And I am not dying to read the book. I acknowledge that he is a great writer since writing a whole book is no mean feat. But reading stuff with terms similar “peripetatic peregrinations of millions of people” in the Calcutta Book Fair is not my idea of a fun read. I might be jumping to conclusions about the nature of the book being similar to his blog writing but what the heck! This is my blog and I can write what I honestly feel about things.

That was all that caught my roving eye in the last few days. Watch this space for more....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Swayamvar - Season 2

Rahul dulhaniya Le Jaayenge - i guess the change in the title of the show is more of a positive affirmation after the fiasco of Season 1. It ended with the Swayamvar - only choosing the spouse. We know how happily-ever-after the first pair turned out to be. And well the after taste still lingers in my mouth, having followed season one closely, despite the evidently manipulated histrionics. It’s no longer this historical and momentous adventure anyone can embark on. Everyone has the right to choose one’s spouse in today’s times, so we don’t need to invoke the whole Swayamvar jingbang. That’s no longer the USP of the show.

One look at the set and the memories come beating back. Not all of them good ones, though. It’s like hey, we’ve seen all this before and all this hullabaloo did not lead to happy ending. We all felt cheated at the end of it!!! In fact even Ram Kapoor has to confirm from Rahul if he will really get married, just for the benefit of the viewers. Well, this is reality TV and anything can happen.

Well, i check out the first episode of Season 2 just to check out what else is different apart from the name. i realise that i can tolerate Rahul, after all, as long as he doesn’t laugh. (my first memory of RM is of his stupid laughter irritatingly punctuating the comic talent of kids in Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan. Keep your mouth away from the microphone, you moron!!). His first shot and i am like uggghhhh... He’s has a whole cake of compact on his face!! Some candidates are really gorgeous but none seem to fit him (just like the last time). They all are confident women who carry themselves in aplomb and he looks agape at them like a shy kid who’s just turned lucky to have so many PYT with him. (i kept thinking about all the designer clothes and jewellery they get deck up in during the show. Who cares about RM anyways!) Episode 1 is crammed with romantic Bollywood numbers before the cat fight starts at the party.

i don’t need to gaze at my crystal ball to know what the future episodes would bring. At the outset, RM is going to be a bad monitor in handing a class of 16 women who are assertive and know what exactly they want. It’s going to have a lot of cat fights and bitching about the other candidates - it happens all the time when reality TV brings women together. (remember Dancing Queen, anyone?). That’s the most masaledaar way to the TRPs.

There were enough roaring complaints in the first episode itself. i lost count of the number of times i heard the ladies say “ab hamen bhi time do”. Some of them launched a protest by singing so loudly to ensure others don’t get to talk to RM. Wondering if there was a better way to handle the crowd of women or was it a deliberate attempt to show that women can’t mind their manners when they are in the presence of an irresistibly sexy man like RM!! It was surely better handled the last time. Maybe Rakhi was better at juggling men or maybe men mind their manners and women tend to get insecure quickly.

Can't they get people who the nation would really like to see married, on these shows? Or probably such people find their soulmates easily on their own. They don't need to get paid to act out a dedicated hunt on National TV. i am not going back to watch the show for sure. The manipulation kills the whole concept and then i am not up for being fooled a second time.


F.R.I.E.N.D.S - i am totally hooked onto it these days. i’ve no qualms about accepting that i was introduced to this sitcom recently and i had never watched it before. (there has been life on this planet without it and i come from that kind of life). The cry of incredulity “You haven’t seen Friends??!!!!!!!!!!!!” from a couple of people made me watch it out of sheer curiosity to find out what was so great about it. And now my laptop has easily replaced the television during my mealtimes. Important things need to be done...but can i pleeeeeeze watch a bit of Friends while i rub cream onto my feet (hate doing it otherwise!), eat my food, finish my cornflakes and milk and brush my teeth at the end of the day or take the break that i don’t need!!!!!!! At least it makes me laugh!

Well, it is fun in a dumb sort of a way or i wouldn’t be watching it...almost addicted. No, that doesn’t mean that i am dumb, but just that it’s nice to suspend one’s thinking for a change and just go along with stupid jokes that tickle! i mean when was the last time we watched something on television that made us laugh with genuine, well-timed humour? Fresh, tickling humour is a rarity in the entertainment business today and the recipe to make comedy serials is lost in a deep, dark dungeon. From news channels to serials, most believe in scaring us in the guise of entertainment. So it’s the humour that keeps me glued to it. (iknow i just digressed!!) The characters are funny in their own typical ways, the dialogues are racy, the sense of humour well-timed and you just want to go from one episode to the other.

i find Joey the cutest, funny but sensible. i’d hate Phoebe for being so stupid and irritating if i came across her in my real practical life, but she is so endearing for the very reasons in the sitcom. i love the way Ross, the hopeless romantic, kinda jerks his head when he’s feeling hopeless! i really wish i had the tiny waists that Monica and Rachel have! i sometimes wonder if they are for real. (Well, one look at all their current pictures will tell you they were babies when they acted in Friends, so they had to be tiny. i couldn’t recognise the grown-up Monica!)

i’ve just begun Season 2 and enjoying it to the hilt. The only thing i was wondering about was the boldness in which relationships (apart from friendship) have been depicted in the sitcom. The male characters drool at anything that looks like it has boobs on it and the female characters are obsessed with sleeping with a man. It’s as if every woman is a piece of candy and life is incomplete if you do not have a man to sleep with. Is that some kind of a comment on the standards of American morality in the 90’s? It’s kinda typically American with it’s transient relationships and obsession with sex and i wonder what sense it made to the young viewers in our country. i mean there’s an entire episode dedicated to barging into the shower to check out boobies and peepees!!! This whole dating thing becomes so repetitive and monotonous by the end of it... i haven't got to the end though...

Back to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.........

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rann - Review

If you expect Rann to be anywhere close to Company or Satya or even believe the reviews that it’s about exposing the media, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Because Rann is about neither. i thought it was good enough as a family drama with some suspense and thrill thrown in. The main action is about the life of the characters than the moral decline of the media. i guess the framework to get the action going could be anything, but in this instance, it just happened to be the media. It’s just a story about a son’s deceit to make his channel beat competiton. The father here is at the receiving end.

The movie certainly lacks the research and incisiveness that make such movies stand out on their own. There are no behind the scene analyses of what makes 'breaking news' or how channels have gone on historically to ‘create’ news than to just ‘report’ it. TRP matches remain in the background. It shows just one fictitious incident that could be a part of any other regular Bollywood fare.

The music is used to heighten the melodrama which the movie doesn’t deserve. Amitabh’s sermon at the end is long and tedious. From being a personal and emotional confession of the channel deceiving the viewers, it transforms into a diatribe against the media. The rant could have been weaved into and depicted through the story.

AB and Preash Rawal are brilliant, as usual. Sudeep, plays the restless and angry Jai very convincingly. Riteish Deshmukh proved that he can carry off serious roles as well as the Apna Sapna Money Money kinds. The only woman in the movie who has a role is Suchitra Krishnamurthy. Gul Panag had to just sit in her casuals at the background every time RIteish did his shots and Neetu Chandra pose in her sheer night dresses. Well, as RGV has already confessed its a movie centered around the men.

Not a trade mark RGV film. Bit overdone for realistic cinema.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Customer dissatisfaction..

Customer has been the king for a long time now. There are a plethora of options in any product category. Technically better, extended warranty schemes and growing competition have made it very tempting for the customer to switch brands. In such a scenario, only a committed customer service can ensure a fair amount of customer loyalty. 24/7 customer care centres, technical helpdesk, telesales - companies can go to any extent to retain current customers and also win over new ones.

But some incidents in the recent past have left me wondering if the zeal of customer service is losing its sheen after being at its best for more than a decade. Here i mean the failing customer service and incompetent executives of even known brands like Reliance and Airtel. i am personally quite finicky as a customer and hate to hear a telebanking guy advice me “please drop in at your nearest branch to get a detailed statement”. Why do customer care numbers exist if i have to make that trip to the bank. Even a month after my request to change my tariff plan, Airtel has not done the needful. The new customer care center of Reliance has rude executives who don’t seem to have heard words like polite and courteous basic to customer care. A smart customer executive swerved my decision to subscribe to Tatasky as opposed to a lousy executive with awful English on the competitors front. i don’t want to get try sign language on phone to get my problems sorted out later!

On further analysis, i figure out that big brands with big ad campaigns are fine but customer care is where the truth of the company lies. The interface between the customer and the representatives of the company is at this point. Though the executive sitting at the other end of the customer service numbers is at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, he or she is a crucial link in the whole game. But not a lot of people would dream of a job that involves saying, “Hello, thank you for calling %%&*, I am &^%*&^$, how may I help you” for 9 hours a day (or night). Most of them are college freshers or people who don’t seem to fit in anywhere else. And from experience i can say that their skill levels are not too high. The biggest challenge being language skills. There was a time when training for domestic and international call centres was at a peak, but not anymore. Since these guys are no MBA or Masters, their emolument is not too great and hence they have no motivation to upgrade their skills. Most mouth standard lines and have mechanical answers to all your problems. Deviate from their list of questions and they flounder like a toy whose battery is almost finished!

Customer Delight is lost in the melee of executives trying to woo customers and lives only in the manuals of company procedures. Though, there are companies that have competent people who are efficient and quick and have all the right answers to keep customers happy. I do remember stray incidents of customer delight like prompt customer care from Deutsche Bank.

A lot remains to be done to get customer service back on track and make it the way it should be. Training to treat people right and listen to their issues and resolve them should be a good start for people straight out of college. The selection criteria should have some level to it and training should be top priority if companies hope to win the battle through outstanding service standards.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Bingo Night

Abhishek Bachchan’s much hyped aaram classes officially began on TV on Saturday, 23rd January. Too curious to miss what’s all the hype about, i settled down before the idiot box despite the 10-hour travelling ordeal from Delhi to Mumbai. Far from giving me any aaram that I was direly in need of, it left me all confused. Game shows and quiz programs are a passé and we are used to the deluge of dumb family conspiracies on TV. So we have kinda lost the gaming spirit. Two acting geniuses from Bollywood did not it anymore entertaining. i, at least, wasn't able to involve myself in it till the end.

Abhi certainly lacked the confidence and reassurance of a game host. He seemed to be rehearsing the instructions himself, spelling them out slowly and adding to the confusion. Nowhere during the promos did they mention about downloading the Bingo tickets to be ready to play on the D-day. If i were a serious home audience member aspiring to participate in the game, i would be left scratching my head, at least in the first episode. Before i realise, it turns into a family show with Big B in tow to ensure his son’s TV debut was a hit. There couldn’t be a better reason for his presence. Ms. Rashmi, whose important duty is to look pretty pick up and turn around the bingo ball could be easily done away with (women’s dignity, anyone??)

Despite sitting through the game show for one whole hour, i still am not sure if i know how the game works. To me, it seems like a glorified tambola game produced by a dunce who has crores to throw away for the Big ABs to play it with the nation. Bingo night certainly falls short of the hype and stands nowhere close to Amitabh’s KBC that took the nation by storm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Despite DINK and enough investment schemes and instruments around, there still doesn’t seem to be any guarantee for the future. “Investment” is a fashionable word and you belong to a different planet if you don’t know “portfolio of assets”. Despite all this most of us are at sea when it comes to ensuring financial independence in our retirement years.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter is a path-breaking series that made a huge difference to the way i looked at the whole ‘handling our finances’ issue. Apart from being an absolutely jargon free, it makes an interesting and informative read. It’s not a step-by-step guide to becoming rich but involves a lot of mental conditioning and motivation to achieve financial freedom.

Though i was initially sceptical about the whole idea of becoming rich through investments, i realised it makes a lot of sense to at least be able to manage finances sensibly. If you go on to become rich, that can be a bonus. Seems like a good angle to begin with.

The main premise of the books is to achieve financial freedom by making sensible investments that go on to become passive income generating assets with minimal effort.

The series aims at financial literacy of the common man. Rich Dad Poor Dad begins with how inadequate formal education is in helping people manage their finances for the rest of their lives. Our education mainly qualifies us for a job that might pay us well. And most people have no idea what to go about managing the money they earn. Traditional schooling doesn’t equip us to handle the pressure that the information age puts on us. Gone are the days when people had 9-5 jobs and could rely on their pension plans. New age requires us to change the way we handle our money to make up for the absence of retirement benefits in jobs today. Though it mostly refers to the American context, it pretty much applies to all of us since all of us need money to survive.

The second book in the series - Cashflow Quadrant deals at length with the basics of understanding your cash flow and managing the right kind of balance. The third book is Guide to Investing which I am yet to read and have skipped to a later book Retire Young Retire Rich. The fact that the author draws on his own trajectory from being broke to being financially independent in nine years makes it a lot more credible. The series is well-connected and refers back and forth for the benefit of people who might not have read the previous books.

Looking forward to reading all the books in the series. I’d recommend this to everyone who wants to or even doesn’t want to become rich. It sure gives you a lot financial education. Take a peek...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back to the college...

i was thrilled to go back to the Arts Faculty of Delhi University in North Campus. A lot of things change over the years but the memories come beating back nevertheless. Walking around the red bricked corridors, it felt as if a familiar face would pop out of the somewhere and smile at me. There didn’t seem to be any time lapse between then and now. Everyday, we would come to the campus, put our bags in our seats in class and come out to sit in the corridors waiting for our friends to turn up. All our breaks were spent sitting there finishing our food that we got from home like good children! A new library has come up for the department and the grass on the lawns had a different pattern. But students sitting on those green carpets basking in the winter sunshine was no different from my times.

How could i go to North Campus and not walk through Kamlanagar! (Knags, as it was later called by our ‘khool’ juniors). The same Bunglow Road has Archies, Barista, CCD and the recently sprung up Bercos with a few nondescript momos joints. McDonalds has shifted from where it was in my time to Bunglow Road. It is an important landmark in the story of my two years in the University. Our group had six friends and all of us found refuge away from Shakespeare and Wordsworth in McDonalds at least once a week. Multiplexes were not yet popular and our pocket money was a pittance compared to what college kids get today. So we generally loafed around ‘knags’ and landed in McDonalds for an economeal of Chicken mcgrill (veg version for the only vegetarian among us) and a coke for only Rs. 29!! We really didn’t mind having it all the time since that was the only decent place around and it fit our budget too. (Though, McDonald’s turned out to be a major turn off with their monotonous burgers over the years, their new additions not improving the favour one bit)

What really surprised me, pleasantly, was the number of eating joints with a variety of cuisines that had come up in the area. Bercos for Chinese cuisine (the strictly Indian version, if you please) has been there for sometime. But i never imagined that i would find students of DU digging into pasta and lasagne in our good ol’ university neighbourhood! The friend i met up with took me to one such place which served Chinese and Italian at extremely affordable prices for students. (of course, the version again being very local, but pasta is pasta, right) The place was a restaurant with clean tables and liveried waiters with good service and manners. Not surprisingly, it was full of students. i wouldn’t imagine going to a place like that as a student. But that’s how the world progresses and youngsters today are lot more exposed to and comfortable in sophisticated places.

It was great to go back in time. i was also happy to see the headway that college life has made over the years. The activities that students do change over time but the joy of being a student always remains the same. It’s only in hindsight that we realise how carefree those days were and we were better off sitting in those corridors!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pyar tera...aur Dilli ki sardi!!

Coming back to Delhi winters in January after living in Mumbai for more than 2 years is quite reminiscent of the old times. A major reason that helped me settle down quite fast in Mumbai is the absence of really cold days. And i don’t mind that at all. You are free all the year round to jump out of bed and go about your daily chores without the vagaries of weather. i’ve always hated the laziness that settles in my bones during winters that makes getting out of the warm bed a loathsome activity. From brushing my teeth in the morning to washing my face before going to bed - all of it seems difficult. Of course, there’s warm water from the geyser, if you please but who would want to deal with water when you can be in heaven a few minutes longer! i just want to sit in bed, which greatly hampers my freedom to what i want, when i want.

As if having to sacrifice beauty bed wasn’t enough, taking a bath can be a quite an uphill task. First, get rid of several clothes that kept me warm so far. It isn’t easy to step into bath without any of them. Once over, it can be several minutes before i pile on a new set of several clothes that can be quite cold when worn at first. If the hair is wet, extra measures have to be taken to ensure it doesn’t affect my health. Well, there can absolutely no sense of fashion in a lump of woollies that are piled on to save ourselves from winter. Not to forget, the pile that was discarded before the bath has to be dealt with. Even if it means just folding them away for future use.

To top it all, the phone can ring or the doorbell just as you settle down and warm up in bed. If you want to go to the loo, God save you!! Pulling yourself away from the warmth abruptly can send shiver through your body. After getting back to my favourite place, it’s the feet that take the longest to get warm, especially with no socks on! January is the only month i resort to tea as my only source of heat to beat winters. Tea gets a special place in my heart for a month or so!

i’ve always wondered if humans should be allowed to go into hibernation during the really cold months. Why put ourselves through the pain when we, the most intelligent species, have found a way out of so many other pet peeves. We can put together enough winter goodies to keep us warm through the months. After all, munching on the winter favourites like popcorn, peanuts, gajak, rewri, etc is what makes winters worth the effort of surviving it. We can celebrate new year and Lohri without worrying about getting out into the cold. The hibernated world can be our little heaven where everything is perfect for a while...and warm too!

Till then, here’s to the winters in Delhi....