Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The call centre melting pot

The two years I worked for GE's call centre in Gurgaon (as well as to some extent, the six months I spent at HCL in Noida) really put me in touch with a lot of characters from across the country.

Chadha
A big bear of a man, Chadha used to be a truck driver in Solan (up in Himachal Pradesh) where his dad ran a cargo and taxi company.
Besides trucks, he'd also ferry tourists between Chandigarh and Himachal. GE's enterprising recruiters selected him and he came down to Gurgaon with (much like most of other out-station recruits) a suitcase and a mattress.
First impressions are never last impressions.
From a meagre vocabulary on his first trip to town, he educated himself on the important things like the history of rock, the Lizard King's biography, the Diary of Anne Frank, the music of Miles Davis and much more..
Two years of collecting on tight-fisted American credit card holders and he's now a project head at Dell in Chandigarh.
Getting married later this year too. Did damn fucking good for himself.

Beniwal
If you wanted to have a conversation with this dude, you had to be prepared to spend at least an hour. Not because he spoke a lot. If you've remember the turtle in Finding Nemo, you'll know what I mean. Beniwal went to Australia to study hotel management and managed to get himslef hooked to hard core drugs while he was there.
His brother, a dentist, found work in a dental college in, of all places, Manali. So both brothers would be in this constant state of chilllllll.
Beniwal did some fucked up shit while he was at GE. He didn't come to work for a week, so our manager called up his parents (he was living with them).. and she said, "Rajiv's been kidnapped!!"
He didn't come to work for three months after that. When he finally did reappear, looking thinner but just as wasted, he had this bizarre tale to tell.
In his words "I was hitching on the highway from Sector 15, when three guys in a black Cielo stopped to give me a lift. I got in and they got me till IFFCO chowk, when one of them stuck me with a needle and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was tied to a chair in what looked like a farmhouse and these guys were pumping all sorts of wierd shit into my arm"...

Actually, his parents checked him into rehab after they found smack on him and didn't want the world to know. The next I met him, he'd quit the call centre, was working for a hotel, where he'd met some random woman. A week after I met him and his girl, they got married in an Arya Samaj mandir in Gurgaon without telling his folks and ran away to Hyderabad the same day. Wonder where he is now.

The call centre is a completely different world. Onec you get sucked in, its extremely difficult to stay in touch with other friends. Work becomes your life and absolutely mundane shit like MIS reports and cab timings while hourly, daily, weekly and monthly assessments begin to dictate your behaviour and lifestyle.

Usual evening shifts at GE were getting into office by 5pm. Before they tore down the lawn and put up a parking lot, 22a Sector 18, Udyog Vihar was a chiller place to smoke.
The front lawn in office had a smallish landscaped hil with a couple of biggish trees near the wall. The trees had thick foliage and there were a couple of benches where we could sit and smoke.
Normal procedure would be one person rolling in the loo (or in the office bus on the way to work) and then meeting the rest 15 minutes before login time to smoke the first for the day.
The circle under the tree never broke. At least I never saw it breaking.
The moment one group were done with their spliff, a second group of stoners from some different department would come by and light up.
Of the 8,000-odd people in GE at that time, roughly 3/4th were smokers, out of which at least 1/3rd were stoners.
That's a lot of people!
We'd smoke another before the dinner break and another in the last 10-minute break before the final one at the 2am log-off.
The best times to smoke in GE were when the morons in GE Med Systems didn't want to work and would make hoax bomb calls.
They'd do this about once in six months and the Haryana police bomb squad would show up and empty all of us out into the service lane.
We'd all park ourselves in the green belt/park area for a few hours while they checked the premises ... ample time to run to Zaika for a beer too!
Meals at GE were pretty cool. There was a sprinkling of people from all over the country in each 14-member team. All the teams usually ate together so there was always a lot of conversation in Bengali, Marathi, Oriya, Assamese, Tamil, Malayalam and more between tables and at the buffet counter.
Office parties meant beer on tap, countless hot women, average music and getting the company cabs to drop you home, pissed drunk and fuck stoned.

I think everybody should work in a (good) call centre for at least 6 months after college. It exposes you to a variety of people you wouldn't normally meet, the money's pretty decent and there's always something happening.
Our call centre anthem was that Dire Straits song ..Money for nothing.. Don't think I need to elaborate why.

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