Monday, March 31, 2008

Ignoring death

During the ancient civilisation periods, food, shelter and clothing were considered as the three most essential things for all human beings. The world, from the ancient civilisation period to till date, has evolved so much that a few more items were added to the 'essential' list. The world started revolving at a greater speed ever since the electronic world has started providing cutting edge technology. One important contribution by the electronic world in the last decade is cellular phones. Can we think of living without a cellular phone in the coming years? I am convinced, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the answer would be negative. So, these cellular phones can be added into the growing list of essentials for mankind.

When cellular phones were introduced into the market more than a decade ago, it was too expensive for a common man. It was a prestigious piece of equipment owned only by people belonging to the upper middle class or higher. Due to various factors like the advancement of technology, reduction in equipment cost and competitive market growth have contributed to the reduction of operating and owning cost of a cellular phone for a common user. At one stage, it came down to such a level that anyone can own a cellular phone by depositing five hundred rupees.

Cellular phone technology is developing so rapidly that it reached even the smallest of villages in India within no time. The hardwork done by public and private sectors to convert this dream a decade ago a reality now is commendable. But, due to this fast development and reach, I think it is time we should ask ourselves a question. Are we using the technology in the right sprit without disturbing others and breaking the law? How many of us know where and where not to use the equipment? Lots of facts and safety procedures are ignored while using these cellular phones.

I saw a person, in a busy street where children were playing in the evening, driving a bike while holding a cellular phone between his shoulder and this left ear. His face was tilted to an acute angle to hold this little cellular phone. He was in a heated argument with someone on the other side of the phone and was driving with half mind and half control. Is it not a good practice to stop driving while talking? If this is worse, think of a person who uses a cellular phone inside hospitals and fuel stations. Don’t they know that it is unsafe to use the equipment in such sensitive areas? I don’t understand why people are so ignorant. Perhaps, director Shankar is correct with this battle against ignorance in his recent movie 'Anniyan'

The other night, when I was watching a movie, I was so annoyed with the person sitting in the front row when he was receiving calls with polyphonic sound in maximum volume. Why would someone be so ignorant about others nearby and that too after so many warnings from the cinemas to switch off the mobile? After watching the movie, when I came out, I saw a girl talking over the phone with someone while trying to cross the road. She was totally into another world and was simply ignoring the oncoming traffic. You will have to excuse me for this, but these kinds of people should be punished for ignorance and especially in this case, this particular girl was ignoring death. I think the cellular phone companies and service providers should take up the responsibility to induce the basic responsibilies among its users.

In one of the cruel hit and run cases near Delhi last year, a teen-age boy was hit by a car while trying to cross an express highway. It was later found that the deceased was talking over cellular phone with a friend during the last moments. Even though he ignored death, death didn’t ignore him. This is one harsh reality everyone should understand.

After completing the post mortem, the doctor completed his report saying "Death as a result of ignorance"

Monday, March 24, 2008

'Lift' me high

Every individual in this world is unique in character. Their behaviour, speech, action, sense of humour, spiritual awareness is different from one another. This uniqueness is spread across all people across all continents. It has to be preserved and embraced so as to preserve the cultural heritage, which is followed for centuries. 'Continuous change is the only constant' is the most famous mantra widely accepted throughout the world now. The world has changed, over the last two decades, and is still changing at an alarming rate threatening the cultural heritage and uniqueness followed by its people.

Global companies, in the name of outsourcing, to get cost benefits are moving its work to India. Jobs, especially in technical and customer service area, are abundant. Since the work is carried out for a customer who is thousands of miles away from where the customer service agent is, it is very difficult for the agents to understand the needs of the customer unless the agent knows the customer's cultural background. The companies are taking up this challenge as a part of its induction program, to create cultural awareness. The customer service agents are given a false name and are thought to pretend like an American in the way they speak and behave. They are encouraged by the companies to practice western culture in India. This obviously has an adverse effect on the employees as they don’t understand the western culture completely which in turn leave them following neither western nor their own culture. The behaviour of the resultant culture is wicked, which only takes the worst things out of both the cultures. Like smoking, drinking, pubbing, partying, having premarital and extra marital relationship.

If you find someone trying to behave like an American, talking in a false accent which is grammatically incorrect, to anyone who cant understand the language, then you can almost certainly say that the person belongs to this 'Confused-culture' group working in call centres.

During the IT recession time at the stroke of millennium, call centre jobs were a good source of income. I was one of those confused group of people thinking that life is cool in a call centre in Tidel park, which is the first IT park built in Chennai. Though I didn’t like the false accent, I was trying to match the fellow workers to shine in what I do.

One night, after having dinner, I took the elevator to return to my desk in the eleventh floor. Three others, a cab driver, one of my colleagues and an American client joined me in the elevator. I pressed the button marked 'Eleven' and stuck to one of the walls inside. When the elevator crossed the ninth floor, it started to fall. For a moment, I had my heart in my mouth as I was falling into an endless pit. After a couple of horrible seconds, the elevator came to a sharp halt between sixth and seventh floors. All of us were in cruel shock all of a sudden. Nobody was prepared to move. An automated voice came from the elevator's speaker. 'Don’t Panic' it cried. From that moment on, the girl in the lift started to panic and started shouting for help.

George, the American client, pressed all the buttons in the elevator to prevent another free fall. After a horrible five minutes, we heard a voice from the top, probably from the seventh floor, that help would arrive after half an hour since it was late in the night. George was the only person in the lift who didn’t panic. He infact was sharing his experience of getting stuck in an elevator in New York. In the sixth eighth floor. 'If I ever get out of this lift, I will take the day off and jump into the pool in my hotel' declared George all of a sudden. All of us, me in particular, were looking at him in amazement. Our lives were under risk until help arrives, but he was able to take it easy and was thinning of jumping into the pool when he gets out.

The cab driver, Kumaran, who is the most horrified among the group, was totally dumbstruck. I asked him, in his native language, what he would do if he goes out alive. He said that he would take care of his mother, whom he abandoned a month ago, like she took care of him when he was young. He was crying so badly that we wanted to be reunited with his mother immediately.

Tina, who was pretending as an American for four years now, said 'If I ever get out of this mess, I will take my friend to a pub in Bangalore. He always liked to see me dance late in the night'. George raised his eyebrow and asked whether she liked drinking and dancing. He was surprised to find people who he thought to exist in Chennai, do not exist in Chennai. He said, 'I read a book about South Indian culture, especially the section about Tamil Nadu, and I was very keen to get a feel of it here, but I am getting a strange feeling that whatever I read and whatever I see here don’t seem to match'. When asked, he said that he thought South Indians are tightly family oriented and know to respect family values and what they have got.

'If I ever go out of this cage' I said, unsure of what to say next. My mind went blank. While I was talking, Tina was busy over the phone with her newly found life with a boyfriend, Kumaran was still scared and was standing very close to the door while George was busy reading a book. Indeed no one was listening to me.

After another fifteen minutes, help arrived and we were taken out of the elevator by the rescue team. When the rescue team arrived, Kumaran was the first person to be taken out. He pushed all of us back and was trying to get out as soon as possible. Tina went next. George was the last person to come out. When he came out, our manager was only keen on George's condition. He made sure that George was safe and never cared about us.

'Yes', I told to myself when I was alone after this incident. George was correct, we have our own values and we fail to respect it most of the times in the name of globalisation. I was also a victim of it for a few months and desperately wanted to come out of it.

I have been thinking about this for sometime now. I went into an elevator to go to my office and came out of it an hour later. Everyone in the elevator are at least sure about what they wanted to do at the exact moment they wanted to do it.

I wish I were as lucky as they are.