Chetan Bhagat escaped by spending one night in a call centre… but the common man knows how these centres have come to haunt our days as well as nights. They will call at precisely the moment when you are on the edge of the perfect idea or concept for a new article and, quite often, by the time you’ve managed to extricate yourself out of that meaningless discussion with a lot of ‘no’, ‘I don’t know’, and ‘I do not need it’, the idea has flapped its wings and reached some other mind.

Many of my friends tell me that the moment they know that the call is a tell-sales call, they simply say, ‘No I don’t need whatever it is that you are selling’ and disconnect the phone. To be straight with you, I did try this and a few other solutions but then I something told me that even they are just doing their job and, therefore, I must give them a hearing every time.

So yes, there have been hundreds of total time-wasting moments spent in listening and then politely declining whatever it was that they wanted to sell. But today I got a call that wasn’t just the strangest, but also an eye-opener for me. It was a call from one of our leading banks and our discussion went on somewhat like this…

Bank: Sir, we are increasing the credit limit on your card.

Me: Ok. Go ahead and do it.

Bank: The increase is from ‘blah blah blah’ to ‘blah blah blah’…

Me: Ok. Thanks.

Bank: Before we can confirm the increase, we need to know your date of birth.

Me: It is 09 May…

Bank: Thank you. Now you must tell me how much you spent in your last transaction using this card and the item you purchased.

Me: No idea.

Bank: You have to give an amount sir.

Me: Ma’am I am in the middle of a post and it is terribly difficult to recollect such things.

Bank: Please try to guess a figure sir.

Me: My wife can figure figures, ma’am… I really don’t have any inkling about our purchases.

Bank: You have to make a guess sir. Without this we cannot progress to the next step.

Me: I’m sorry, but writers have a terrible memory when it comes to shopping. We simply shop.

Bank: Try and guess any amount between 0 and 5000. Let me just add that it was a small purchase sir.

Me: (after a few hmmms) We must’ve bought some books.

Bank: Sir, I need an amount. You can surely guess an amount.

Me: What if I randomly say 4678… will that be ok?

Bank: Just a second sir.

<Pause. And I hear the tip-tap of the keyboard too.>

Bank: You are very near the correct answer, sir. Please give your date of birth again.

Me: 09 May…

Bank: Congratulations. Your credit limit has now been increased… and a formal mail will reach you within 48 hours. Any other service from <name of bank>?

Me: Just ask another question. I want to see if today is my ‘good guess’ day.

I sat with my eyes closed after the call had been disconnected… a stunned silence, if I may say. ‘So we’re no longer living in times when correct answers matter’, I said to myself, ‘nearly correct ones work as well.’ Do all our financial institutions work this way? Is this one of the contributing reasons why the world had toppled into a recession a few years back? Is this why ManMohan Singh preferred to remain silent most of the time… I mean maybe he is from the old school of fiscal genius where only precise answers work.

Only a few more minutes later I realised the gravity as well as the hilarity in the discussion that I had just had. Yes, these are probably the ways in which fraudsters can call one up and seek information that they will not otherwise have. This is a grave matter and needs to be given thought. But there are other lighter conclusions as well… it was as if the bank had decided that the credit limit to my card simply had to be sanctioned or maybe the caller was desperate to reach her targeted number of sanctioned approvals. She was going all out to make sure that the call isn’t unproductive. We are, therefore, living in times when all that matters is productivity.

Look around you… everyone is busy proving that they are productive. Now that we have the social media, this trait is probably the most sought after. Everyone is a writer. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is a philosopher. Everyone is a travel enthusiast. Everyone is an activist. Everyone is full of advises for others. But the moment you peel the top layer you reach the hollow innards where there is nothing of substance. Writers turn out to be plagiarists. Philosophers, you realise, are just sharing someone’s post. Activists are only armchair blabbers. And the rest are nothing but a big and bold hoarding of sham.

Sham. This is what our country is turning out to be with incompetence strutting on every ramp, aisle, or corridor of power. I have guessed my last transaction nearly correctly and have just got my credit limit raised… and because today is my ‘good guess’ day, I have decided to write about the incident. Who knows, someone influential may read this post and decide to introduce a few more relevant changes. India needs changes… because here nearly correct is correct and this isn’t correct!

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On a conversation with a tele caller

On a conversation with a tele caller

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Arvind Passey
27 November 2014