2pm on a typical sultry Mumbai Wednesday afternoon. I have just returned from my hostel mess after a not-so-good-but-okay-nevertheless lunch. Wednesday afternoon is something I always look forward to, because IIT policies typically allow no lectures and labs on Wednesday afternoons, which paves the path for a nice brief siesta. I close the curtains to keep out the sun, pull out the soft music folder and enqueue it in Winamp, and set an alarm for 3 hours on my cell phone and lay down happily, awaiting the ever so sweet and lovely sleep. And then arrives the unseen.
It makes its presence felt with a loud ring, which on my phone is the monophonic Rang de Basanti Bhangra score. I agree that the tune is good, but you don't want to hear that when you are trying to catch a few winks in the middle of a busy week. I wake up groaning only to see an unkown number on the screen. I pick up the phone and go,
"Hello?" (in a sad, grudging tone)
"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we would like to tell you about our new credit card which has many features such as..."
Click! I don't want to hear any more of this crap. These call centre people working on behalf of the banks, the mutual funds and other what nots catch you always at the wrong time, wrong for both you and them. Neither do you want to talk to them nor do they want to inform you about the latest in their what not scheme of things. Now that my sweet siesta was mercilessly snatched away, I sat down and dreamt of some way the call centre girl would meet her match.
A few days later, I was at my cousin's place and playing with my one and a half year old nephew, Raju. Then, Ring, ring. I answered the call.
"Hello sir. I am calling for Mr. Rajesh from ICICI bank."
"(confused) Uh ok. Hang on,"
I now hand over the phone to Raju. He is very happy that someone is offering him the phone by himself; normally he is driven away the moment that thing rings. I turn on the speaker phone just to watch the fun.
"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we.,"
"Da.. um... (giggle)"
"(confused) I am sorry sir, I didn't get you on that. Were you saying something?"
A pause. Raju is now unsure of what he should do. Well, I don't blame the kid, probably this was the very first time that anyone called him. Maybe the call centre girl is happy that she found the one in a millionth caller who hasn't hung up on her as yet, and goes on with her rote message. Raju has nothing to say anyway, except his 'da's and 'ugh's and his giggles, so he stays glued to the phone and listens attentively, all the while fiddling with his favourite toy truck, while I take a break from all the playing, turning off the speaker phone. Raju was smiling all the while he was on the line, and maybe wanted to tell me to take his pic or something; you know he had that gleam in his eyes and the desperately pleading smile that most people offer you when they want you to take their snap. Anyway, I wasn't in the mood for the paparazzi role and called it quits. I guess after a while the call centre employee realised that either she didn't have the right fish on the hook, or probably someone was playing games with her and so she hung up.
Raju suddenly became sad. Maybe he thought he had done something wrong and that is why the nice aunty on the other end cut the call. He gave me that sad little look that he usually gives when he knows he has wronged and started crying. Hearing the loud cries, my cousin sister came rushing out from the kitchen and asked me what happened. I told her all that she wanted to know.
"Don't tell me they had Raju's name on their list. I wonder where they get all this information from!"
I said, "They have their ways. You know, the list of names from the hospital where he was born. Maybe they thought he's some patient or something over there and called. Could be anything you know. Maybe they have many lists of such people out there. Who knows how many Rajus are on their lists."
"Can't they make a list of do-not-call-these-people and put our phone number in there. All this looks scary to me - this prying and snooping around business on the call centre's part."
"If they do that, then Raju would never get another phone call for many years,"
"I don't care. Besides, how would he know?"
"Well, he wouldn't. But now that no one stopped him from playing around with the phone, he will rush to pick it up each time it rings."
"At this rate, maybe he will start receiving junk mail next year onwards!" and she went back to manage the kitchen.
Probably yes, I wondered. The next few months will be full of I-will-get-it's and how-many-times-do-I-have-to-tell-you-to-stay-away's and the accompanying beatings and the cries. Tough times sure lie ahead. But I was happy the call centre girl met her match. Someone with more spare time than her's to actually make her feel she was wasting time.