Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just another meeting !

Somewhere down the Northern Suburbs of Mumbai, it’s a humid evening, hand carts all over, people running through their daily hustle & bustle, to catch the LOCAL trains, a pan shop down the road, cigarette in my hand, pathetic feeling running all over, stressed and worried about the future … 

Life can be painful sometimes; I was just wondering how one can make things difficult for themselves… it all began this way … 

One call on a sunny afternoon from a prospective client… 

Done sir, will be there at 7.30 pm at your office, please text me the office address … “I concluded as I disconnected the call … 

A meeting during the late hours of the evening was a horrible idea I thought, but then “paise k liye kuch bhi kar sakte hai” is a normal Mumbaikar slogan … so couldn’t deny the forthcoming business... 

This was a normal weekday hence couldn’t leave office before official working hours, which means I had to start travelling on my 125 cc scooter post 6.30, leaving behind less than an hour to cover 35 odd kms with irritating and terrible Mumbai traffic.
This being the prime time for all the corporate offices to leave for home, it makes the narrow streets of Mumbai steeper and difficult to travel…

With all the cribbing, I started my journey on 125 cc scooter from Worli (a plush corporate location on western suburbs of Mumbai) to Mira Road (ah! its too far man, forget it)…
It was fairly humid polluted (normal) Mumbai evening … with my ear plugs and shades, I was indulging in some Pink Floyd…  I found myself mumbling “Coming back to life” … smoothly sailing in my music… suddenly a broad moustache heavy voice followed me and asked me stop immediately… 

I was taken by a sudden shock seeing a cop following me on his bike and asking me to pullover… I cleared the signal and waited for him ahead at the sidewalk (or I would say; just a narrow street... usually Mumbai roads don’t have more than 1 ½ lanes for vehicles… because of 1 ½   lanes are out right purchased by Hawkers, hand carts and trespassers...)

You guys are the worst examples of today’s generation, don’t care about the rules and regulation laid by the Government of India… you should be penalized” … said the big tummy, heavy moustache, Hinglish accent policeman.

Sir, but what is my fault?” I questioned with attitude.

 Fault…!” he said with a long pause and aggravated looks … “You jumped the signal, crossed over the zebra crossing, cut your lane and to top it all you are listening to music, which is a complete non adherence of rules and regulations

And I just realized that I was so engrossed with my Pink Floyd music, that I jumped the signal and broke the rules, in the presence of a policeman...

When did I do that sir... you just can’t be putting random blames on me… look at the other bikers, they don’t even wear their helmets, and at least I am still better … I am not paying any penalties...”

(Now this was sheer “Ujjati” (a mumbaiya term for over smart people)… knowing that you are at fault, you still tend to act innocent and witty… just because you know better English then the fat police man or you work with a MNC and get highly paid for it… this entitles you to act smart, even if you are at fault)

The last statement of mine provoked his rage and challenged his duty … he fired “now I am not going to penalize you… Submit your license … see you in court next week

Ah! What a big mistake”I said to myself…

I began pleading, “Sir lets sort it out here only… what is the official fine I need to pay for all the allegations

My pleading doesn’t seem to soften him… I was caught in a dumbstruck situation now… Anyways, I was running on a thin margin on timelines to reach that meeting and to worsen it, the cop looked in no hurry or mood to sort out the issue...

Finally, I tried a gamble; I pulled a 500 rupee note, and asked him to settle the matter… (A typical Mumbai police incentive)... I was dead scared, if this trick back fired, I am screwed…

Fortunately, he seemed to be excited watching the old man with spectacles on the currency...

Well, we can do something, just because you’ve been nice after your first statement…” fancied policeman

Huh, now he is talking the right language… bingo, the traditional Mumbai method worked it seems” I said to myself...”

After 15 mins of his philosophical session and lot of NOT TO DO’S, he agreed to amount of Rs.600/- to let me free without the receipt... and … finally I was out of this dilemma….
I was running way behind my schedule; this was about to create a very negative impact on my prospective client...

I made a courtesy call requesting “chief I am running little behind the schedule shall be there in another 30 mins”...

Ok, we can’t do much about it… now we got to work as per your schedules…”the guy on the other side of the phone said in grumbled tone…

I am really sorry sir, shall be there in 20... Please sir...” I pleaded

Oh Fuck! Why did I commit 20 mins knowing I am already 30 kms away from the location and I will take at least an hour considering Mumbai Traffic...!  Shit, I have landed myself in trouble now… “My conscious told me…

K, where have you reached now?” asked the irritated voice on the other side of the phone to break my reverie…

This question compelled me to act weirdly stunned on call and there was a long pause as I had no answers to his query...

You there?” he repeated in an anxious manner…  (Expecting a corporate employee to work beyond 9 -6 is like asking for trouble…this will surely annoy them… but then I was pretty convinced as he’s the one who called for this meeting… so, no worries, he will wait for it)

Yes sir, I am in a low network area, and as I’m riding, can’t hear you clearly… will be there in 20” I replied…

OK, let me see if I can keep my director to stay on till Ravi – The Busy man reaches” said the helpless or rather in a sarcastic manner… (Oh, now I realized that the director has called for this meeting and this guy had no choice but to wait till the director is here… these were the reasons he grumbled over the issue… this gave me a sense of fear, as the senior management of a huge MNC is staying back late in office, after their long day of curriculum, just because I am running late …)

I cleared the sweat on my forehead and with the sense of urgency; I started my bike to begin flying... (Wish humans would have succeeded in inventing bikes with wings) …
Pink Floyd started banging hard, as I began sailing towards my destination and covered 20 kms in no time … (for a change I didn’t have to surf through peak hours traffic, may be I was lucky for once I thought)

But that lucky feeling didn’t last long, on second thoughts, I had a sneak preview at my watch and realized I was just about to cross my deadline …

I started praying, “Please God, this guy should not call me for another 15 mins… I will be there within 15 mins…” and to my disguise, my phone rang …

My heart started jumping at the pace of ringtone; otherwise exciting ringtone on my phone doesn’t seem to be exciting at all...

Parked my bike and took out the phone out of holster to see a call from one of my old friends… her name on my display made me smile… but it didn’t last long… I disconnected the phone and started flying back … (once again I questioned myself, do I have a social life?)

And to worsen the series of bad or rather fucked luck … I was in the middle of a never ending, non-moving traffic...

Oh God!, what do I do now… where do I go… the client is not going to buy any traffic excuses for making it late for the meeting… one of my prospective clients has been reduced from my list … if this continues I will land up begging on the roads with no clients to work with … I could sense sweat all over… “

Beggars, hawkers, traffic police shouting at few hand cart guys, 2 auto driver fighting for customers, a taxi driver sleeping in his parked cab with legs stretched outside the window was a peculiar scene one could notice … Beep Beep Beep  ...  Blowing horns broke my reverie as vehicles began to move …

Another 30 mins of more struggle and I could see the destination in front me … I didn’t have guts to call up my client and check with him if the meeting is still on… I thought just breaking into office would make more sense… 

After crossing all the hurdles, alas! I reached the client’s office at 9 pm for a 7.30 pm meeting to learn that everyone from his team already finished the meeting with competing agencies and left for the day … the only ones left for me was a watchman and 2 pantry staff who were courteous enough to offer coffee and some cold water … on questioning, the reply was “Sahab, toh chale gaye…”

So here I am , standing at the end of just another meeting, with a cigarette in my hand, dead tired, no power to ride back till the other end of the city, no excitement to call back the old friend and wondering, what next ??… 

                                                                                               -   Ravi Mehta

Friday, August 20, 2010

First Encounter with Events !!

Somewhere in north Mumbai … August 2004 … rainy evening … 4 Best Friends sitting at a road side chai stall... Discussing life …

“How do we make money yaar??” … Need some way to progress in life... we can’t be growing at a snail’s pace” screamed Rajiv ... Harish, ashish and me shook our head in unison to agree with him …
I was not in mood to involve much in the debate as mind was pre occupied with annual day thoughts ... Annual day celebration starts in 2 weeks and I need money for renting out costumes for my dance sequence... the discussions went on with various business models and plans discarded .. Harish, just nodding at most of them as he hardly understood any ...

The discussion varied from a small scale business to share market to a public sector jobs… this certainly made us feel enough matured about the life though..  Besides, it was too early for students of first year of Bachelor of Commerce at Hinduja College to discuss business models and plans … but being born and bought up in Mumbai always gives you a feeling of competition …

Suddenly Rajiv got a call on his cell phone …” Yeah, how’s you ma’am... how many boys you need… 6 shouldn’t be a problem … what’s budget…too less ma’am ... anyways when is the interview … please text me the address and contact details for interview ma’am ... sure sure  ... I would be there personally to ensure that everybody is on time... ma’am, who’s the client... Banking corporate yeah… ok ok … how many days … 6 days... Long activity Nah … no problems ma’am … I will do the needful and call you... Thanks ma’am … bye... Take care...” Rajiv hanged the phone in a flaunting manner …

(Mobiles phones were the current day trend then... I mean anyone who can afford Rs.4 for an incoming call with a pocket money of Rs. 200 for the entire month was considered to be super rich...all of us had one, but Rajiv had the latest Nokia Handset…so he never missed on chance to flaunt one)

“Shit, Man… where do I get 6 boys in such a short notice… that too for 6 days  ... Ravi, you want to make some money for yourself ??” … Rajiv questioned.

His question broke my cerebration, “yes why not, but how” I exclaimed!!

“Look this is the current generation job... you are suppose to be a temp staff for a promotional activity  for any of the corporate … the activity tenure ranges from 1 day to 1 month … depends how long the corporate wish to do .. I will pay you Rs. 175 per day... The activity last for 6 days... So you can make Rs. 1050/- just for working 8 hours a day … you can rent dance costumes and make some extra pocket money as well… do think about it and let me know … tomorrow 11 am is the interview at the Bank office, Fountain near Church gate” Rajiv explained ..

I liked the concept and said “Well, Sounds good to me… let’s give a try…I mean there’s no harm in trying, what say Ashish??”  And shrugged my shoulders at the others...

Let’s try” all said in unison as we finished our tea and were about to leave for home … all of us promised to meet up at 10.00 am at railway station to reach for 11 am interview or rather selection.

We entered the Bank building which had Marble flooring, high ceiling & fully air conditioned lobby and beautiful receptionist with head phones (I know  it’s irrelevant to describe about the Receptionist here, but couldn’t resist her beauty) after a few mins of exploration from locals ... blazers and tie was prominent amongst people running around the lobby with their name badge tied to their pants … it was a different world all together… specially for students like us, it was the first encounter with the corporate world … our coordinator and mediator “Sudhakar”  greeted us and started teaching us immediately about how to behave in interview as our teen age look can be clearly made out from our faces and semi formal attire…

Sudhakar called up someone from his cell phone and took us to a plush furnished conference room of capacity of 30 Pax… we all were made to sit in the room and here I am .. Waiting for my first prospective job of the life… nervous and scared …

After a 20 mins of waiting and a conscious round of coffee – cookies (in typical corporate manner, without making the sipping noise), enters a lady with 4 sycophants wagging their tails and practically nodding on every statement of hers … the lady seemed to be at a really eminent post … decked up in Black Armani blazer (that’s one of the promoters comment who had come for the interview)…

With a broad (artificial) smile on a heavy layer of foundation , she began “Hi, I am Christine Mathews from the bank, I have been working here since 3 years now…  and we are here to promote our newly launched Mutual Funds … before going ahead can we all share  few details about each one of us .. Can we start from you, the guy in black shirt??”   All eyes glared to the guy in black shirt seating at the corner seat to hide him as there was dead silence in the room, and the guy just didn’t know how to react …. He was completely new to the culture and taken by a shock!

(Sudhakar had promised Banking Corporate to get experienced guys for this promotional activity, we realized this at the later stage, but it was too late to react)…

Looking at the “What the F**K” reaction of the guy with black shirt, the lady interrogated “can we have someone who can speak… “

(Corporate people can be rude at times in their very own diplomatic or rather corporate ways)

Everyone started describing themselves in a one liner and shared their previous experience of the industry, and finally it was my turn to speak up for my first job of life... though the job meant only monies for costume for annual day celebration for me, it was very important to make it for the job … I was feeling more confident now, because I had enough material to bluff from the experience shared by others...
Finally, I commenced towards first job of my Career “Hi, I am Ravi Mehta, I Reside in Bhayender… I am a student of first year of Bachelor of commerce from Hinduja College of Commerce, Charni Road… I have done brand promotions & sampling earlier as well… (What am I saying, I am a new bee to the industry… the thoughts started hovering around me with the last statement)

“Ok, could you please share your experience about one of your last activities??” asked one of the sycophants adjusting his tie and sipping coffee without making eye contact with me….

Sure, I said and I have done sampling activity for Maggi Noodles at a Hamara Bazaar Super market... Basically, there was cook in every super market who used to prepare noodles on site and we used to serve the customers and take their feedback”… I concluded and glared at the room … Christine broke the muteness and said “very nice Ravi, can we have the one to begin please”...  

(Where did I get  this experience come from, I lied towards my first job… just couldn’t get out of these thoughts.. later on these were washed off with Sudhakar’s complements … I thought everything is fair in love and war … and this was war where I had to win against others who came for the interview ….)

We all met at our regular chai wala at 7 pm as always and started sipping the tea … Rajiv Broke the news of me and ashish getting selected for the activity … next day morning  I got ready with a complete formal attire and tie to complete the new look … after all, it was my first day of job …

Day 1 – Santacruz branch...
I reached half an hour before the banks opens for public to be briefed by bank officials ... Cubicles, formally dressed people with fake smiles, security guards getting ready, Housekeeping  guys cleaning the place was the peculiar scene I could precisely notice…  finally bank manager arrives at 09.30 am... a typical south Indian guy with heavy accent and moustache ... I went to his cabin and greeted him ... I introduced myself  and waited for his response...  he straight away came to the point and  began explaining me my entire day’s agenda & work profile for next 6 days ... it’s so different to be in a bank as a worker.. I have always been a customer for them …

Canteen staff served me tea along with all other staff ... I started going through mutual fund manual...it all sounded Greek to me ... still managed to get few leads by the end of the day ...  finally day comes to an end and Sudhakar calls to check day’s feedback and at the same time he broke the news that day 2 onwards I had to report at Charni road branch ... there was change in the plan, as the guy at Charni road branch backed out from the activity… I was more than happy shifting because my college was very close by...

Day 2 - Opera House branch …
I went to college early in the morning, and reported at Charni rd branch after attending my college lectures ... the same process again as day 1...the bank manager briefed again because every branch has different set of customers... the day began …

It was lunch time now, I couldn’t afford to sell out monies at Sukh Sagar (a decent joint close by), and so I chose to eat at LIC canteen next to the bank meant for their employees only after some tricks… Day went out swiftly and got few extra leads than day 1... Whoa... I was happy...  I had already started enjoying my work …
The same process repeated for next 4 days... And the activity came to a successful end ... my coordinator was satisfied with my performance... just when I had started enjoying and bettering my work the activity came to an end...

That’s about it about my first event ... I thoroughly enjoyed the tenure... 6 days went off like 6 minutes it seemed...   got my monies in next week ... and yippee I rented out my costumes with my own money without disturbing my pocket money .. I gave half the money to my mom as a token of my “Pehli kamai”
There! Began my journey through events... It’s been a super successful till now… looking forward to progress rapidly here on ….

-  Ravi Mehta