Monday, April 20, 2009

Mumbai freeze-frame: The Interview

10. The Interview
Rohit was feeling very stiff in his brand new Peter England shirt and semi-formal Dockers trousers, and his feet still hadn’t gotten used to the instep of his radiant Hush Puppies, as he stood there in the lounge waiting his turn, along with twenty other similarly nervous looking young men and women. His number was among the last on the list.
‘Idiot’, he cursed himself – how often had they warned him that a 10 o’clock interview time meant that he had better haul ass at 8.30, just to avoid this damn crowd. He had missed his mother sorely this morning - her egging him on, right from sun up, the many times he had appeared for other job interviews in the past. But today, in this strange city, he had to motivate himself all on his own – no mummy, no daddy, just Aunty Shanti all alone in her two-story crumbling old brick house in Byculla. Well, at least he had made it here, through the inner city jungle, without getting lost, he thought. An empty chair appeared eventually, but as Rohit ambled toward it, he saw a fast-moving façade, apparently float toward and occupy the chair without giving him even an illusion of contest. This added to his already heightened insecurity. He couldn’t understand what these people were saying – it was a strange language, this Marathi, a bit like Gujarati but not quite, and certainly not possessed of the familiar phonetics of Hindi. There were no magazines to read, no newspapers to hide behind, not even a window to look out of for some sense of visual relief - just this awful sounding cackle from this boring-looking bunch of clowns, and not one good looking chica in sight.
When it was finally his turn, a beautiful young girl ushered him towards the forbidding single door beyond which, Rohit didn’t doubt, lay the encounter that would determine the course of the rest of his life. The director was a let down; a hunched and dark mousy-looking middle-aged man, bent over a huge bundle of paper and using his forefinger to read through the lines on one of them that had come unattached.

‘Age?’ he asked.
‘Twenty-two.’ said Rohit.
‘Uhhh… Cultural Secretary of Student’s Union in college. Uhhh… conducted marketing surveys of household appliances for a multi-national firm back home…Uhhh…’
‘That’s it?’ asked the man.
‘Uhhh…’ said Rohit.
‘Well… I have to say that you would do better by looking at a placement in an entry level position. Don’t you know that this interview is for a Sales position with at least three years of prior experience?’ said the man and looked at Rohit curiously.
‘I understand sir. I am sorry to have wasted your time.’ said Rohit, wanting to get out now as fast as possible. He was arrested in mid-stream by a drawling, ‘Just a minute… What exactly are you looking for in a job?’ from the man.
‘Uhhh… A good learning environment, prospect of growth and…’ Rohit blurted out, forgetting, at the last minute, the much rehearsed lines.
‘Yes. Yes. Of course. Well, we do have positions available for Sales Trainees. But you have to start tomorrow itself.’ said the man, with an air of dismissal.
Two months later, back home on a weekend break, and now a contributing member of the household to the tune of seven-thousand five hundred rupees a month, or the equivalent of forty-five percent of the average household monthly budget, Rohit sat reading the Sunday Times that had arrived post-lunch, languidly settled in his easy chair in the verandah. A page five column struck a chord:

“It was reported today that the Managing Director of Msrs. Pine Consulting p.l.c., offices located at 15, Calvin Mills, Lower Parel was arrested for the illegal selling by misinformation of what was known as the Customer Brilliance Awards, to small businesses in the U.K.. Initial investigations suggest that Mr. George Mathew’s (the accused) modus operandi included the use of VOIP, or international phone calls over the internet, to speak to Small Business Owners in a number of categories ranging from restaurants to hair salons, and then convince them that their customers nominated them to the fictitious awards on the basis of surveys conducted in their respective boroughs or counties. The telephone numbers of prospective victims were garnered from a variety of easily accessible databases on the internet. Mr. Mathew, who holds dual citizenship of the U.K. and India, would then proceed to include costs in the shipping and transport of the awards which consisted of an award poster and customer survey forms, informing the victims that even though the Awards bureau was based in the U.K., the raw materials were outsourced from a firm in India and that they would have to pay for the costs of shipping. The money was then collected by the use of credit card transactional web sites made available to commercial enterprises by Barclay’s Bank, London. According to information available, Mr. Mathew is said to have amassed almost a crore of rupees, net profit, in six months from the scam, operating out of his office in Mumbai. Furthermore, he had trained twenty young graduates in his method of aggressive cold calling. The arrest was made on a request by a City of London police official acting on a complaint from a disgruntled restaurant owner in the borough of Lewisham. This is only the second instance that the I.T. Financial Crimes Act (2020) has been invoked in India, in relation to trans-national economic fraud.”

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