Saturday, April 30, 2005

out sourced out manoeuvred - II

Many of you had written what you thought of the previous post, and indeed, had written with patience and precision. I feel I cannot do justice to your responses by replying in comments alone, so this post is to discuss more issues that were brought up.

Im starting with infrastructure. Consumption of commodities like electricity has been increasing over the years. A major chunk of the increase is due to the upper socioeconomic classes in the cities. Meanwhile, the bulk of rural India has no access to power. The price paid for water or for healthcare by a person in the city, is much less than that paid by a person in a rural area.

We are living amidst staggering disparities.

Someone said that BPOs are the initiative of the private companies. They are there purely for profit. Alright. So the private sector is ruled out.

Then another person mentioned that we need to invest money for purposes like sanitation and healthcare, but not at the cost of not having fancy airports and stuff.

While Hyderabad was doing a spit-and-polish and becoming Cyberabad, farmers were committing suicide in AP out of desperation. (Did anyone come across the DTE cover story on that one?)

Another person mentioned that we should apply economics to the issue. Well, sure! why not. opportunity cost right? If we invest in option A, that means we have that much less money to invest in option B.

so now we’ve ruled out the government. ho hum.

Who’s going to do what about the mess? NGOs? They cannot substitute the government. Though several are trying to step into the breach when the government walks away from its duties, they just cannot – look at the staggering scale of anything in our country. I’m trying to imagine it and failing utterly: a billion plus people...

so fine. If the government is out, and the private sector is out, whom do we have? You and me. The general junta. The public at large. Now you have to be at least literate, to be able to push through a reform of that size – not because education gives you some kind of omniscience, but simply to be able to sift through the information available, access reports and resources, fill in forms and cope with legal procedures if for nothing else!

Now our schools are overflowing, education is very expensive. a majority of us hasn’t been fortunate enough to have had a complete education. We have a severe lack of teachers, and those who are in the field have their hands full. (Has anyone read this ? Please do…) Now they’re going to correct papers for the UK and god knows what else. Of course several of our teachers will try for such a job - they need to earn more: they’re trying to support whole families on a pittance. I don’t see them having time to set the system straight. So the teachers are ruled out. If they are ruled out, then the education system continues to be in shambles and that avenue is closed. Ouch?

Ok, next: first world or just us? I’m sticking to my stance on this: both! to make money saying “24 hour service” and make someone else pay a hefty price for it is unfair. Thanks to the person who summed it up for me: “why should we compromise on dignity for the sake of daily wages?”

Is self respect a luxury that only the rich may claim?

A burnout is a beastly thing. It’s a draining experience and it takes a while to get back to normal. Stress is a more long term health hazard. Depression ditto. Setting right nutritional imbalances is long term again. Some people have to make this desperate gamble to support themselves. Some people to make a quick buck. Forget the second, at least they had a choice. Talk about the first. Someone said maybe it’s the way we are conducting our lives all over the world… beyond just the first world - third world issue. Yes. That makes a lot of sense. Many people were saying that there was terrific stress and pressure in several industries. That it is the way the world is now. How true.

What does that say for the system we are in? is it a good one? Is it even remotely thinking of sustainable development? It seems to be causing quite a bit of suffering for a handfuls benefit.

We have had the idea so thoroughly dinned into our heads that globalisation is all good, that progress is simply a matter of money (no matter how inequitably distributed), and that the first world’s condition is the state we should all aim for, that we sometimes forget to stop and consider the evidence that is right before our eyes.

I don’t know how many of you noticed the banner at the end of this page. this is what it says:
When the last tree is cut
the last river poisoned
and the last fish dead
we will discover that we cannot eat money.
Do we want to wait until then?


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Out sourced, out manoeuvred

To listen to the media, out sourcing is the answer to almost all our prayers. The great Indian solution. The fillip the economy needs. You read all those fashionable business catch phrases in articles about it. I’ve been looking up articles and newspaper editorials on the subject, and somehow, most of it seems to me to be determinedly, almost hysterically, cheerful.

Many people seem to have accepted the governments dictate that it’s a Good Thing, and is the solution to a lot of our problems. The industry is growing, more people are drifting into call centers and other bpo offices, and everyone’s happy. The ideal way to make a quick buck. Experience doesn’t matter, neither does education – some places are now hiring even high school dropouts.

Ah, now a few articles about how theres a lot of stress. How theres a high turnover – anywhere from 20 to 80%. How people are burnt out. (Not bad. Finally!) But no, just a few voices saying these few things and that’s the end of objective analysis of the concept. Case closed. Verdict: its still a fantastic thing for us.

Of course, all this was in the beginning. Now nobody has the time to discuss such things – it’s a matter of percentage growth, potential revenue and national averages. Economics steps forward yet again to kindly provide us with the numbers and indices we so willingly blind ourselves with. The focus now, is on remedying the “disparities” in demand and supply of labour and other such obstacles which stand in the way of our becoming an outsourcing haven.

One of the worrying things about the outsourcing trend is the totally skewed set of priorities in development issues. One of the pet peeves of companies in outsourcing is the sub standard infrastructure in our country. So before we provide people with decent drinking water, health care and sanitation, we are racking our brains on how to connect them to the global market.

I spoke to someone recently – this lady is into mental health and behavioural research. She was explaining how her organisation (in the us) was doing research amongst people working in the call centres and the things they learned in the studies. She also explained the kind of stress management programs they were testing and trying out.

Hang on a minute. As far as I know, most of the outsourcing happens from the us or the uk. They make money by sending us the dirty work to do and paying less for it, as well as by telling us how its bad for us and what we need to do to cope with it? Wow. Breath taking dual standards!

If we look at the chunk of the work done in outsourcing here, its way down in the value addition chain. the kind of work that is being outsourced is mostly jobs that are repetitive and (lets face it) plain boring. That’s why theyre so stressful. That’s why the first world doesn’t want to do it. (rather like the forest products trade embargo merry-go-round you know.)

When I was swapping views with one of my friends, she came up with this angle, which I thought was very interesting. She said, by advertising ourselves as cheap labour, we are simply dooming ourselves to coolie status. Nobody respects our brain pool here because we have succeeded in branding ourselves as “cheap skilled labour”. You stand a chance only by fleeing to some other country where “cheap” isn’t the USP. I think there may be something in that.

it’s a lethal situation: given the choice in a nation of primarily poor people between a regular job (intellectually stimulating in the usual degree but of normal pay) and a job that’s mundane but will fetch so much more money… which way will a person fall? Which way will a school kid fall? Wait and slog through college, or drop out in eleventh standard? Got to hand it to them you know, they do set traps well these days.

In a global socio-economic order where there is a price tag on everything, money is certainly a whole lot of power. The first world can afford to make dirty deals like outsourcing, and we will continue to foolishly and greedily try to play their game.

Theres an incredible amount of stress in just schooling ones self to live an alien culture and assume an alien identity when one is surrounded by a totally different environment. Theres a whole host of health problems caused simply by the insane hours of work. Theres also added complication in the form of alienation from peers and family, work pressures, dealing with abusive customers or clients who feel they’ve a right to be aggressive because their jobs have been stolen. (ironically even within a bpo, the trend is moving towards filling supervisory and executive positions by hiring foreigners, so actually what we get is the dregs of the jobs.) It’s a cess pool out there.

Maybe we will realise how dangerous a deal we are pushing for by the time the current generation of youth reaches its forties amidst depression, stress and other health disorders, and complete burnout.

Maybe it will also be too late then.


Sunday, April 24, 2005


There's poetry and there's ... well... this!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

a year later

This time last year I was hunting for work desperately. The whole process was made so much more difficult because of the hazaar restrictions I had. No corporate job. Only NGO. Not too far. Must be in a recognized place. Should accept me with my bizarre background and lack of experience. Should preferably be a communications based job. Should preferably be counselling…

After hunting and a lot of thinking, I narrowed the options to 3 NGOs I’d heard of. I got picked by one. My mother was dubious about the work I had chosen. “Are you sure you want to do this? You maybe biting off more than you can chew…. Supposing listening to all these depressed people brings back your troubles? You have just found your peace of mind – this may push you back into turmoil. Think carefully.” My father said “Chee! Enna vellai idhu! I can get you a nice job in ____ uncle’s office. Why do you want to do this kanna? It’ll be so depressing! Again you’ll feel upset. Why don’t you take up marketing? You like that so much…”

(I am sure most of you too would have been through that phase in life where you are very disillusioned with the world around you, where you ask some very basic and simple questions and are deeply disturbed by the absence of answers. I had just been through my own ideology crisis and was stabilizing slowly.) I thought hard after the conversation with my parents. Oh, how much I worried! Was I being a pseudo toughie? (Or much worse, a martyr?) Was I “askin’ for it”? Was my reasoning sound, or was it warped? Other than falling apart again… would I harm someone else? How would I justify this sort of job to my next organization or college? What rationale did I have? What do I think about sex? About life? About living and dying? About god? About counselling?

Once I had answers to my questions and was about as sure of my motives as I could be, I told them my decision. I was going ahead. After that they were completely supportive about the job I had chosen. They did not question my need for doing it again. So started one of the weirdest phases of my life! I was talking about sex nonstop from 930 am to 530 pm, and some days at home with my sister in the evenings as well. (Mind you, even in school and college, I was never too interested in the topic but a week of orientation had me rattling off the terms and slang fluently! :-)) My parents would listen but quietly go their way whenever they chanced to hear us tossing ideas about women, men, sex, ethical dilemmas, feminist theories, Hinduism, violence against women... They never interrupted us with inane “why are you talking about these things” sort of rebukes. At worst they were silent, at best they would join us.

I resolved that my parents should know what I was up to (like they had always upto then). I faithfully told them the day I did my first condom demonstration. My father laughed disbelievingly when I told him I had gone to ___ Bank (an international one) for a HIV awareness program, and did a condom demo for a roomful of 30 year olds. “You? They had to be told these things by a pipsqueak like you? Ha ha ha!” My mother listened interestedly to the questions they had asked… the ideas I had and what I had learnt about them from their questions that I couldn’t voice then, but was slowly working my way through at home. Talk about cool open-minded parents! :-)

They asked if I wanted to shift only twice after that. The first was when I shifted next to the laboratory, where they cultured different bacteria and handled the infected blood. I had just explained how I found it spooky to learn about the blood borne pathogens and precautions we had to take in that wing. That worried them rather a bit! The second time was when this nice offer came along… someone held out a juicy carrot and beckoned. Good pay, nice workplace (- and no sick people!). But since the stubborn mule that doubled as their daughter refused to consider it, they dropped the matter.

I’ve seen many dirty things the last one year. I’ve felt awfully helpless. I’ve seen some terrific and terrible people. I’ve learned SO much about some strange things. Had access to resources I didn’t know existed? Learned about my attitudes and myself. Listened to people around me and learned more about them. I saw shady ethics and manipulative policies and laws. I learned about my ways of looking at people, and the things I expected of them. Good things and bad things about the way I think. I learned of the different problems and ways of thinking that different socioeconomic backgrounds created…

It was also so interesting seeing people I knew personally react to the work I was doing. More than anything I dreaded that my friends would throw the “counseling” I was doing if I tried to draw them out to talk about something. They were ultra cool about the whole thing. Not one of them had an “issue” with my working in a HIV clinic. Some adults used to back off when I told them. I still remember being shaken and dragged into my room for a scold by a very concerned family friend who was aghast at the whole concept. Also the way someone at a reception suddenly took their hand off my shoulder and looked at it uneasily, and stepped a few paces back, soon cutting off the conversation after I had explained what I was doing. (All this for merely working in the place. God knows what stigma positive people actually put up with every day…)

Now it’s a year later. I am winding up work. I am quitting soon. (Speaking to my boss tomorrow - hope it goes well!) For a while I shall drift. I shall treat myself to only spotlessly clean environments, celebrate that I don’t have to wade through the filth of a hospital in rainy weather, make polite conversation when I want to be quiet… I shall have a holiday! Music, art and sunshine shall fill my summer. And again the old cycle will start…. What shall I do next? Where am I headed? Why do I want to do this?…. :-)


Monday, April 18, 2005


The other M writes again :-)

All I have are
Words and phrases that flutter
Into my head, shaken
By some creative breeze.
An untidy heap.
They slip
Through the rake of my pen;
My thoughts crackle
With the static of frustration.

If you buried an
Autumn leaf
In the dark soil of
Would it sprout ?


Saturday, April 16, 2005


each adult who refuses to accept adulthood robs a child of his/ her childhood.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 15, 2005


When I read some blogs, I think “how nice, people are so honest and open.” I mean, you feel like you’ve known the person all your life when they write like that. Being one of those slightly privacy mad types myself, I cant tell you how much I appreciate this ability to be personal without feeling remotely embarrassed. It seems incredible! I could never just get up there and blah all I feel. They write things that I would probably hesitate to say in person to my close friends!

Oh – I didn’t define personal did I. Well, the stuff I write about here is personal you know. My politics. The way I think about issues. But its not personal in the conventional sense. My writing’s detached? Hang on – got the word I need. It is clinical.

When I started writing letters, I used to have great difficulty putting something personal down on paper for the world to see (that’s how it seemed to me). There was this awful sense of “oh no - now I’m committed to feeling this way!” In the beginning I used to chuck more letters in the dustbin than in the post box! (Now I’m much better… not only do I write… I write looong mails. And I guarantee to embarrass you by bursting into tears and telling you the most personal details of my life! :d)

I’ve wondered about that a lot. Is it better to just tell everyone everything – then you’d never have to worry about people poking and prying – or is it better to tell very few people very few things? (In some matters, talk I must, for otherwise I’d simply burst with excitement. Or anger. Or whatever!).

Anyway… for now at least…. if I start writing personal stuff on my blog – don’t pay any attention, just call the doctor asap: it’s a matter of serious salt overdose (Umm. Yeah. Personal secret #1 there… I get tipsy on salt!)


a warning?

hullo. misha sent me this link.

check this out.

i found it scary and entirely plausible. what d'you think?


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


this is a poem called "waiting" by an outsider again

I can taste the sun, so
What if it’s midnight?
It’s there on the tip
Of my tongue
Like a word waiting to be.
I feel it in me:
As deep as dark red;
Near like navy blue.
If I reach out I can stroke
The embers of memory;
Warm myself
Till morning.


Friday, April 08, 2005


why do we try so hard to be beautiful?

we women spend simply ages either trying to look beautiful or worrying that were not trying! If youre trying, you’re on a long endless path that’s fast becoming a rat race, and if youre not, what a loser.

we starve ourselves, wear uncomfortable clothes, get our bodies operated on, undergo excruciatingly painful procedures, mince on high heels that are killing on the toes and wear synthetics and leather in summer - while putting up with jeering while going through this rigmarole. why. what makes us so desperate to be noticed?

The answer just stares you in the face doesn’t it. in a global culture that rejects the un-beautiful (as defined in a totally synthetic, racist and narrow sense), the un-perfect or the un-stereotyped, how else would you be seen? - its not enough that youve struggled your way to education, gotten a job and are good at what you do. if you dont look good none of it matters. The sum of your life, your skills, experience, sheer niceness as a person is zero against this one factor.

Leave alone being noticed – not everyone happens to mind being left alone in a corner of the room. this culture also bestows the "right" to abuse, belittle, insult and traumatize the non-supermodels (ie the overwhelming majority of us). real people come in different shapes, sizes and colours, and there's nothing wrong with that. how idiotic to expect to people to look like the touched up, remade folks on the big screen!

behavioural and sociopsychological studies have found the phenomenon to be true beyond doubt: looking good gets you places, but being plain is something youll have to fight against and square off all your life. For all that weve been told sanctimoniously that beauty is only skin deep, the real world belies it - whether its about making friends, getting a job, winning a client, appealing for donations or finding a spouse, being beautiful definitely matters in our world.

the urgency to look good is something that’s been drilled into our heads. weve seen the images in popular culture - we are surrounded by images of carefully sculpted women who have to spend hours (not to mention heaps of money) on their appearance. im sure the majority of us is more familiar with cindy crawfords mole than with the scar on our mothers stomach from the cesarean!!

Womens magazines teach us to be better customers. They catch em young too. Magazines for school kids and teenagers teach how you just how to get that pouty effect with the latest in xyz lipstick. Got pimples? Try blah and blah cream enriched with vitamin e supplements. (Puberty means pimples. Face it. lump it.). see a womens program on tv and youll think theres nothing in the world to think about beyond the spots on your nose and how your butt looks from the side.

but these are the obvious gambits… if youre a rebel you may be able to resist caving in under that kind of pressure. what about use this deodorant for confidence and this cell phone for popularity? dont snigger at those two corny examples – im not mentioning names, but I just saw two ads on tv saying exactly this! the ads were targeting adults.

And oh, the peer pressure. Its almost impossible to not hack the number - the most rebellious, independent Attitude women ive seen still have to concede at least in part to run the rat race. For all that they may reject bimbo culture, they’ll still have to do their eyebrows, smear on lipstick for the occasional function, epilate…. And that’s just the bare minimum. All to measure up to some trashy image that’s anyway not realistically achieved. as germaine greer aptly summed it up “the further from natural a female form, the more attractive it becomes. the further from natural a female form, the more feminine it is.”

yeah i know - its not just the women. this pressure is on the men too. from beer pack abs (it happens to depend on body musculature – you may not be carrying an ounce of extra fat, but still if your body is not built that way, you wont have it), to gels they must needs use to spike their hair, high power fuel inefficient bikes they should use in the city to be cool, to the quantity of alcohol they must “do” … theyre not much better off than the women.

But there are comforts though - at least aging is something that’s not yet been denied to men. A man with grey hair looks distinguished. Hes a man of the world. Hes been there, seen that. a woman who looks old is a hag. Women positively must not, cannot look old. Look at the tv programs – the “old” women will sport the same plastic frozen be-facial-ed appearance as the young ones, with two artistic wings of “grey” hair to concede age. Wrinkles? – you must be kidding!! Old is unacceptable. Im not going to quote this research that was done on images built by the media, but why don’t you check out your news channels carefully one day? Have a close look at the anchors – how many of ‘em are old, and how many of the older people are women?

Ours is a silly destructive cynical culture that belittles natural maleness and femaleness. you have to almost fight for the right to feel good about yourself the way you are - body comfort is so difficult to achieve, leave alone body pride. I was reading an essay today and this phrase just leapt off the page : “carefully cultivated disgust” with our own bodies. How very, very true.


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