Another day at work

It looks like the morning after a campfire. Here and there people lift their heads from the confines of their laptops and hard wood tables. The day had dawned, and they had to all go home, get some sleep, and return later in the evening for another night-long gig as customer support representative. I, however, remain here until my rep returns for work. I remain, his faithful telephone, ready to serve whenever he is.

We’re almost 22 hours ahead of our customers, living in the other corner of the world, picking up calls and answering emails when customers are awake and our families are asleep. It’s all part of the job description and sleepless nights aren’t a problem for us anymore. We even have fun.

As the day wanes and darkness embraces the glass building we live in, the day-shift teams head out eager to spend the night cuddling in their beds. We, on the other hand, wire up, preparing to take on calls that would soon enough rain upon us.

“Hello there!” My neighbour has already received her first call and she sounds like this customer would have their problems solved in a jiffy. While I observe her in silence, I feel a vibration crawling up my wires. It feels like an agitated customer wanting answers. The next second, the vibration reaches my speaker and I blare at my partner. He smiles before picking up my receiver.

“Hello, you’ve reached our company. How may I help you today?” It’s a good start to the night, I realise as I hear a gentleman raising his concerns in a soft voice from other side.
The rep in the cubicle behind us was having a lot less luck, though. He muted his call, and in a tirade, explained to us that his customer was looking for something beyond our scope. Pity we had to turn a customer down, but that wasn’t the most pitiable part. Not only did the customer demand an explanation, but they also swore at our rep. In return, our rep muted the call and began swearing on his own. The whole team laughed out loud, appreciating an inside joke that only the support team understands.

Every day, customers call in to test the nerves of our reps. But despite all that, we laugh and celebrate the end of the week by ordering take out. We’ll do anything for sincere customers, but when rotten customers show up, we know how to handle them. It’s not part of the job description, but it is part of the job.

As Woolf said

Virginia Woolf said that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she’s to write fiction. Here’s how I take it: For a woman to succeed — or get any work done that’s worth talking about — she needs to have a room of her own.

When I first told my parents that I wanted to find a place of my own, they refused outright even before considering my concerns. I don’t blame them; they’ve become conditioned to believing that every girl moving into the city for work or going off to college needs a roommate who can watch out for her. And I don’t deny that’s every bit as true and that their worry is as every bit as valid.

Except that I wanted a room of my own.

Having lived all my life in a shared space, both with my parents and then with my brother, I craved something that I could call mine. It didn’t happen right away, and I ended up spending my first two years away from home in a shared home and hostel.

Now, at last, I have a room of my own. And I see what Woolf intended.

Every time I walk into my room, I walk into a space that looks and feels just the way I want it to. My clothes are right where I leave them — one day on the floor, another day on the shelf. My toothbrush nuzzles between my pyjamas so that I have to fish it out every evening, a small jar of ground coffee perches on the top shelf, pleading with me in silence for a coffee date. And the book I’m reading at the moment lies on top my favourite shirt, the sleeves clouding the title.

When I walk into such a sight after a long day at work, I have only thing in mind: there’s no place else I’d rather spend the rest of my evening.

When I first moved in, I didn’t know how having a room for myself would change me. I didn’t know that I would enjoy the sunlight streaming into my room through the thin yellow blinds, I didn’t know I’d wake up every morning feeling enthusiastic to face the world, and I didn’t know that I’d come to rely so much on the non-decorative, cream-coloured walls of my room to comfort and hold me whenever, regardless of my mood.

It’s been just over a year now, and even though I’m not the best tenant to the room, the room — my room — has been the perfect host.

There’s nothing special about my room. There’s no wallpaper, no posters of Hollywood actors eyeing me, no streamers or balloons to incite the neighbour’s kids.

My room is so plain that anyone but me wouldn’t want to live here. The mattress is my furniture, the floor my dining table, the shelf my pantry, and the doorknob my clothes hanger. In short, my room has become my abode, a place where I can think outside of my head, wake up at 2.50 am to write, and let my creativity run amok without a person to judge.

I enjoy going out, but at the end of it all, all I want is to come back to my room and stare at my walls. Or read a book with a coffee by my side. Nothing makes my day more complete.

What’s the point of reality television?

If there’s one thing that drives the television industry, it’s our persistent craving for potato chips and late night binges. We’ve contained the meaning of entertainment to a single idiot box from which comes forth loud music and wailing that we glare at with widening eyes and dropping jaws.

Come to think of it, we’ve become so reliant on television shows that we no longer have time to rise from the couch to watch the sun set. We no longer have the motivation to wake up at dawn, and we don’t even have the simple sense to leave the couch for water. Why should we, when Bay Watch is on and the roommate is passing by the fridge?

Reality television has made us lazy. We’ve run headlong into a devil that’s reality. Not trying to overdo the graphic here, but television shows nowadays do more harm that the good they claim to do. Not only do we spend more time sitting idle, snacking, but we also seldom realize what’s happening around us.

It’s not unlike mobile phones. People complain that youngsters nowadays are so busy staring at their phones that they don’t even talk to the person sitting right next to them. Television shows aren’t much different. For instance, when I reach home after work, my roommates are busy biting their nails over what’s happening in X Factor, all the while stealing glances at their phones to check if they’ve received a reply on their WhatsApp chats. Not that I care much, but I’d rather go out to the terrace and take a breath of the monsoon breeze grazing along the horizon. Or take a peak at the waning moon, and count the days left until the next full moon. Or better yet, stare at the moon long enough until I think I see the American flag flapping away. For me, that’s more of a fun evening than wondering who’ll become America’s or Australia’s next top model.

I understand, though. We toil hard enough and want nothing more than to unwind at the end of a long work day. And television shows are a great mindless activity to get our minds away from the gruelling tasks of everyday life. So I don’t blame my roommates for not spending more time outside. What I’m unhappy about, though, is by using work stress as an excuse to plunge into a stream of television-watching, we’re only stressing our bodies and minds even more. It seems petty to me to have a heated argument over lunch about who’s a better singer in a country halfway across the world, on a show that’s running only for the rocketing ratings it brings to the channel. Also it’s a little sad that we depend on unknown faces and satellite connections to entertain us.

In the end, we’d have spent all our time either working for others’ benefit or worrying about others’ lives, losing ours somewhere in between the first and the second ad commercial.


essay writing

Over the last week, I prepared for an English exam. That’s when I realised how pathetic of a test taker I am. I had to take an academic-grade exam for work, and having been away from the official learning arena for over four years, I had no idea what to expect. I returned to the classroom environment and its fierce competition, with a little apprehension and more than a little nervousness. I could only think of all the things that could go wrong.

I was reading through sample essays when I noticed how much I had changed since my years at school. The recommended essays looked nothing like the ones I now write. When I write a piece for my personal blog or for a work blog, I try to focus on my voice and my opinion, and then form logical structures. The essays for the test, however, seemed childish to an extent. They tried too hard to be unbiased and cover as many points as possible, resulting in too much generality. It was at that point that I also realised—with much dread—that I too had to write in the same way if I were to acquire a proper score.

Gulping much air and all my doubts, I read essay after essay. Every one of them had the same structure: introduction, merits, demerits, and a conclusion. That should be easy, I thought before sitting down to write my own. I read the first essay prompt and felt all sanity evaporate from my mind. I blanked out. I couldn’t, for a moment, understand what to write or how to write.

I had a meagre amount of time to go from an outline to a final draft—a feat I’d never attempt elsewhere. Yet I had no other choice. I could’ve written a scrappy blog post in that time, but to construct a proper academic essay was harder than I assumed.

The samples looked easy enough, and they read like an immature person’s way of presenting their ideas. And yet only when I had to balance two sides of an argument in one essay—with a time crunch of 20 minutes and word limit of 300—did I understand how hard it must be for students. With so many things to consider, it’s no wonder academic essays lack quality writing, overflowing, instead, with stuffed and half-baked arguments.

Accepting that shamefaced reality, on the day of the exam, I wrote an essay so contrary to my nature, and walked out of the room. I had done what I had to do. I didn’t know how I did, but I know now for sure that I’d never enjoy writing academic essays.

Speaking of likes…

Speaking of likes

For a few years now, everyone I know is obsessed over likes on Facebook. It’s become the sort of thing that gives identity to a person. Like a beacon that assures them they’re in the right path.

Everything is about likes. It’s as if our need for recognition and social acceptance has surpassed our ability to self assess. I know I’ve made a decent photograph of the moon last night, and yet I can’t accept it unless I’ve seen a few tens of likes affirming it for me. And if the tens grow into hundreds, my confidence grows with it.

It’s a good thing in a way, because we need self-confidence to uphold ourselves in society. At the same time, however, this incessant desire for others’ approval is making us more dependent than ever. I’ve lived in the eastern part of the world all my life, and the one thing that differentiates the East from the West is that it’s more of a pluralistic society. The western world, however, is more individualistic by nature.

We see pluralism everywhere in the East; from schools that over-indulge in group activities, to local societies that promote the extended family system, to parents who expect children to live with them until they are married off. (That’s a story by itself.)

As people continue to crave more social media recognition, even the West may head towards a more pluralistic society. The current generation is, by principle, broad minded, and so it doesn’t shy away from accepting its dependence on fellows or the previous generation. Even then, this social shift seems to grow faster now than it did in previous years. Soon, we may all become more social. But — for all the wrong reasons.

The problem is social media recognition isn’t genuine. Most of the time, people on Facebook hit on the like button not because they like the post but because they want to acknowledge whoever’s shared the post. It’s a way to let the entire friends community know that they’re just round the corner. In a way, it’s a desperate measure by one person to remind others that they exist.

Though plenty of people use Facebook and other social media for specific reasons like business ads, community building, local selling, and interests and hobbies, that’s only a niche compared to the vast pool of youth who get on Facebook to chat with friends they’ve just said goodbye to at school. I remember, when in school, my classmates making appointments to meet on Facebook at a designated time just so they could chat on FB. It was a status symbol then—about seven years ago. Not much has changed since, except now it’s Snapchat.

This tendency is making us — both the eastern and western population — unable to survive without one another. What’s ironic though, is that while a proper pluralistic society means to promote healthy social living, we, in reality, aren’t looking for actual human interaction. We’re, instead, seeking recognition through the inanimate, yet animated GIFs and laughing faces. It’d be interesting to see how our society progresses from here. Do you folks agree? Or am I just being paranoid? (I’ve heard I could be.)