People grinned happily. But the fact was, very few people used to visit that counter. Boost, horlicks and milk were not the favourite drinks of the youth even when offered freely. Most of them preferred the costly Coke and Pepsi.
“Before you go for the break,” Kris continued, “there is something more that I should tell you. You see, the Americans, the British and the Australians are going to be your clients, I told you. They keep visiting us. At any point of time you will come across a dozen of them in this building. One of the things that frustrate foreigners is the lack of cleanliness of toilets.”
Some of the trainees nodded with understanding.
“Here, in FirstGlobal, every toilet gets checked and cleaned every hour. The honour of the nation is at stake. My request to you is to maintain the highest cleanliness wherever you are. Do I have your assurance on this?”
“Thanks. After your breakfast will the induction formally start. Several departments will give their presentations and by the time the induction ends, you will have become familiar with the system prevalent here. The induction is likely to last till 7 PM. It is going to be a long day for you all.”
Some of them groaned.
“The happy part is, here onwards you will get transportation. You will be dropped back at your doorstep. But it is quite possible that the cab takes one and a half hours to drop you back home. That means, some of you might return home only by 9 PM today.”
Some of the trainees may have left home early in the morning. If they don’t return before it’s dark or soon thereafter, the parents may become worried. At times, some of the trainees forget to call home and tell them when exactly they will come back home. The worried parents call FirstGlobal reception. The reception directs them to Kris. Pacifying the agitated parents used to be one of his routine duties on every induction day.
Kris continued in a serious tone: “As soon as you go out of this room, you should call back home and tell them that it might be 9 PM when you return home today. Especially, the ladies. I do not want to receive any anxious enquiry from your parents today.”
FirstGlobal took special care of ladies. Nearly half of the trainees were ladies. Although this is usually the position when every training begins, by the time the batch completes training and the night shifts start, the number of ladies will have come drastically down; ladies are the first ones to quit
It was time to give them the much-needed break.
“Just one more thing. In India, when you ring up an office, it may not be unusual for the phone to go on ringing with nobody responding to it. In the customer service which you are going to render here, such a situation is unimaginable. When your customer rings, you should be there to attend to him. The point is, you should be punctual. You cannot afford to be late. Am I clear?”
“Good. The time now is 10:30. If I say that you have to be back here at 11, at what time will you be back?”
“Eleven.” Some of them ventured to suggest.
Kris had expected this. He said: ”If you have to be here at 11, you have to be here at 10:59. If you come back at 11, you are late. Do I confuse you?”
Some confusion was usual at this point. For some, the idea was either too delicate to understand or too silly to deserve mention.
Kris explained: ”When you start regular work, you will be using a computer. When you have to log in at 11 that means you should log in either at 11:00:00 or earlier. If you log in at 11:00:01, the computer will mark you late. It is practically impossible to login exactly at 11:00:00. So, what is your option?”
“Login before 11,” some replied.
“Exactly. That means, you have to login by 10:59. Let us adopt the same policy here. When will you be back?”
“Are we all agreed on this?”
“Yes, Kris.” Loud and clear. Kris felt satisfied.
When they were gone, Manoj showed Kris one transportation form and said, “This will be a problem. The distance may be more than 35 kms.”
There was a general understanding, though informal, that the residence of the trainee should be within 35 kilometers from FirstGlobal. A cab, often a Tata Sumo, is entrusted to pick up or drop six persons within a maximum of one and a half hours. The longer the distance to be covered, the lesser the number of persons who can be transported as the whole travel has to be completed in the stipulated one and a half hours. When cabs carry less than the optimum number, more cabs will have to be engaged. It meant higher transportation costs. The Transport Department had a budget which was not very charitable to them. The department will fight when forced to spend more.
“Manoj, find out the person, and ask him to meet me before we reassemble.” It is better to be ready for it when the Transport Department starts the fight.
Manoj sought the trainee out while he was having his breakfast. His name was Vijeesh and he hurriedly came to Kris. There was anxiety on his face.
Vijeesh did not know the exact distance between his residence and FirstGlobal. In the meantime, Manoj came back after handing all the transportation forms over to the Transport Department. Manoj and Vijeesh, together, estimated the distance to be approximately 37 kms.
“Vijeesh, you will have a nine-hour duty time. But you will have to arrive half an hour before the login time. The cabs will leave half an hour after you log out. That makes it ten hours. The usual travel time is one and a half hours, which, in your case, can exceed two hours, depending on the traffic. That means, you will be spending not less than four hours on the road. You will get hardly ten hours at home. This is going to be tough on you in the long run.”
“Not a problem, Kris.” The boy tried to sound positive.
“Your best option will be to stay in a paying guest hostel at a much lesser distance. Not tomorrow or the day after, but as soon as possible. Or do you have a relative or close friend here in the city?”
No, Kris. I will start searching for a hostel today itself. I have a friend here in FirstGlobal. Probably he will help me.”
“That’s good. I will ask some of your seniors too to find you a PG. When you shift your residence, let me know.”
(The story continues to the next part)
The story and its characters are all purely imaginary.
‘Sumo’ is a untility vehicle and can carry eight passengers.
The old name of ‘Bengaluru’ was ‘Bangalore’.
In the story, ‘FirstGlobal’, the imaginary BPO, is situated at Whitefield in Bengaluru.
In the story, “Kris” can be the short for ‘Krishnan’, a common name in South India.
The last few sentences of the preceding part are reproduced, in italics, at the beginning of each part.