MAM

The Voice called 'U'

  By VINAY KANCHAN
The Headhunters - a noble tribe that gets us all a better deal. Sworn to secrecy and acting with the utmost discretion they selflessly strive to improve your present lot. After convincing you that your current job has the same future prospects as a goat in a cage of lions, they then endeavor to show you the Promised Land - Which in the eating might in actual fact be akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire (If any headhunter is reading this, I am being thoroughly misquoted by the editor. I love all you guys and keep those calls coming).

The phone rang, breaking the fantasies that Ram Shankar might have got into had he fallen asleep, but since he didn‘t, he picked up the receiver. There was a hushed voice at the other end.


"Can I speak to Ram Shankar?" the voice was hurriedly muffled, like that of a man either on the run from the law or trying to get out of the way when Michael Schumacher is roaring out of a pit stop, trailing Narain Karthikeyan. (Now that‘s a thought).


"Who is this?"


"Prabhakar" the voice quipped back with almost a trained like reflex.


"This is Ram Shankar; do I know you Mr Prabhakar?"


"Ram Shankar? Is that really you?" the voice spoke with the fond enquiring tone of a mother finding her long lost children in a typical Manmohan Desai reunion sequence.


Unused to people expressing such glee at finding him at the other end of the line, Ram was emotionally swayed and replied with equal gusto. "Yes it‘s me and I have been waiting for this moment all my life."


"Hmm." the voice returned to its callous curtness, kind of taken aback by the unbridled enthusiasm it found at the other end.


"Control yourself Ram Shankar, firstly is this line secure?"


"Why do you ask?"


"Can we speak now? And does someone know that you are speaking to me?"


Ram Shankar paused to look around, just to see if there was anything that he had done to attract attention, but apart from his hideously florescent tie he had remained inconspicuous as usual.


"And who are you?"
The silence at the other end of the line was reminiscent of the deathly calm before the phone rings at office on Monday morning.


"My name is U."


"That‘s it?"


"I could tell you more but it‘s classified. I might have to kill you if you end up knowing too much"


"I …I work in advertising" began Ram Shankar pensively "I am sure you have the wrong person, there is nothing of any kind of importance that I have ever got into, I might have delayed on last weeks language artworks but that‘s no reason to…."


"Steady young man. Listen. I am a headhunter. The most famous one in industry and I might have something for you."


"If you are so famous, how come I have never heard of you?"


That question bought an almost angry pause to the conversation. Ram could hear the sound of a keyboard being furiously mauled and the unmistakable sound of a carriage return key being triumphantly hit.


"Ram Shankar." The voice paused to gather breath to muster a sufficient amount of disgust. "You graduated or should I say scraped out of your college. Your academic record was average, so you could not make it anywhere. Then you struggled into an MBA school and were again an average student there, got placed at your present agency on the very last day of campus interviews. In fact you might have been one of the very last candidates remaining. Even there you were fortunate that the owner of the agency had in an inebriated state solemnly promised your institute director that he would pick at least one student from campus."


The emphasis on ‘Even there‘ was not lost on Ram. He was a bit flustered by that uncomplimentary encapsulation of his entire academic achievements. He had to get even.


"That‘s something that any job consultant might know. What makes you so special eh?"


The voice paused again, like the US consulate before they stamp a reject sign on your visa (if anyone has been through that they know exactly what I‘m talking about).


"You had your first crush on your English teacher at the age of 13. But you were shy to admit it to your friends, might be because your teacher was male. You have never ‘gone around‘ with any woman though you have tried desperately hard all your life. You want to get close to Tanya in your present office, but she thinks you are a loser. You always claim conveyance even when others have paid for the trip; you feel guilty about it but pray each night asking for forgiveness, like that (read with contempt) would make it any better. You have been an average football player all your life and never stand in to defend corners because you are scared to head the ball. And you have been trying to get out of that agency over the last year but no one, just no one has found you interesting enough to call you for an interview."


Ram drank in those harsh words with fear, amazement and awe (in no particular order).


"Even my mother doesn‘t know me that well."


His tone was humbled like that of any opposing captain after a series with Australia.
"That‘s why I am the best" Game. Set. Match. ‘U‘.


"So what is it that you have to tell me?" queried Ram Shankar in his meekest tone.


"I have called you to rescue your career and prevent it from sinking like the Titanic"


The chill in those words actually made Ram Shankar feel a small puddle develop near his feet. He clearly needed his cup of tea but Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) seemed busy chatting with goblets (female goblins in bikinis) from other dimensions.


"Why do you think that this is a bad place?"


"Well your boss Vikas to start with."


"What about him?"


"The lesser said the better. He is not bothered about his subordinates, in fact given the choice he would readily trade you for a pack of cigarettes."


For once Ram wanted to give his boss the benefit of doubt. Even Vikas was not that inhuman. Or was he?


"And then the account. Itching creams! What kind of future does anyone working on that have? You really have to ‘scratch‘ your head to come up with an answer. HA, HA, HA …"


"Well it isn‘t that bad I have learnt a bit…."


"And a bit is all that it will be"


Ram was angry. He felt a sudden unhealthy surge of loyalty for his agency. He wanted to launch into a tirade defending his boss and the account that he worked on. Even maybe his client. Then he took a deep breath and maturity took over.


"What do you have in mind?"


"Have you heard of Sunk-Without-A-Trace? More commonly called SWAT?"


"SWAT?"


"Obviously you don‘t even track your industry, it‘s the hottest agency going around?"


"Going around is right. I think they are losing people and accounts by the dozen."


"Child. Listen and learn. When a place is really ‘happening‘ these things are part of the scene. Would you rather work in a place where you saw the same faces everyday?"


"Well…"


"And it‘s the best place for learning. They have a management trainee program that‘s unrivalled in the industry"


"Don‘t they send out management trainees to move furniture when someone in senior management is moving houses?"


"That‘s rubbish. Well they might have done it once but that was just to get the trainees to meet that guy. It was part of their orientation and he was so busy there was no other opportunity."


Ram wanted to blowholes into that logic but a lack of experience and imagination prevented him form uttering anything worth documenting over here.


"Anyways there is an opening that might interest you. I think you must take it. I don‘t even see you having a choice."


"Isn‘t this like a free country and cant I decide if I am interested?"


"At your level it‘s almost criminal for people like you to decide for themselves. You need expert advice, because believe me at your level you really don‘t know."


The authoritative tone, the unshakeable confidence and the ready answer all conspired to weaken Ram‘s resolve. He was sinking fast.


"Can we meet over tea sometime to discuss this?" Ram asked.


"I don‘t drink tea you unconfirmed management trainee," boomed the voice back and then without warning the line went blank


"Old Chinese Proverb - a known enemy is better than an unknown friend, especially when the friend doesn‘t drink tea." Ram heard those wise words of wisdom being whispered in his ear, a tea cup delivered in his hand as Chai-La took the fastest boom tube to the nearest inter galactic placement agency with Ram‘s resume in hand.





After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest, the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In addition to that, he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact vinaykanchan@hotmail.com


(The views expressed here are those of the author and indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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