Calling For Life

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“Midnight coffees, birthday bumps, accentuated English, dashing clothes, irate customers, FM in cabs, lots of money, chain smokers, late night parties, mugs of beer, crush on TLs(Team Leaders for the uninitiated), fight for appraisals, die hard friendship, tears for love, nothing missing-just everything. People call it call center but we call it life.”…Or so runs a very popular SMS that is doing the rounds on the cell phone circuits these days. More so for all those youngsters who are barely out of their grubby school uniforms and are already earning oodles of hard cash.

Gone are those halcyon days when teenagers would be ready to perform the most menial of tasks to earn a few hard pennies, or would have to weather the stormiest of fights with the exasperated pater and mater for pocket money. The twentieth century teenager has briskly shrugged off the yoke of parental tyranny and has adopted a smart, professional and street-smart image. They have donned tailored formal clothes to make their way into plush offices to spend hours in front of a computer. Yes this is the urban youth work-culture that has pervaded the Indian scenario today. Sounds strange? Does it seem like a bizarre play world or one of those “office-office” games that you would so often play as a child?

This is the raw reality of the BPO world today (business process outsourcing) in India. The life at the call centre- inroad to hard cash, the easy way. Yes, today’s teenager is smart, street-savvy, and professional. Chances are, that the officer whom you speak to on the phone when you are facing trouble with your cell phone or your laptop is in reality an young student putting in his daily hours of work to earn his monthly pocket money. To go even further from home, when your friend from the United States tells you that the other day he got a real good loan offer on the phone from some company, again it was probably another youngster calling him up from an international call-centre based in India.

Today you hear them talking about names like ICICI, IBM, WIPRO, and you wonder, what has the world really come to? Sounds like some youth paradise doesn’t it? It is then that I would advise you to take another look at the SMS. One expression will jump out at you, which would probably look incongruous in that vision of urban paradise which you are painting, “chain smokers”, and let me add alcoholism, depression, mental strain…need I go on? At a relative tender age teenagers get a taste of adulthood and all the heavy baggage that it brings. A generation has awoken dear reader, but awoken to what? A reality check or a nightmare? Just the other day a BPO employee committed suicide in Sector V, Kolkata’s IT hub and a symbol of the tech boom in West Bengal. She was found to have been suffering from acute mental depression. And trust me; she was just one out of the herd.

It is at this juncture that you will probably take a closer look at this supposed paradise, and ask yourself, at what cost? At what cost has this worldly wise generation awoken? At the cost of a loss of innocence, of morality, and most importantly at the loss of life! Yes dear reader, your childhood fantasies of ‘office’ games, has just come true. Welcome to “Youthopia”.

Rudrani Dasgupta

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