Nowadays, when your land line rings then you know it can only be an older relative who retains suspicion of mobile phones. Or, more likely, a sales call.
Illustration / Amit Bandre
When I answer, a voice inevitably asks for Mr Vohra. They’re not referring to my late father — who would have sternly told them he was Wing Commander Vohra, not Mr, in his fauji way. Now, there must be many Mr Vohras in the world, who have phones too, but I can say with assurance none have been attached to my particular number, which I’ve had since, as a young working woman I was finally able to save up for MTNL’s OYT (Own Your Telephone but pay monthly rental for it anyway) scheme.
I should correct them or say wrong number but kya karoon, control nahin hota. Or hoti — irritation I mean.
But I always ask, “Who is Mr Vohra?” in (what I hope are dangerous) dulcet tones.
“Mr Vohra… whose number this is,” they will say. “Really? Are you sure this is Mr Vohra’s number?” I reply, still giving them a chance to say I mean Ms Vohra. But no. Instead, a series of elaborations follow, informing me my number belongs to a Mr (always a Mr you know) CK, no, BD, no, PV (my intials) Vohra.
Around now I usually tire of attempts to usher in gender equality to the world of sales calls and tell them that there is no Mr Vohra and though there is a Ms Vohra, I am not interested in what they’re selling.
But as you know, bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and turns into stronger strain. So it is with sales callers.
Recently when I did this, one informed me I was wrong. There was a Mr Vohra and what’s more, “He has only yesterday come and bought speakers from our shop. “Really?” I raged. “How would your mother feel if she heard you lying like this? I am the one who bought the speakers not some Mr Vohra.” “But na ma’am” she responded giggling, “Normally gents only buy such things so I thought your husband must have come.” When I continued to rail, she said, “Sorry, Mr Vohra,” and hung up on me.
Last week, matters escalated further: “No, Mr Vohra? What nonsense you talk,” said the sales caller to me. “I have spoken to him many times, on this very number.”
I tried to stop my brain from exploding and asked: “Accha? Since when?” “Since the last three years,” he said pugnaciously. “Who are you madam? Why aren’t you giving him the phone? I will report you.” To whom? I wanted to ask? Mr Vohra?
Testing as these calls are, I do feel guilty every time I lose it and become rude. If large corporates hire people but do not train them well it is the fault of the employers — but who holds them accountable? All it does is put the employees at the receiving end of our anger and make the world a harsher, less productive place.
Naturally they end up unreasonably aggressive. Or worse, suicidal and demoralised like the Doordarshan anchor whose recent gaffes at the film festival in Goa made her an online laughing stock. She bore the brunt of it, while no one held the bosses at her channel accountable for hiring someone so inexperienced and not bothering to train her.
I fantasise that one day, unable to take it anymore, all sales callers will melt down and burn their company offices and the revolution will arrive. Till then, I’ll occasionally have to go as Mr Vohra.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.