Thursday, June 28, 2007

Far and dear

When your authors are from all over the world, your typesetters are in India, your proofreaders are in the US, your bosses are in Boston and you, the editor, are in Singapore, work can be really fun. First of all there are the teleconferences and videoconferences with the US which, due to the 12-hour time difference, happen either early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes when the meeting is scheduled for my mornings, it's quite late for the US people and they dial into the meetings from home. I remember this particular meeting which sounded something like this:

Me - Work-stuff-blah-blah...
Boston colleague - Work-stuff-blah-blah... yes honey, I'll read you the story, let Mommy work now?
Me - I'm sorry?
Boston colleague - No, I am. My daughter just came into the room.
Me - Oh that's okay... Work-stuff-blah-blah...
In the background - WOOF! WOOF!
Boston colleague - Can you take him out?
Me - Huh?
Boston colleague - No, I'm asking my daughter to take the dog out... sorry...
Me - That's okay... Work-stuff-blah-blah...
Boston colleague - THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Me - Oh no problem...
Boston colleague - Oh I'm thanking my neighbour... I think my dog ran into the street and the neighbour got him back.

Unprofessional as it may sound, but I really appreciated her dialing in from home for the meeting, the rest of which went on pretty smoothly.

I have this adorable proofreader who makes it a point to remind me in each email of hers that day for me is night for her. So her emails always start with "It's my day and your night!" or "I will work while you sleep." or something endearing like that.

Then there are the typesetters. Even in my previous company, one of the divisions used to outsource the typesetting work to India. For obvious reasons. I'd heard my colleagues rolling my eyes about the typesetters, but I had had no direct contact with them. So when I found out that I will be working with quite a few typesetting companies in India, I was excited and yet a bit apprehensive.

I started off with extremely polite emails because I did want to make a good impression and have the workflow going really smoothly between us. But then... Well, I had a messy start with one of the typesetting companies when we had a disagreement over file formats. Tum log typesetters ho toh kya hua, apun bhi ex-engineer hai, I wanted to say. I was so sure I was right I even got the IT guy to endorse it, and in the end the typesetters gave in.

"All right, that's it, they hate me now." I thought. "I'm 'the conceited NRI chick who is just a month old at the job but thinks she knows everything'." Sheesh.

But surprise surprise, the next morning I received a very cheerful email from Alka. Alka of Akshay and Alka, the two people who randomly choose to reply when I send an email to their generic company email address. (Names have been changed to protect identities.) So Alka sends me the files I had asked for, and adds, "The weather is sooo nice today! It's ossum!" I smiled when I read it. Only an Indian would say "Ossum".

So I replied, "I thought it must be hot in India right now!"

"It's raining. I don't feel like working." came the reply. Holy cow. Although we were independent parties in two different countries, we were behaving like colleagues in the same office.

"Ah, you're welcoming the monsoon. And making me homesick." I replied, feeling a bit guilty for talking non-work stuff in a work thread, that too with a third party.

"Don't worry, I'll enjoy on your behalf too." She said cheerfully.

Then there's Balagopalakrishna (also not his real name). He works in another typesetting company and has no idea whatsoever about the time difference between India and Singapore. I often get emails from him at three in the afternoon that start off with a very cheerful "GOOD MORNING, SAYESHA!" before proceeding to tell me that my proofs are ready for downloading. The strangest thing is - everyone addresses him in emails by his full name. It is a long name to type, and I often wonder if I should just call him Bala. But in an environment like this, you're just dealing with names. No faces. And you have no idea whose sensitivities you may hurt. Perhaps he'd think I was taking liberties by calling him Bala. Perhaps he prefers Gopal. Or Krishna. Or perhaps he prefers something that has nothing to do with anything. You never know. So every time I type out his full name (it takes a few seconds to do it) in my emails to him, I wonder when he will get sick of signing off with his full name and give me a damn nick for heaven's sake. Till then, I am seriously considering creating a new signature in my Outlook that starts with "Dear Balagopalakrishna" and ends with my signoff, because considering the number of emails I have to write this guy, I am losing valuable company time with each email.

Though I've heard how inefficient and disorganised some of the India-based companies can get at times, so far I have not encountered any major issue. Touchwood. I've found them pleasant, cheerful, and accommodating. They still sound excited and not jaded in spite of having done the same things for years, and they adhere to most of my deadlines. Perhaps it's too soon, perhaps I will be rolling my eyes soon, being so used to the clockwork efficiency that Singapore is known for, but what the hell - there is a part of me that is very happy to work with India. I have never worked in an office in India, and I'm curious. Sometimes I wonder what these people look like, what their offices look like, what time they report to work, what time they leave, whether they have to work late because of us. Perhaps the next time I go to India, I can pay a visit to all these people, and then we will hang out and laugh about all the serious work stuff. Perhaps, somehow over the computers, cables, servers and networks, a real connection has been made. Yeah, I think I feel connected. Connected to home.

And here comes the cheesy line:

My company may like to work with Indian companies because they are cheap, but I like to work with them because they are so very dear.


Unknown said...


Thisisme said...

after a long time :D:D:D

V said...

limping in third for...bronze.

Thisisme said...

padh bhi liya :D

aila..last line mein kya senti maara hai bhai!! dil garden-garden ho gaya padhkar :-)

Thisisme said...

and yea..i do workout fr 1.5 hrs daily :-s ...mujhe dekhkar aisa nahi lagega..but it helps keep extra weight off n somehow makes me happy n +ve :D n yea..m on my way to a 'nice size' ..sheesh!that sounds soo funny :))!!

Deepali said...

Haye, pahali baar TOP 10 me pahuchi HEHEHE....HAHAHA *patting my back*

Excellent post as usual :)
Vaise Sashbhai, mere hisaab se Indian companies lazy aur inefficient to nahin hoti..balki they are in constant pressure to prove themself, to jyada kaam karte hain. Haan, but they are not very organised types. And it is always difficult to communicate when u are geographically apart. (All data based on software Industry experience in India/US.)
Vaise aap kaha rahe ho to kuch sach to hoga hi :P
chalo fir se ekbar "Excellent post" :) (ye maska tha, taaki bhai mere bar me aane se ban na laga de ;))

creepa said...

Balagopalakrishna!!!!!!!!! If 'Balagopala' and 'krishna' have same meaning,then why to use both names in a single name??..err..funny! :P
I remember we had a teacher whose surname was a mixture of three surnames :P 'rai choudary dutta' !!

Nice one!

Jai hind! :)

Bivas said...

considering the number of emails I have to write this guy, I am losing valuable company time with each email.
Simpaal Solushaan...
1)Bole to template use karne kaa...
2)or else Name=Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V ;-)

Hai naa kamaal kaa idea!!! :P

Neihal said...

loved this one...( should add "too" also )


Sakshi said...

Lurved the post!
Seems like naya job ekdum fullto shuru ho gaya?

Sandwalker said...

i have always wondered. Do writers actually change the names when they have to. wouldnt a "(names changed to protect anonymity)" serve the purpose. Do writers actually go through the trouble of picking new names.

Iday said...

looks like someone is having loads of fun (and work) with the new job :) Working with ppl from diff countries (and cultures) is real fun. And to sit in a diff country and work with ppl back in homeland is too cool :)

dont worry abt the "inefficient and disorganized" stories u hear. They may be true, but the percentages are low. Else, the foreign companies wud not have projects running with these companies for years continuously. Atleast they wud have shifted projects to other companies - considering there are SO many indian companies to choose from :)

Kais said...

Funny article...In my previous company some multitasking dude or the other would pull the flush lever during conference calls while others waited in respectful silence for the water flow to subside. " moving on.."

In my new company we have videoconferences instead of teleconferences which seems to have alleviated this problem somehow ...


Bivas said...

Totally out of context but u got to see this ;-)

Unknown said...

Hey Sash,
I so undersand yor sentiments. It indeed is a very different and warm feeling to be working with India when we are abroad. In my company, when there are training sessions, we sometimes have people from Indian companies who come here and it's such a great feeling to have them here, let alone talk to them! There's a feeling of instant connection and I feel like having long conversations with them about India, their work environment there etc. Sash, as you get to know them better, you will surely develop good friendships. And yes, meeting them when you are in India can totally happen! :) It's really a great feeling.

Haha, the Outlook signature for Bala made me chuckle out loud...:-). Maybe that time isn't far off when Sash will have a nickname for him!

soleil said...

Another blog post that made me smile although I am so tired and am gonna plonk on the bed now :)

I've been having email correspondence with a few people in France and sometimes I ask so many questions, I wonder if she's getting irritated with me. I'll probably never know will I? :p

Jeevan Baretto said...

I've not seen you and not known u either.. but still something in ur blog makes me come back n read what u've written..

It is nice that you respect ur country and ur country people..!!

Nice Post


Sayesha said...


Hehehe! :P

Langda tyaagi baahubali! :D

Hehehe... bahut dinon se senti nahin mara tha na! :P

Hehehe! Patting your own back eh? Hehehehe! :P

Don't worry I will never ban India supporters from my blog. I need them to keep my own faith strong. :)

Arre yaar fictional naam hai! Uffff some people! :P
ps: Jai hind! :D

Arre ctrl+C ctrl+V karne mein utna hi time lagega jitna naam type karne mein! :D

Thanks! :)

Thank you thank you! Dhanda ekdum fultu ishtart hai baap! :P

Haha! Why are you asking me, go ask a writer! I'd say they do change the names... it's fun to come up with names, isn't it? It's like having kids but not really having them... hehehe! :P

Yup yup! So far I have not faced any major major issues, so that's good! :)

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks!!!!!!!! :O

Holy cow! :D

Hahaha, thanks! :)

Hehe... I wonder that about my Boston colleagues sometimes! :P

Thanks! :)

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