Friday, November 10, 2006

The help-less helpline

Ah, now I've got it all figured out.

A few weeks ago, on a tip-off from my blog buddy Rohit, The Times of India featured my interview on their 'Education Times' page. In the beginning, I bobbed up and down in my newfound 'Sala main toh sahab ban gaya' glory, but then I noticed something sinister happening on my Orkut account. Strange people (who are a different breed from strangers I must say) had started leaving me scraps and sending me messages with random queries. These people were also a different breed from the hot sexy guys wanting to do frand ships I'd blogged about some time ago. Those 'frand ship' messages had stopped appearing once I changed my Orkut profile message to read "I'm not on Orkut to "make new friends". I'm here to get in touch with old ones. Pls add me only if we know each other." (I know it doesn't sound cool and even borders on rudeness, but I got the message across. The 'frand ship' messages stopped.)

So when there was a sudden spike of messages and scraps from these strange people on Orkut, I started wondering what could have happened. And now I know! I'd mentioned in the interview that it's good to obtain information before joining an overseas university.

So now, suddenly I had become that source of information. :|

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for helping people, including random strangers. To me, the concept of 'Pay it forward' is right up there amongst the highest of the high, along with Lage Raho Munnabhai's Gandhigiri concept. It's something we desperately need to keep us sane, to keep us human, in a world that seems to be repeatedly teaching us the same lesson - "stranger = danger".

So I try to do my part. I try to help people who ask me for advice about Singapore - universities, courses, places to see, house rents, taxes, living expenses, etc. I don't really mind it. I guess a faceless stranger asking you for information over the net is probably safer than a dubious-looking one standing at your door asking for a glass of water. Getting the info they need only takes a little bit of my time, and I feel good to be able to help. I feel privileged to be in a position where I can actually help someone. Information should be shared and all that blah. Sometimes I go out of the way to do research that would help someone. I have asked around about house rentals in random places in Singapore, procedures to apply for visit passes, and what not. I do what I can, in whatever way I can, sometimes to the extent of errr... making them suspicious. And thankfully, most of the time, I don't expect anything in return.

And that's exactly where my dilemma begins. Most of the time, people ask for help nicely. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes they're rude. Sometimes they assert a right over you. Sometimes they 'demand' things. And some of the requests for help are just plain damn exasperating.

Most of the messages and scraps I get tend to be about engineering courses in Singapore. Now I do not work as an engineer, even though I have a degree in engineering. So I really don't know what the market for engineers is like out there. But of course, I suppose these people don't know that I switched to publishing, so it's still okay. What is not okay is the kind of things they ask me, and the way some of them phrase their emails, and the way they demand answers as if I'm their local helpline. Now these are not people who're from my blog, and who know me reasonably well. If they were, I'd be more than willing to help, just as I'd be more than willing to ask them for help.

But these are random people I don't know. Random people with their random queries.

"Hi Sayesha I want to do master's in digital signal processing in NTU. Please give me the details about the course."

What the...! If I knew the details about the master's course in digital signal processing in NTU, I...err... wouldn't be able to live with myself. :|

"Hi is the engineering course in NTU good?"

"Hi Sayesha I am Rajesh from Raigarh. I got 92% in boards. I got into IIT and also NTU. What should I pick?"

"Will I get a job immediately after I graduate?"

"Hi I need more info on engineering courses in Singapore. Can I add you as a friend?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

"HI....This is Muthu doing my final yr ECE in Hyderabad...Planning to apply for MSc Embedded Systems r Computer Control & Automation at NTU for August'07......can u plz gimme some info abt the conditions,standards n future prospects after doing MSc out ther so that I cld start my application process.....Thanx in advance...."

Some dudes even send me part of their resumes as if I'm in the selection panel.

"My profile: GRE 1020(730+290)(AWA -3) Toefl-243(4.5) 1)B.E upto 3-2 : 77%(ECE) 2)Inter/12th : 96.8% 3)10th/ssc : 90% 4) Presented 5 National level technical papers including ones at IIT,Mumbai n BITS pilani..(won 2 prizes- one at jntu,hyderabad and other at bits,pilani). 5)Participated in Robotics workshops conducted at IIT chennai n IIIT,hyderabad. 6) I've got merit certificate of participation in Regional Maths Olympiad(Andhra Pradesh) in 1999(class IX). 7)My partner n I were placed in 5th position in HINDU young world quiz in regional finals held in hyderabad in 2002."

Then there are those who have freshly landed in Singapore and need help. The annoying part is them thinking that they can immediately become your friend just because they landed in Singapore and emailed you.

"Hi I am new in Singapore. I need a friend to show me around. Can I befriend you?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

"Hey I work in software came to Singapore three months back currently living in Bukit Batok. Which part of Singapore you live in?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

Then there was this guy who wrote me a very polite email through Orkut, asking me for information about Singapore as he had just landed here on his job assignment. It was a very sincere email asking for help, and I'd have gladly gone out of the way to get all his questions answered, if not for that one small thing that ruined every one of his sincere words. The subject line. It read (and I copy word for word; sic) - YOU LOKK LIKE A ANGEL.

Needless to say, I instantly deleted that mail.

The worst thing is - when I ignore these emails, messages and scraps or delete them, I actually feel guilty. I feel like I'm acting pricey. One of my friends said, "Arre delete maar, tuney theka leke rakha hai kya saari duniya ko Singapore ke baare mein bataane ka?" ("Just delete them. It's not your responsibility to answer everyone's questions about Singapore.") She was right. It's not my responsibility. But why do I feel guilty?

A friend of mine recently said that he wanted to donate Rs 1 lakh to charity. The strangest thing is - he's not even that rich. But I got thinking. Deep inside every one of us, there's a person who desires to do good. To be selfless, to help people. Some donate their money to charity, some donate their time volunteering (at least I do, cos I work in kids' publishing, and money's not something I have a lot of). It's reassuring to know that we still think about helping others, even if it's because we're scared of burning in hell otherwise.

But I guess we have to draw the line somewhere. In our desire to "be a good person", we must not overlook our own dignity. We must judge for ourselves. We must understand that it is not possible for us to help everyone.

And most importantly, we must stop feeling guilty.

I don't have to feel guilty about these emails and scraps I delete without replying to.

I don't I don't I don't.

If I tell myself this sufficient number of times, I'll begin to believe it myself.

I'm not a bad person just because I can't help everyone who asks me for help.

I'm not I'm not I'm not.

I may 'LOKK LIKE A ANGEL', but I've gotta show my devilish side at times. :|


Anonymous said...

U are absolutely rite.. Orkut seem to be the talk of the town. Every body wants to help. Till what extent is the question. Its better to be rude sometimes.

P.S: For people dont know me in real, scrap me first.. if we make a gud conversation I wud accept friend requests.. I dont like to add, just for the sake of adding.

I had put this in spite of being a GUY. Imagine the rate at which I have been getting people for frad ship...

btw will u have frad ship with me... plz have na....heeee...


ANKIT said...


i guess suggestions from cognizant persons do help,,,,

personally for Us(i mean engineers ug students) suggestions from our seniors does help us tremendously in various aspects,,,,!!

anywayz,,, nicely blogged...!!

btw,,,,is there any course for undergoing nanotechnology in biotechnology with specialization in ......ehhh!!!

just jokin,,,!!!


bachcha said...

oh great u seem to be a nice helpful soul ... i was just wondering what will i do 10 hrs in singapore ... and now i know u r there to help me rite :-D?

RP said...

Hi Sayesha I want to do master's in embedded in NTU. Please give me the details about the course
*Notification - RP has added you as a friend.*

Sayesha said...

Seriously yaar, I often feel like quitting Orkut, but all my school friends from 10 years ago are there... too painful to let go of that database :(

And no I won't frand ship with you! :D

Asking is fine yaar... it's just the way some pple ask ki maarne ka mann karta hai. Especially when they "demand" info about random stuff! :|

Ah, you're another breed! Sheesh! :D

Embedded in NTU? Sure!

*Notification - Sayesha has "embedded" you in NTU with the aid of a rolled-up newspaper. Howzzat?*


qsg said...

Sayesha, I will visit singapore sometime in the next 10 - 15 yrs. Will you show me around?

*Notification - Gems has added you to her friend list*

Sakshi said...

Delete maro bhai..
Aisa msg delete karneke liyech hai. Guilt- vuilt maro goli or jor se bolo mat. Bahar nikal gaya ki bhai aisa feel karela hai to logo ka vishwas uth jayega.

Anonymous said...

same thing happens here.....but I think of the time I was emailing random people (NICELY :D) about NTU, and figure I should pay it forward.But I reply back only if they ask nicely by sending me an email or a message, not a randon scrap on orkut!!

Anonymous said...

which also reminds, there is one such email lying in my inbox, still unreplied to! Thanks for the reminder :D

Bivas said...

It's not entirely Devilish...we do hv our limitations...very well put...hope some of those weird ppl read this...
rgdng the resume thing...hv seen that too...recetly someone had posted his resume on my friends scrapbook

Bivas said...

reminds me of Jack Nicholson's dialogue from A Few Good Men..."Of course you can have the report...but U will have to ASK NICELY"...hehehe

Iday said...

others might not know this, but i can testify u to be someone who voluntarily drops a comment ("Hey! u need any help, let me know"), in the blog of someone who is simply a reader of this blog, only for the past few days (made 2 comments at max).

i can continue to testify u to be someone who then goes on to keep up the promise, without showing the slightest of grimaces at the loads of work this guy sends across, and does some quality help.

i can testify u to be the most helpful helper i know.
So if you think it is not worth it, then be sure - it is not worth it

but to point out the flip side of it - not every one owns the gift of polished communication. Some ppl are unlucky, end up with less than top notch education and hence have katta english. you cannot take their language to be rude. and the difficult part is that one cannot differentiate between these katta guys and the real rude guys :)

But of course - brash behavior (adding to friends list without even getting the first reply, asking to show the city around or the LOKK LIKE AN ANGEL subject line) is a clear standout though :D

BTW - i dint realize ur orkut profile still exists :)
Bhai - mujse dosti karoge??? :P

Sayesha said...

Hey, don't insult our friendship by putting yourself in the same tourist package tour as them! :/
*Notification - Message from Sayesha - "Abbe bane banaaye friends ko add karti hai besharam??*

Bole toh, ekdum raapchik baat boli tu... bhai hoke itna soft-hearted nahin hone ka, hai na? :/

Yeah, the asking nicely is very important... and I especially hate randomly being added as a friend! :|

Heheheh... Nicholson ROCKED in that movie, huh? :)

Thanks yaar... anything for a friend... :) I mean a real 'friend' friend, not a 'I have just added you as a friend' friend, huh? ;)

//end up with less than top notch education and hence have katta english. you cannot take their language to be rude. and the difficult part is that one cannot differentiate between these katta guys and the real rude guys :)

That's a brilliant point. Maybe that's what it is... I guess language skills or rather the lack, can make a message sound rude... but I seriously can't stand the 'You lokk like a angel' kinds!

ps: Yeah, My Orkut profile still exists. I had two, remember? I retained the one with my school friends from ten years ago :)

pps: Dosti phir se karna hoga kya? ;)

angada said...

ummm... very true, very true...

V said...

Er sash, I dont know if you remember me...I am the 'condoleeza rice' wala guy from orkut. Tried finding you out there many times after you removed your old luck! If you are interested, could you drop by my profile or send me a link to it?

Viren M.

Anonymous said...

to the obnoxious ones, just before hitting delete, tell them 'tum please bolna bhool gaye' and smile a devilish smile :D

jane don...i mean doe :D

dharmu said...

bahi, me also coming to singapore on the way. my lis of FAQ's for you?

1.Do i need a transit visa?
2.What transit facilities do i get?
3.Do i have to pay the airport taxes?
4.DO i have sightseeing trips from the Airport?
5.WHat currency do i use and where do i get it converted?
6.What do i get in duty free shop?
7.what is the best food to eat?
8.How is the weather in feb?
9.which are the best places to visit?


ok, the first 9 are irrelevant, the last one is really to be answered on priority basis. ok?

Anonymous said...

Bhai, aap apna haath kheech loge bachhon ke sir se, toh woh sub toh anath ho jaayenge.

anyways, your friend is write. you just can not continue with it. so no point in filling guilty.

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Yeah well that happens I know: I too have received a lot of queries about my place. But I guess the simplest way is to compile all your information together and make a few blog posts etc and then give them the link if they are asking for staple information.

But never feel guilty about deleting these random scraps, Sayesha: I believe one has to earn the help one receives: you cannot demand it. God (and Sayesha) help those who help themselves ;)

Sneha said...

hey Sayesha!!
You reallly don't have to feel guilty!! u were so prompt when i'd asked u that one query (iam hoping that hadn't pissed u off :D)!! n hey, u don't necessarily show ur 'devilish' side by not replying to ridiculous questions.. ur only exercising ur free will which is perfectly fine :)) cheerz..

RP said...

*Notification - Sayesha has "embedded" you in NTU with the aid of a rolled-up newspaper. Howzzat?*
Wow! Is this the same newspaper for which ye r working (apparently) so hard? ;-)
**rp runs away before the sayesha throws the nearest paper-weight @ him**

R said...

For a moment I thought you'd put that strip here. :D

Ahem ahem. I DON'T BELIEVE IT!!! Sheesh. You really are patient. But this really is crazy! Ignore the buggers. :D

I left the bloody 'build a network of friends' site. :P

Girl next door said...

You are so right! Funny how one can feel guilty when trying to be assertive and claim some dignity and space. I've been through the phase of helping people and it gets draining when they don't offer to help me. Now I've become more selective about who I give my time to.

Sayesha said...

Join the club, buddy! :)

Oh I remember you. As for Orkut, let's just say I'm not that accessible anymore muahahaa! :D

Hehehe... prob is that they do say "please". The annoying part is what they say after it! :|

#Dharmu dada,
Oye tu mere se yahan kaiku baat kar reli hai? Email maar phataaphat tere har sawaal ka jawaab milega! :D
ps: If I'm in Singapore when you get here, I'll meet you even if you have a 13-minute transit! :D

//Bhai, aap apna haath kheech loge bachhon ke sir se, toh woh sub toh anath ho jaayenge.

Hahahahahahahhahaa! :D

//But I guess the simplest way is to compile all your information together and make a few blog posts etc and then give them the link if they are asking for staple information.

WHAT? Sheesh! Why why why would I take time to do that? What's the NTU website for?? :/

//iam hoping that hadn't pissed u off :D

Hahaha! No dear, you asked nicely, you see! ;)

//hey, u don't necessarily show ur 'devilish' side by not replying to ridiculous questions.. ur only exercising ur free will which is perfectly fine :))

Love you for sayin' that! :)

Geez, for the last time - I do not do not do not work for a newspaper! I just thwack people like you with a rolled-up one! :|

You left Orkut?? I can't do it yet... not till I create my own database of friends' contacts and birthdays, etc. :)

#Girl next door,
//Funny how one can feel guilty when trying to be assertive and claim some dignity and space.

//Now I've become more selective about who I give my time to.

You said it, girl! :)

rt said...

very true.. i guess orkut is helping us to catch up wid old friends as also helping some strange people to send friendship requests to strangers...

dearbharat said...

Just relax... And practice to coolly ignore these kiddo's. These things have already suceeded in eating into your precious.

Long time back I had written about such stupid questions that people ask.


Anonymous said...

anyways, your friend is write. you just can not continue with it. so no point in filling guilty.

just looked back at my comment. came back to clarify that the intelligent use of homophones were not intentional.

sheesh!! :D

Dev said...

Muhahahahahahahaha! Me back after quite some time... just read through aaaaaaaaaallllllll the posts I've missed since a month or two... :P

Bhai... bole toh, tension nahi lene ka, delete marne ka.... guilty feel karne ka nahi bhai.. hum hain na, guilty feelin hum par chodne ka, bhai! :P

V said...

Does that mean you wont be dropping by? I did something to annoy you, eh?

Anonymous said...

what does the bloke mean "LOKK LIKE A ANGEL". woh banda assal mein angel se hi baat kar raha tha. (collar tight karna OK). now coming to kaam ki baat . devilish side dikhaate wakt, horns aur poonch lagaake kaam karna. phir kissiko doubt nahi rehna chaahiye - "you deleted mail like A DEVIL"

Anonymous said...

cant stop myself from writing again. imagining you dressed like the ONIDA devil, evil grin , evil laughter and all. Ho !ho! ho !ho!

Anonymous said...

I am thankful now that I deleted my Orkut account (exactly because of those 'frand ships' requests, when all I used it for was to keep in touch with family members in India while I'm in the US).

Great post.

HaRi pRaSaD said...

Orkut. A serious waste of time. When I was with my blogbike not many of my friends were interested in enjoying(?!) a ride in it. But all of a sudden there appeared Orkut and every Tom, Dick and Harry I knew was already in the bangwagon, waving at me frantically to jump in. I stood at the same spot for a long time with a confused stare and finally boarded it on the run, only to find my good old blogbike fast disappearing in the rear view mirror!! Obsolutely no time for her. Intially I was pretty happy in the bandwagon as there were many pretty looking girls in it..and most guys, I like them!!!! But as days passed by, I got so frustrated with the meaningless flirting, chatter and banter in the wagon that one day when it reached a crescendo, I decided enough was enough.

I jumped out of the it.

I am still running hectically towards my good old beloved blogbike.

Afterall its her first b'day this month!!!

HaRi pRaSaD said...

If not for that one small thing that ruined every one of his sincere words. The subject line. It read (and I copy word for word; sic) - YOU LOKK LIKE A ANGEL

Now that was too much Sayesha. Seriously too much.

You could have as well replied him
"Idiot, I do have a full size mirror at home"

Hari takes off as fast as he could , with his heels hitting his ass

HaRi pRaSaD said...

Okay, I guess I am in a talkative mood.

A friend of mine(girl) had a profile pic of her hugging a teddy. I scrapped her saying "Huh..Girls and Teddies!" She replied "What can we do? You guys present them to us, we pose for snaps hugging them!" and I replied "Hehe! You know, we guys actually give them to you so that you (out of joy) hug us and not the teddies. :D ;) (see I was winking, laughing and all indicating it was just jolly!)

But that nut seems to have hated that and immediately deleted that scrap and also refuses to reply to my sorry mail :(

She thinks I am a..u know..somesort of a..bad boy :( and that also contributed to my jumping out...

Iday said...

//anything for a friend... :)
hmm... that's the u i know :D

//Yeah, My Orkut profile still exists. I had two, remember? I retained the one with my school friends from ten years ago :)
Dint know there were two profiles :o
I only knew the sayesha wali profile. But yeah, i found the other one today :)

Archana said...

Bah - now Orkut is used as a "communication tool" too? This used to happen with my email id on my Uni website - ultimate random people used to "demand" information (one guy actually asked me to hunt an apt for him and put down a deposit - jeez). After initial guilt pangs, I just started hitting delete (but did go thro the mails first - some of them were ridiculously funny :-D)! I think you should just ignore them too!

And yeah, with so many clues I *had* to try to find you on Orkut - and I did :-D!

Sriram said...

Whinging a lot, are we? There are always a number of people who will ask you questions, simply because you are either in a univeristy or you've opened your mouth about "researching univs". Just stop whinging, delete those scraps if you don't feel like replying. I'd love to hear from folks who you mailed and asked for help regarding Univs. That would be something, wouldn't it? Get of that high horse, FFS!

Unknown said...

i really don understand wats d problem wid being called "beautiful like an angel" ??its nt dat hes abusing u ..

is it necessary dat if a guy says so to u he s hitting on u ? i really don thnk so .

sorry to be so direct even wen i dont know u bt dats one issue abt which i feel very strongly abt indian gals ..dey take evry man/boy to be a predator and its really nt so ..

Sayesha said...

Yup... it's a necessary evil :(

Yeah, I guess so :)

Tu toh aise hi likhta hai yaar :)

Hey, welcome back! :)

Nahin yaar... I just don't use it to add people anymore, only school and uni friends :)

Sheesh, I used to hate that ad! :P

Thanks :)

Congrats on 1st b'day! :)

You found me? Hahahah! :)

//one guy actually asked me to hunt an apt for him and put down a deposit - jeez

:O :O :O

Hi there, thanks for dropping by. Now the reason why I am on the "high horse" is that I am sick of running around for people who don't even know how to ask for help nicely. And for the record, before I joined my university, I did not ask anyone anything. But if I had to, I'd either have asked someone I knew, or if it was a stranger, I'd have been polite about it. Too much to ask? :)

The problem with being called "beautiful like an angel" is that it had nothing to do with the rest of his email and the help he asked me for.

Anonymous said...

Hi Angel!
Haha...:-) Enjoyed reading ur piece. Yes, we shouldn't be feeling guilty, but that feeling is normal too...because we do want to be nice people. I have faced the same thing before when I was in school..with prospective students asking a ton of questions.

And congrats for the article in TOI Sash. That's wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I am not coming to Singapooor to study anytime in next few years.

I am not studying in Hyderabad and I have not even taken GRE.

I don't even think anyone would want to hire me after my graduation from law school.

And you loCk like an angel.. but where is the key? :P

Okay, okay, too from me.. hehehe.. Sahi hai yaar.. bhai is now phamus bhai.. and bhai is also annoyed.. lol..

sigh, why are you so pissed.. you should be happy that you get such interesting mails and all..

I nvr gt sch intrstng mls =))

Unknown said...

"The problem with being called "beautiful like an angel" is that it had nothing to do with the rest of his email and the help he asked me for.""
egjactly --may be hes jus complementing u as a gentleman ...theres no harm in being called beautiful there ??

Unknown said...

neways a nice blog ..

Anonymous said...

sheeesh.. i go out of network for a month and i miss out on so many blogs here :)..

and for once i kinda not liked sumthin on ur blog.. i agree with shantanu here. i mean.. when a guy says 'u are good looking/laaking/locking.. or watever.. he does not necessarily have to be using the rest of the mail just as a PS to that :)..

i know you probably wouldn't like it.. but that did sound slightly 'pricey' :).. maybe bcoz i am just 'another' guy.

neverthless.. awesome blog again :)

Anonymous said...

y did u give that interview if u never wished to answer queries after that..remember writin a mail to this person who was into animation and his interview featured in toi educatn times. he helped me clarify so many things. im absolutely thankful to him4 that..bcoz not many people are professionals in this field and getting any info bcums a herculean task..

Sayesha said...

Well, my point is - if you want help, just ask. Why unncessarily compliment my looks? It's annoying, considering the number of creeps crawling on Orkut.

Well, thanks for expressing your opinion, but guys must understand that girls do not take random compliments from strangers as compliments. "Creep!" is the first reaction we would get, especially to a line like "You look like an angel." There was no point to him writing that, and I know it was pricey, but it pissed me off. A simple "I need help" would have sufficed. Perhaps that's the way guys and girls work... differently :)

I think you lost the point of the post. I never said I don't wanna help anyone. I do, and I do help them too. But the point of this post was that should I be helping people who creep me out, just because helping others is a "good" thing? No matter how much you judge me, I think I have the right to decide whom to help and not to feel guilty about that. :)
ps: You got a name/nick? :)

arpana said...

aahh , singapore eh ?

I want to do Franship with you , and I dont know how u look , but i can tell you , that you "lokk like an angel" ( spelling mistake and all) :D

jokes apart ... I wldnt know about ppl trying to ask qs on career , cos **looks anxious** i cant say I have a great one going ; but yeah orkut is filled with "franship" guys :D

Anonymous said...

Bhai ..tuu sau pratishat angel hai re.... bindas delete maar aisey useless mails/scraps.

chanakya said...

blast firefox kept caching the old page. I did not even realise that ur blog had got updated.

I know Orkut is supposed to be a site for networking but somehow i for one use it only for my friends.

we actually had a collection of such ahh intresting orkut scraps here

Ok the thread does wander around more than a bit . However it must be noted its in the yackety yak which is more than just prone to random wanderings.

Hey just answer those you feel like answering.
I think one must realise that people today do have more options and asking you really cannot get all the information you want from people older than you. That is when one starts asking strangers.
Also coupled with the fact that companies have realised that a degree from just any other foreign college signifies nothing its important to get as much information as one can

Sudeep said...

Hi Sayesha,

I am Sudeep from Pune. One of my seniors is coming to S'pore. Can you arrange to get him tapkaoed? :)

Also pls tell me in which angle does a devil look like an angel.. mujhe bhi uss angle mein photo khichwani hain :D