Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I may call Life.....

What I may call Life...

I searched for it on ink-stained paper
Between the lines I wrote
Truth would be an idea
Black as black; white as white
Yet the white lost lustre in the night
And cast a black shadow when bright
Black and white muddled together
In an event called grey
I would still keep looking for Truth
Yet grey would hold sway

In a quest to explore the world
I embarked on an endless journey
Each milestone pointed to a world inwards
The Identity, deep, hidden, inside me
I watched myself grow in stature
Yet a child at heart
I felt pride for the vigour of youth
And cried for the kid in me
I made peace with the evil I was at times
The mixed Identity would be my destiny

The world around me burned with ambition
The sparks kindled a flame
I set myself a lofty Goal
A road to name and fame
I filled my heart with reckless zeal
My life now had a purpose
It was a penance of sweat and toil
And reaching the Goal was elation
Yet as the next one presented itself
I realised it was a journey sans a destination

A breeze called Love brought a sense of freshness
To a barren town that was my heart
The town was soon abuzz with homes called dreams
And vows to never drift apart
The gentle caress of affection
And the tender tug of passion
I built myself a castle in the air
Hoping the breeze would stay
And Lo! Love had left without a hint into the night
With memories strewn all the way

I looked into my eyes in the mirror
They seemed to be so full of life
Each day they expected something new
It was bliss for being alive
Through the quest for Truth, Identity, Goals and Love
They had seen it all
With each success they had seen me rise
The struggle after a fall
It was to them, those Eyes in the mirror
That I always owed an answer
Be it Success, be it Failure
I would always emerge stronger.

                                                                                                 - 29th May 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Salesman

The Salesman

"You're too passive for a salesman" my friend taunted me over phone. He was not the first one. Nor would he be the last. "Sales Executive" I tried to correct him, before he disconnected the call. It was just inevitable that he would now let everybody in the world know that I was a salesman....err...sales executive. I mean.... I had to admit it as well. There was some voice at the pit of my heart that kept screaming that I was too "proper" (a word that I've tried to fathom the meaning of, for sometime now) for sales. But I had the grit to say "No" to that voice.....and wanted to believe that I was meant to be in sales.

My parents were among the first ones startled when I pompously announced I was now a sales executive. Well, they'd never understood my choices in life. (Neither did I....many times). From a Biology major in pre-university to a Communications engineer to an IT employee now to a Sales Executive.........I'd seen it all. And so had they. But they never got used to it. On the day I proudly announced I'd be selling bulbs, Amma had different concerns. 
" So you go door to door...selling bulbs?"
"Yes" I said, still with a degree of pomp. She soon made a list. I thought she was listing prospective customers. But it was something else.
"Don't go to these areas. Our relatives live here. I've told them you're a manager.I don't want them to know you're a....salesman"
"But Amma...."
"Yes. And don't be seen in this area as well. My reputation is at stake" Appa added and that was the final straw....
"Guys please...for one, I'm a sales executive- not a salesman." I tried correcting them. "And I'm not going door to door. I'm doing Business to Business shop owners,industrialists...retailers" I was sure I was losing them with jargon. "And my product is no ordinary bulb....It's LED...It has got its own advantages...." I hastily took the sample out of my bag....Amma had gone back to the kitchen. Appa to his newspaper. My brother was smirking at me.


I never knew Bangalore had so many gullies. And so many more within those gullies. My manager told me these gullies were the nerve centres of business - and most of my prospective clients had their shops in these gullies. The voice inside was getting louder. "No" I said loudly and entered the battlefield.......

I entered the first shop. There was an old man sitting at the entrance. I smiled at him weakly. He seemed to return it. I felt encouraged. I proudly took out my product and started explaining its features. He seemed to appreciate it and nodded. I felt encouraged and grew confident. He was smiling now. I thought I'd already sold the product. If this was sales....I would be a runaway success! After 10 minutes of  monologue, I asked him " many bulbs would you order?" My mind was thinking in terms of 50 atleast...probably 100 if I was lucky...I was already calling my manager and he had given me a promotion on the first day......
"Saab andhar he..." he said. "What?" I asked coming back to reality. "Owner Saab andhar he" he repeated, with the same smile that had seemed so inspiring moments ago. 

"Oh..." I still managed a smile, despite the raging anger and disappointment in me. I sat down on one of the chairs. With atleast 5 customers waiting, the owner had no time for me yet. I waited for half an hour. Every now and then the owner would smile at me and order a coffee. The coffee never came. I returned all the smiles sincerely- hoping each smile would translate to a sale. After a painstaking hour, he finally said "Ok..Sir..tell me. What  can I do for you?". I took a deep breath. And made my first real pitch to a real owner. I fought the "No" voice down completely and summoned all my confidence. He looked at me. Took a couple of calls in between. Gave instructions to the shop boys. Between all this, he managed to smile at me and nodded a couple of times. I was naive enough to think he was interested. I went on for 10 minutes non-stop. In the end, I felt so confident that my pomp had returned. I adjusted my tie, my glasses and asked him " that I've explained to you how good our product many bulbs would you order Sir?". Once again...I was imagining multiples of hundred. Did the voice suddenly say "Yes", Yes"...I thought I could hear that....

I looked at the owner expectantly. He merely said "Well......some other time Sir." What??!!!! After all the drama that happened in the last two hours? I had to smile. That was the first lesson my manager had taught me. I had to persist. That was the second. "Sir how about starting off with just 50 pieces?" I asked, trying to inflate the fast deflating balloon that was my poise. "No Sir" he said scribbling on his pad. "25...??" he shook his head and smiled. "Let's say 10 Sir. 10 is good enough for me. You can just try." He looked at me and said no. Weirdly, I felt encouraged. "Make it 5 Sir..." I was bringing myself down without intending to. "3....hmmm.....2.....or probably 1?" He probably sensed desperation now. The smile turned to a scowl.......and that was the end of my first sale.....or sales pitch rather!


A week went by. My score was zero. It remained there after a fortnight. And even after a month. The "No" seemed to be getting louder. But I was getting rather persistent. Somehow, I could never give up. Each owner I met was a character. A lot of them knew me by face now. While some of them almost shooed me away when I waved at them, there were others who asked me to come inside and have coffee. There was a category which listened to me patiently each time I went to them and promised an order in the next week. And that next week, would always remain a next week. I also met a few of them who were looking to chat up on a lazy afternoon and knowing I was a rookie, asked me to pitch, just for the heck of it. Both of us knew we were getting nowhere. Yet for me, the smile and the persistence......were an obligation.


So it was a welcome change, when my manager called me and said "Apartments. Showrooms. Target these now. We'll give a break to the retailers. I know you're doing your best." I was in two minds now. While on the one hand, I was happy to be away from the gullies for any length of time, I didn't want to be seen by anyone I knew in the apartments that I'd be visiting. But again, manager's orders meant everything at a time when my score was naught. I quietened the "No" that was getting louder by the minute and resolved to try.

A guy from typical middle class Bangalore, I'd never visited the upscale apartments that had mushroomed all over the place in the last decade. The tall buildings, the fleets of cars and seemingly sophisticated residents were enough to kindle a sense of inferiority and give strength to Mr. "No", as I called him these days.

I thought the difficult part of approaching these apartments was getting hold of the right person- a President or Secretary who could influence the residents. But it turned out to be getting through the security. I was at a loss as to how to present myself of them. I could neither be too dominant and confident- it would hurt their ego. I couldn't be too meek and polite - I would sound fake. I gave myself a pat on the back everytime I crossed security. It was probably the next best thing to selling that could happen. The score still remained at naught, after approaching atleast two dozen apartments....

When I saw her. Or rather..she saw me. We'd never met in the last year or so. But things were picking up quite well. I'd told her that I would be joining a company as Sales Manager. That had pleased her and we were on chatting terms now - twice a week and only 100 messages each time. I'd pitched myself to her using all that I'd learnt during my 2 years of MBA.....and she'd agreed to give me a chance to keep in touch through messages. If I'd impressed her enough, we would graduate to going out in a couple of months. I'd told I was a sales manager, well connected. "I provide LED lighting Solutions" I'd told her. "'re a it?" she'd asked. "Yes...more or less..." I'd told her. It had taken time to build the reputation...and all of that crashed in minutes.

I was haggling with the security staff of her apartment when she saw me. "How is it that you're here?" she asked. I was shocked to see her there - I didn't know it was her apartment. "You stay here...?" I asked.
"Yes...I do....but why are you here..?"
"Well... I had to meet a client....LED lighting solutions...see". I tried to reason.
"He's a salesman Madam. Trying to get in to the apartment to sell bulbs "said the security crudely...obviously half-informed. I tried correcting him. "Selling LED Lighting solutions Sir" I corrected. 
"Wahi...bulb bhejne aaye ho...." he put it across crudely as possible. He snatched my bag..and checked it. It contained 10 pieces of my product...that were my companions for almost two months now.
He showed it to her. She merely said "We'll chat up." And walked away.

We didn't chat. Or theoretically we did. I went back home and sent my quota of hundred messages. Some of them explanations. Most of them apologies. A few threats that I'd never contact her again if she didn't respond and a few apologies for my anger again. She was probably counting hundred messages. After the allotted hundred, she responded. Well, theoretically she did. She blocked my number. I sent her a hundred and first message that day.....out of desperation....and it never got delivered.

My spirits were sagging at one end. On the other I was getting more desperate. I was still on naught by the way. Her rejection had affected me terribly as well. I wanted to prove that being a salesman was no mean thing on the one hand. On the other, I wanted to sell so much that I'd actually become a sales manager soon...then a regional manager...then a VP......and within a year, buy a flat in the same apartment she stayed...I dreamed of these in the night. And guiding me through all these would be my beloved bulbs. All bright, durable bulbs with one year guaranteed brightness...they had a speciality now...they would hang in mid-air. Soon..I would take over the company...the hanging-in-mid-air bulbs would be our USP. They would last for generations.....that would be another dreams had no ends. 

And in the mornings, I'd see bulbs all over the place. In the grocery shop, I counted the light points; I did the same in a saree showroom and got chucked out. The owner thought I was staring at his wife..while I was just staring at a holder behind her. I kept staring at street lights when I was driving and almost collided with a couple of vehicles before my brother alerted me. I'd soon replace all lighting in the world with my bulbs.....and my bulbs would replace all lighting.


Three months on....I was still on zero. Probably the longest test innings ever. I was down. But not out. I took leave for a week. And at the end of my holiday, my manager called me. "There's someone else covering apartments. Go back to the gullies. It's been some time!
I disconnected the call and pulled myself together. I'd try for an other week. If I was still on zero by the end of it, I'd retire- hurt. Mr. "No" had reached fever pitch now.

I walked to the gullies again. The shop owners were amused to see me again. Yet at the end of the day, the score remained on naught. As I was returning, I spotted a new store. Let me just push my luck, I thought. The owner was an old man. I didn't really have the energy for a full fledged pitch.
I went there. Stood in front of him. And said "Sir...this is an LED glows in the dark......only if you switch it on"
I thought he'd call me mental. But then....he burst out laughing. I don't know what amused pitch or me. He kept laughing for a good 10 minutes. Passers-by started gathering outside the shop. He recovered enough to say everything is fine. He suddenly became very serious. He looked at me for a whole minute...and then said
"Give me 10 of those"

He didn't have to ask me twice. I emptied my bag in front of him. And placed all 10 on his table. The bulbs and I had sort of formed a bond over the last 3 months..and felt it a little tough to let them go.....may be they felt the same as well. But both of us were fulfilling our destined purpose now. I smiled at the bulbs.I smiled at the shop owner. Thanked him...and walked out of the shop.

Mr. "No" was still on rampage. But I had this wonderful feeling that a Mr. "Yes" would soon silence him.
I would smile. I would persist. 

                                                                                                - 12th May 2014, Monday

The incidents are purely fictitious. A bit of experience mixed with a wealth of imagination!!