The Human Touch

A few days back, I was reading an article about the reason behind the success of Apple stores. One of the reasons pointed out by the man behind the retail operations of the company, Ron Johnson, was that the “staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships…

What Apple stores offer, one can get in other stores as well as the online ones with better deals/discounts. Yet Apple stores exist and are doing good business. The company is not into philanthropy, but the staff, it seems, have not been directed into selling things to customers whether they want it or not. Instead, they have been asked to help customers find products as per their requirement. The customers are not going to forced to buy anything by the salesman at the Apple to ensure sale for the company, claims Johnson. If this is true, then nothing can be greater than this. The salesman (at the store) would really be of some assistance, which is great.

Instead of spending time online doing personal research before making an electronic purchase, one can devote that time to accomplish something else, even if it’s jogging in the park. It would indeed be great if we can really trust an electronic company (I know some people will think of murdering me after reading me describing Apple as electronic company…but doing this to tease you 😛 ) and make a purchase.

Personally, I can’t verify the claim Johnson has made, but I can share with you what the human touch to an otherwise mechanized world can do.

In India, despite offering good interest rates, nationalized banks are not very popular because they are feared to be lacking smart, English speaking staff. And yes, the old generation is supposed to keep you waiting because they will not sacrifice their lunch or tea time to help the customer. I have had also listened to this sort of hearsay and avoided these government-owned banks.

Recently, I had to visit one the largest nationalized bank, State Bank of India, to get some work done. I had gone there with the presumption that an entire day is going to be spent. However, to my surprise, I had completed applying for credit card and opened a Fixed Deposit account in about 30 minutes time, which is about the same time limit for getting a pizza delivered. And within this time, they had told me about every details related to both these things. Very prompt service by a government bank, I must say.

And they didn’t stop there. According to my requirements, they told me about other services and products which will be useful. I did return to the bank to get other things done, about which I had read and been told but with the rider that the procedure and the waiting in queue will be very annoying. Had it not been for the helpful staff at the bank, I would have never got a huge part of my life sorted. Just like the (loyal) customers of Apple store, I would like to trade with a bank by paying an amount for maintaining a credit card (private banks don’t charge you) and by taking a little time out of my life to go to the bank to get things done in consultations with the ‘helpful’ staff.

These days, most of the banks advertise themselves as tech savvy, queue-free means to banking. But I would prefer a bank with helpful staff to guide me through products and services than dialling numerous passwords and codes to get a machine try to do the same (You can talk to the customer care executive, but it’s difficult to get through, especially at odd hours).

A human being can apply brain and will react as per my requirement. While dealing with a machine, I will have to customize my requirement as per the availability or programming.

The ‘helpful’ staff at the SBI has won one more loyal customer.

(You may check out this link for the Apple article>

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What All Can Your ATM Do For You?

Let me start with this confession: It might be possible that a good number
of you (who happen to go through this post) are already aware of this info.
However, it was new for me and I am also quite sure, like me, lot of
people are still unaware of what all can the ATM do other than
dispensing cash.

I remember an advertisement by the bank I am subscribed to. It showed a
middle-aged husband accomplishing tasks like transferring funds, paying
bills etc., which usually requires you to visit bank, by visiting the
nearest ATM. The advertisement reads what all you can get done through an
ATM, but never mentions HOW? The queue outside the ATM does not motivate
you to finding out either.

At this point, some prudent people can say that go online and read about it. For
them my reply is, even the employees at the bank in all the branches are
not aware of what all services they offer through their ATM. Otherwise, I
would not have been told to visit two different branches till someone at the third one
enlightened me about the info I am about to share. (God bless him).

Following is the list of things you can get done at an ATM of ICICI bank other
than withdrawing cash:

– update your phone number (for changing address you will have to go to
the bank)
– open a fixed deposit
– transfer funds to other ICICI bank accounts and other non-ICICI bank
– request for a cheque book
– register for mobile banking
– pay credit card bills, insurance premiums, recharge your mobile

You can achieve this by choosing the ‘MORE OPTIONS’ from the menu that
appears after you enter your PIN number. This is a crucial part that the
advertisement misses out on disclosing other than giving a prank idea about
‘how to get your wife suspicious without getting a punishment at the end’.

Hope my experience saves some legwork for you.

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Agonizing North Indian (read Delhi) Weddings

Before venturing into explaining why I find North Indian weddings agonizing, let me explain what exactly is a North Indian wedding. Except for the bit that the groom comes to the bride’s place to marry, which is same for every wedding, there is a slight deviation in the North Indian ones. And to this deviation that many others and I have objection to. The deviation is the baraat.

Baraat is a procession that the groom’s side undertakes en route to the venue of wedding. This procession leads to lots of chaos in the city. Remember, Delhi is a city where a sports team’s victory procession was not permitted by the concerned authorities (traffic police) quoting that it would lead to traffic congestion. During the baraat season, the family and friends from the groom’s side dance their way to the bride’s place accompanied by a music band. And this procession moves at a glacial pace with Bollywood numbers being played in the most unmelodious way imaginable. The music played by the band is mostly dominated by dhol or drum, and the tune and rhythm – well, they are missing. It is just mindless beating of drums (after a point) when the musicians become aware that the crowd is drunk enough to dance to anything :P.

These baraats or processions are supposed to be integral part of Indian weddings (esp the North Indian ones). But in today’s world, people in rest of metros seem to have understood that they have to tweak the tradition to blend with the modern lifestyle. However, this understanding still eludes this part of the country. So, if you live in New Delhi and the newspaper carries a story saying 60,000 weddings to take in the city today, it is an alarm bell for you. It means that you need to start early from office, plan your route back home in the evening and be mentally prepared for massive traffic jams caused by these baraats. This is one side to it.

If your residence happens to be situated near some banquet hall or if your locality has too many parks, you should be ready to have momentary deafness lasting for about half an hour or more and spending a night of disturbed sleep. The music played by the band accompanying the baraat will make you deaf and the loud music played at the reception will keep your sweet dreams away. (I don’t want to harp about good old days, when simple shehnai music used to be played simply because I haven’t lived in those times. At some uber classy people’s wedding that I chanced to have attended, they did play shehnai and all.)

Two people are getting married and other than their secret admirers, strangers like me have to bear the brunt of this auspicious/happy union or event, whatever you may call. I am thinking, how shall I wreak havoc on mine and avenge for the present agony? 😛

When I started writing this, a baraat was passing by (now you know, where the inspiration came from) and another one was passing by when I was giving the final touches. 😀

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An Interesting INR 10 Bill

People have different ideas about immortalizing their individuality or events that mark importance of their existence. Some want to immortalize their name by building a house or through a kid (who will have their genes). Others want the future generations to witness their love; hence, they deface heritage sites with ‘X loves Y’ graffiti. It would be wrong, if we don’t admit that we too want the future to witness/know the things, time and episodes that we consider crucial to set apart our existence, that marks our individuality (One of the hidden reasons behind blogging might be this; we all want to be known, heard and separated from rest of the crowd).

I have often noticed jokes, immature public display of affection, stupid curses, phone number and random notes jotted down on currencies. Thanks to a friend, I got to witness a new one. Following is the image of the same. (It says, “My first earning…keep it safe! After all Khoon pasine ki kamayi hai yar .. 🙂 )


I am not sure what the person (as we know from the signature), Ankie, intended to achieve. My friend was wondering, what sort of job the person had done to have earned 10 bucks (may be arranging the books on the shelf or cleaning the house, I wonder). Whatever Ankie did to earn or whatever he/she thought before writing that message on the note, we might never know. Was Ankie inspired by the plot of Serendipity? Does he/she want the note to come back after several exchanges, travelling through the country?

The guess work to find the reason might never stop, but one thing is sure – Ankie was successful in letting the world behold the result of his/her arduous labour, a Rs 10 bill, as it exchanges hands. And may the hand that earned the bill, hold it again some day… 🙂

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What Exactly Do I Do?

This is one of the difficult questions to answer about myself. It is a question that is often put forth. Yet after wasting time on explaining my role as a development editor, I strongly believe that all those who had posed the question on my job role are still ignorant about what exactly I do. This is because the question, what exactly I do, props up again after a while.

In a country which became obsessed with jobs related to software, or commonly referred to as computer, since 1999, any other profession compared to it has lost value and glory. This is simply because professionals in this sector are paid directly in dollar conversion, though not at par with what their counterparts in the West receive. But compared to the salaries that the supposedly only option for decent service in India, i.e. government job, used to provide before liberalization, it is way too better. So, when someone says that he / she is such and such editor, it is difficult to get it registered.

It is a general tendency that once you tell people that your designation, which has editor in it, chances are that other half of your designation is lost. And clue to an editor’s job role is hidden in that first half. Like when I say that I am working as a development editor, the usual query or observation is: ‘oh so you edit books right??’ (Was that a query or answer..but the speaker has based his assumption on his knowledge of an usual ‘editor’s’ role). There is another one: ‘oh! so what do you develop’ (yes, I develop mandrakes and dolphins..that what they deal with in a publishing house..). Despite explaining the process of developing books, amazement, shock, surprise and at last, confusion prevails regarding this role.

My conclusion from this prevailing confusion is that in the process of adapting lots of western technique of work, we generally bypass some of the crucial steps while implementing it in this part of the world. Just as there is much ignorance about the role of different editors amongst the general public, so it is in the professional field. Most of the companies which have editors of different sort working for it, are themselves clueless about the JD. Whatsoever an editor a person may be, here the JD is defined to get that person do the work of at least 2-3 profiles. The concept of one-man-army is displayed at its best here. This robotic workforce will lead to short-term cost saving, but in the long run, it would lead to degradation of quality of product.

To check an over greedy economy, Adam Smith’s invisible hand always does the policing act. But who is going to check this intellectual exploitation to satiate a greedy economic culture? Will people ever be able to know clearly what a development editor does?

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Editor’s Block

“Journalism is literature in hurry.” That’s one of the reasons why I had always considered it as my first step towards becoming a writer. However, circumstances beyond my control had landed me in the seat of an editor, which now prevents me from writing a single page without thinking about the subject and language

My job requires me to act as the prism through which an author’s creativity has to pass through to get the ooolalalas of the audience. In other words, I interrupt the communication between the author and the muse so that we can create a product (in my case, a book) which would yield maximum return for the company. And I must add that I am quite good at it (that’s what my boss says…seldom you hear such things from bosses…don’t you 😉 ). 

While I rejoice over this, I also mourn the fact that my editorial experience stands between me and my dream of becoming a writer. Writing has no longer remained simple working around an idea…or questions pertaining to developing that idea. As soon as an idea dawns, my mind gets divided in two halves. The writer’s half is working to see the ideas on paper, while the editor’s is editing it. And all this happening at the same time. This divide results in repetitive (and simultaneous) modifications and deletions, thus leaving my mind worked up. Ultimately, a sense of failure seeps in. It is very difficult to be working as TS Eliot and Ezra Pound on Wasteland at the same time. (Pound had edited the draft of Eliot’s Wasteland.)


Writer’s block, primarily associated with writing, is a condition in which an author loses the ability to write something new or complete his already started work. In this case, there is no scarcity of idea; communication problem between the muse and the soul; or lack of motivation. It is the intervention of editorial experience which results in zero output or one rambling in ten days. 

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