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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Of Human Bondage

A little more than two weeks ago, I received a telephone call from a Calcutta-based dot-com company. Apparently, the recruiter had seen my resume online and wanted to discuss a vacant position. A couple of tele-conversations and about as many days later, he seemed to have decided to hire me and sent a job-offer through email, which I accepted as the money being offered was not too bad. Besides, I was rather excited at the prospect of going to work in a city I had never been to before and even purchased some new clothes for myself.

I agreed to join on September 17 and was on a Calcutta-bound flight on the morning of that day. After landing there at about 7:00 a.m., I took a pre-paid taxi to the guest-house, where the company had booked a room for me, the bill for which I was supposed to pay on my own. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention to the fact that the company offered to reimburse the expenses that I would incur on relocation, only 60 days after I joined service.

After dropping my luggage off at the guest-house, I went to the office. The first thing that struck me, upon arriving there, was that the office was located in a residential area and there were not even any signboards, to announce its presence. Once I had gone inside, I was welcomed by one of the ladies I had interacted with earlier, on account of completion of some formalities. She introduced me to another man who was to join the same day, as a graphic designer, and then, to the trainer who was to conduct the induction/orientation programme for the two of us. The trainer told us a little about the company and its business, besides making us aware of the online locations, on the company's intranet, of various policies and procedures. For a while, it actually felt like I was welcome in the organisation.

Soon, however, the atmosphere began to change, at least for me. While going through the company's policies, I came across one, according to which, I was to agree that I would withdraw my resume from any job-sites, where I might have posted it and that I would be liable to be dismissed from the company's employment if my resume was found posted at any such website, at any point of time in the future. There was another, according to which, if I were to quit within the period of probation, I would not be paid at all for the last month that I worked. I found these conditions to be very unfair, if not draconian.

A little later, I was summoned to see the senior recruiter who had hired me. He said that he hoped that whatever I had written in my resume and had told him earlier was true. This was quite surprising for me, as I would have expected him to have confirmed that before offering me a job. Then, he told me that I would soon have to see the 'big boss', who would give me some kind of an assignment.

When I asked him to suggest an alternative for the room at the guest-house, as it was rather too expensive, he said that it would be clear within a few days whether I would have to look for another place to stay at, at all. It, therefore, became clear that the company had given me an offer of employment without having completed the process of selection!

When I met the 'big boss', he told me, at first, to gather as much information as I could about the company, from its website and when I had finished with that, gave me a few requirements to work on. When he asked me how I planned to go about getting the work done, I asked him for access to the resume-databases of any of the job-portals that the company subscribed to (The company had sourced my resume, too, through such a database.). This appeared to have upset him a little, as he said that he wished I could find him resumes of suitable candidates for free, through personal contacts and references. It left me wondering about the reasons for which the company subscribed to the resume databases. In any case, he agreed to let one of his subordinates supply me with the necessary details i.e. the user-names and passwords. He also said that his company wished to employ those who had relevant knowledge of and experience of working on 'open-source technologies' and not 'Microsoft technologies', against the requirements that I was supposed to work on.

By evening, I was able to find five relevant resumes, out of all that I went through. Two of these were against one requirement and the rest against the other. I was asked to print these out and show these to the 'big boss' (He had obviously not heard of the concept of 'paperless office' or, if he had, had no intention to prevent deforestation by using less paper.). He said that he found two of the resumes, one against each requirement, to be good. However, he also declared that I had made a 'serious mistake' by short-listing the other three. The reason, according to him, was that the prospective candidates had worked on 'Microsoft technologies'. The fact that they also had relevant knowledge of and the requisite work-experience on the 'open-source technologies' that he and his company were looking for, did not seem to be of any importance to him. He then proceeded to make several derogatory remarks about my capabilities as a recruiter, even as I tried to explain to him that all five of the resumes belonged to people with relevant knowledge, skills and experience. Finally, when he could not seem to proffer a logical argument, he resorted to the farcical one that he did not wish to employ those who had worked with both kinds of software tools and techniques as he believed that they were 'a confused lot'!

That was the proverbial last straw, as far as I was concerned. It had not only become obvious to me that the company was unsure about whether it wished to employ me for an extended period of time, but I also feared that it might fail to pay the amount of money due to me, if I were to be asked to leave its employment within a few days. So, I decided to cut my losses and run.

As soon as I was out of the office, I telephoned my father to make the situation clear to him and then, my brother, to ask him to book an air-ticket for me, for the next evening, so that I could fly back to Delhi.

My father was waiting to pick me up at the Indira Gandhi Airport when I landed there and we reached home at about 1:30 a.m. on September 19.

I have been trying to think hard since then, but can not seem to recall if I have ever come across any organisation that can be described as an employer worse than the one I have written about here. Evidently, exploitation as a policy of management is still being practised in so-called corporate India.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Celebrating The International Day of Peace...

Let there be peace in the world!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bugatti Veyron at top speed

The Top Gear team at BBC harnesses all 1001 of the horses under a Veyron's hood and takes it up to its maximum speed, on a test track in Germany.

Thank you so much, Atul, for sharing this video with me!