Payment Terms

I thought I knew all my parents’ stories, because to be fair, I have heard them many times over. It is a source of constant joy, as I think of them coming terms with the world as rather adorable. Neither of them spared themselves or their pride in the retelling, so the piquancy of each tale has lasted.

So when I heard a new story about my dad a few days ago, I was really thrilled.

When he was working in Goa as a hotel general manager, he had a trusted lieutenant in the form of his HR manager, AM. AM, in turn, had immeasurable regard for my father and, since his passing, has kept in touch with my mother regularly. My father had only praise for this younger person, and always said he would go far.

A few days ago, AM messaged my mom to express how much he missed my father and his stewardship. He stressed on how much he learned, just by being with my father, and he narrated a tale to that effect.

One evening, a security guard was yelled at and slightly roughed up by some of the hotel guests or surrounding taxi drivers. He was understandably upset, and marched off to the HR manager to lodge a complaint. My father called him into his office, offered him a seat and a glass of water, and asked him what had transpired.

The security guard went into a harangue against all and sundry. Once he had quietened down a little, my father asked him what his name was. He replied: Namdev. Next: what is your salary, Namdev?

AM, in his retelling, said that he was in shock when he heard this question. What was the GM up to?

The guard went very quiet. My father asked again: what is your salary Namdev?

15000, he replied.

And what does a guard usually get paid?

5000, he replied.

That’s right. This is a difficult business [the hotel had a casino attached, although my father had nothing to do with that part of the business], and there are going to be upsets. We will take action as necessary, however the fact is that we pay extra because being a guard here is difficult.

“You get 5000 to be a guard. And 10000 to take shit.”

I was so flabbergasted on hearing this story. My father was a practical man, but he had a very kind heart. But above all, he had charm and humour oozing out of every pore. I was stunned when AM said that the guard nodded and left without further discussion.

Apparently, I haven’t heard everything.

Client with A Sense of Humour

I always thought that being fun is great, and makes life much more bearable overall. This is my second excuse for being an irreverent git, the first being that I inherited the bad behaviour genes directly from my father.

Anyway, my funny bone is somewhat on the blink since last year, although I have been able to reclaim my humour in some situations. Case in point:

I had a morning meeting yesterday, with one of my clients. I was initially contacted to redo their website content, but ended up with a contract to rebuild their site from scratch. I roped in one of my dev friends, and we got cracking. Yesterday’s meeting was about ironing out the last few snags in the project.

We were rereading some of the content, where I had written that the loan process (they are a housing finance company) is easy and fun. Now, the process they use is easy, and since their culture is laid-back and casual, fun wasn’t a stretch. But he felt that we couldn’t write that.

He then contemplated the “easy” part, and was lost in a pleasant reverie for a few seconds. When I finally got his attention, I asked him what was up.

Client: “It IS easy to get a loan with us. 48 hours man! That’s how much time we take to reply to an applicant.”
Me: *smiling at his enthusiasm* “Yes, it is pretty cool. The banks are painful.”
Client: *snorts derisively* “Banks?! Three months. They take three months to arrive at a decision. You know what, whoever has the stamina to apply for a loan with the likes of SBI and so on? They should get a Bharat Ratna for bravery.” *shakes head in disgust*
Me: *desperately suppressing laughter*

We moved on another page, and he commented that his CEO was unhappy with his own picture on the About Us page.

Client: “He thinks that he looks mournful in this picture. Like Pankaj Udhas. Bol rahe the ki, agar company ka CEO Pankaj Udhas ki tarah lagta hai, company kitna miserable hoga.” [He was saying that if the company CEO looks like Pankaj Udhas, the company must be pretty miserable too.]

To be fair to Pankaj Udhas, a popular ghazal singer in India, the man doesn’t look miserable at all. Quite cherubic and smiley, as a matter of fact.

And finally, since it was such a long meeting, I eventually needed a bathroom break. I ask for directions to the ladies’ and see this on the door:

gottogoYup. I am surrounded by cartoons.

That Carpet Lost Its Pile

[The title makes no sense; I am just in a funny mood.]

This morning, I was absolutely flabbergasted to find out that the Head of HR has left ParserPile. One of my friends obligingly keeps me updated on these happenings, because gossip.

Anyway, the upshot was that all the horrendous reviews on Glassdoor finally penetrated her thick skin. Apparently she resigned, and was then demoted. Apparently, she fought tooth and nail for me, but was overruled. Well, I call bullshit.

She also had the ineffable cheek to tell my friends that I had been asked to consult with the team after I left, but I turned them down. Outright lie. I was never contacted by anyone from there in a professional capacity, after I left.

I was regaling my mother with this latest bombshell, when I started feeling rather melancholy. The office had its problems, but when I joined, it had the greatest team ever. The work was absorbing, the camaraderie was superlative, and the passion was universal. As time went past, those feelings drained away. A great deal of the blame could be laid at the door of our incompetent and frankly parasitic Head of HR, but a lot of the onus truly rests on the shoulders of the founders. Somewhere in the quest of running a business, they lost their humanity.

In the beginning, the founders were hands-on. We fought with them directly, because we felt free to express out opinions. Slowly, as the realisation set in that our opinions were not welcome, nor heeded, nor appreciated, and did us detriment, we stopped. Caring, that is.

The culture needed fixing then, but now it is smashed to smithereens. There is no going back from this point, as one after another, people bail from the sinking ship. Many of the old staff have remained great friends, even after leaving.

I briefly wondered how we could get things back together again, before discarding the very notion as impossible. It is so like a broken relationship; too much water has passed under the bridge.

The Older Young Person

I used to be a newspaper editor back in Goa. I was absurdly young at 27, and hadn’t a clue what I was doing when I was given the job. That changed, but some of the events on that journey were hilarious.

[Ignore the bits about J and A, because those two deserve section all to themselves.]

Nice Kid

One of the more annoying things about being a blogger is to have interesting stuff to post, and not having time to write about it. (Because the two are usually directly related.) Then to add insult to injury, taking out the time to write about afore-mentioned interesting stuff yields nothing because you’ve forgotten what it is you wanted to blog about.

Or at least that what usually happens to me. Today is no exception.

Lots of interesting stuff has happened to me over the past few months. I’ve introduced my readers to the idiot that is J, his charming partner A, and various other characters. I have resolutely refused to post about work, because let’s face it – I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. Plus I try and maintain a cordial working relationship with everyone, no matter what my personal opinion happens to be.

But today I make an exception, because the incident is harmless, and well, it just jolted me slightly. Not in a bad way – merely surprising. Maybe I am making too much of it, but then you can be the judge of that.

I was meant to interview someone this morning, with the view of hiring a reporter for my team. I desperately need help with the content, especially since I have very active involvement in the design process (mainly because I want to assure myself of it being perfect). I met the candidate, and frankly I thought she was pleasant, willing to work, had a good command over the language and was a good fit in my team. I was a little uncertain about her expectations, as she would have preferred to work in the features section and wanted minimal travelling. But on the whole, I was happy about her coming to work for my team, provided she actually wanted to, of course. (I want willing subordinates who are as invested in making the product successful as I am.)

I took her down to the HR department, and left her to their devices. She then met up with one of the new editors of the newspaper, who had just joined himself the same day.

Later on in the afternoon, I came out of my office and was accosted by a pleasant, silver-haired man. He smiled at me, and asked me whether I was Karishma by any chance. Turns out, he was the new editor. I had heard he was joining, so I was actually pleased to meet him.

We exchanged civilities and I prepared to move away. He then recalled my attention, saying that he met the candidate from the morning. He said that she was pleasant and would be good for the paper. I agreed with him, and we discussed her abilities a little further. He finally ended with, “… and she seems a nice kid.”

I just nodded and moved away. In the hierarchy of the organization, this silver-haired gentleman and I are possibly at the same level. Along with the magazine editor, and another new editor (that is a whole other post!), there are four people on that level. We all report to the main editor, although he interferes very little with the day-to-day running of the papers.

The other three individuals are ALL older than me. And the funny part? The candidate I interviewed in the morning was exactly a month younger than me. So if she’s a ‘nice kid’, what on earth does that make me?

Chocolate-Coated Pill

One of the tenets I was raised with is honesty. Borderline brutal honesty, if I am accurate. I wasn’t always able to strictly adhere to the very letter of honesty, I am now a truthful person.

Thanks to being a less-than perfect human being, I tend to be forgiving of other people’s foibles, even if I find their behaviour repugnant on occasion. That being said, there are some people who give off the strongest red flags because of said behaviour.

When I had just joined ParserPile, I was the only female in a sea of testosterone. (Omg. Ew. Moving on quickly.) A week later, the whiniest excuse of a human being joined the team. She was the only other female, so she latched on to me almost immediately. I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be co-opted in this fashion, but I have a kind streak on occasion.

We spent our lunches together, and thus ended up exchanging life stories in order to get to know each other better. She went to school and college in Pune, and thinks of the city as home. I went to college there too, and I am very fond of the city. Naturally, we ended up knowing a few places in common.

Then, this story followed.

One fine afternoon, we were talking about food. I tend to do that a lot. She is incredibly picky about food, but we both managed to agree that chocolate and cheese sandwiches were a delight. We also agreed upon this tiny hole-in-the-wall joint in Pune, on Senapati Bapat road, had the best ones.

She then proceeded to tell me that she has befriended the owner, and begged him for the recipe. Of course, the man refused. It was his secret sauce, literally, and he wasn’t going to tell anyone. From her account, he did say this quite nicely. She persisted, and he refused. Finally, she gave up.

Then, one fine day, she was moving back to her father’s house in Mumbai. She went to the man, and spun an elaborate saga of how she was moving to the US, because her father was getting her married off. She was unlikely to be back in Pune for years to come, and she would miss his sandwiches terribly. If he told her how to make them, she swore not to reveal the recipe to anyone. And so, he told her.

This tale was heinous enough for me to freeze into a block of ice. She must’ve taken my stony silence for admiration because she then proceeded to narrate the recipe to me.

Wow. Just wow.

Omission of Commission

Today has been one of those days: the kind fraught with confrontation and unpleasantness. I need to get the feeling of lowness out of my system though, so here it is.

A few months ago, I was approached by a digital agency. A very bad one, at that, with cheapskate clients. But since I had just been shunted out of my job, I was open for business. I had previously been asked to quote for content development jobs, but they always fell through because my quote was apparently “beyond their budget”. And yet, time and again, they come back to me.

Each time I am asked to quote for a project, I have to develop an editorial plan. I have to write samples, because my body of existing work, spanning a decade, apparently doesn’t cut it. I spend days perfecting these proposals, and having the client fall all over themselves with praise, only to be shot down because of my price tag. Why does everyone expect quality to be cheap?

And so, I was asked to meet up with this new client. I met up with them, and was fairly impressed that this company appeared to be on the up and up. The agency had developed their website too, and it was awful. And I mean absolutely the worst website I have seen made this side of Geocities.

I didn’t tell the client this though. I just assumed that it was the old website, and asked to see the new one instead. Poor guy cringed a bit when he said it was the new one. My jaw may have dropped. He asked me whether I could get someone to fix it. I said I could find out.

Then I asked about the agency. They had set up this meeting, and probably expected a commission. To which, he blithely waved his hand and said he would take care of it. The company also has a digital marketing agreement with them, and so anyway they would be meeting up.

I brought up this subject multiple times with the client, and each time he assured me not to worry about it. Their contract with me was independent, and that they would be paying the agency separately for their previous work.

After a point, I stopped asking. The agency had sent me a couple of emails before that, and I told them that the client would be speaking to them directly. And thus, the project commenced.

Today, I received an email asking for the commission. And just as an aside, the commission for the “referral” was pegged at 15%.

Anyway, because I am tiring of this miserable saga, and to cut a long story short, I called the client. He was very accommodating of the idea of a referral fee, but was aghast at the exorbitant percentage. I said I would loop him in the email, so everyone was on the same page.

Of course this set the cat amongst the pigeons at the agency. I got an irate call, and had the silly woman yell at me for including the client in the email thread. Well, considering it is his money, considering I would have to bill him extra to accommodate her demands, and frankly, her absurd notion that he shouldn’t know of our arrangement, I had no qualms in telling her where to get off.

While I was writing this post, I looked for an email that I had sent to them, saying that the client would be speaking to them directly, and that they should follow up with him. Since they had a separate contract for some other services, I had thought nothing of it.

She accused me of hiding the entire episode from them, and taking business away from them. I didn’t. The client still paid them for their work, and was prepared to pay a reasonable referral fee for my work. However, this didn’t sit well with the agency because he now knew about the referral fee.

I don’t get it; what do people have against honesty? I have honestly quoted my prices, and my reasons for them multiple times. I don’t remember having a meltdown just because a client knew why I was charging a fee. Besides, if someone isn’t willing to pay for your services, referral or otherwise, they really aren’t worth entertaining as clients in the first place.

Hustle Bustle

I have been pretty good this month, and have more or less stuck to my resolution of posting 30 blogs. I have fallen behind in the last two days, but that is essentially because work got in the way.

After leaving my job in June 2016, I was filled with optimism for the future. I had given myself a month to get my freelance career back on track, and cobble together a few projects. I suffer from the common desire to Do. It. All. And when that obviously doesn’t happen, I feel depressed. And then fall even further behind.

My academic career has been less than stellar, and I fly at a comfortable average between the best and middle. This is not because I lack intelligence, an assessment not my own but apropos of my many teachers, but because I lack discipline. As an adult, I have tried to inculcate discipline into my life, as I see it as a colossal drawback. Thus far, I would conservatively estimate I am disciplined about 15% of the time.

Coming back to my original thrust, when August dawned, I had sunk into deep melancholy. I did have projects in hand, but those had come about on their own, and I knew that I needed to get work on MY own. This state of affairs was not sustainable, and I couldn’t coast along comfortably on a tide of incoming work. Nope. I had to hustle.

I tried to do just that in August, and then I learned I have no idea how to hustle. I can sell, because I am brutally honest and I tell the client everything upfront. But hustle? Uh-uh. Friends sent me leads, and I followed those up to the point where people stopped taking my calls. I was blasé and unrepentant on the surface, and quietly cringing and praying for a chasm on the inside.

Yeah, hustle is not for me. So what do I do?

After a mini-meltdown last week, my mother comforted me. She has a strong vein of spirituality and honesty which has carried her through thick and thin her whole life. She set up a business with zero knowledge of the industry, and made it thrive. She knocked on doors, and confidently held her own in each meeting. She is magnificent, and in her opinion (which I value deeply in all cases except when she talks about my abilities) I have a true spark. She believes I don’t need to hustle because my life will unfold in front of me, and I will know what I need to do at a given point. Stop worrying about the future, because you really can do nothing about it.

That is the straw I am currently clutching, hoping that indeed it will work.