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You Never Forget The Good Ones

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | August 9, 2022

My grandmother retired as a kindergarten teacher back in the early 1980s, just before I was born. Now, she was ninety-four, and I was accompanying her to the neighbourhood doctor for a general check-up/visit. The doctor is also a family friend, thus the visit was more “friendly” than “medical” and without an appointment; hence, the doctor typically lets her sit in the waiting room until he’s free enough to have a long chat with her, while also checking her medical issues out.

This time around, there were quite a few people in the waiting room, so Grandma was just chilling, reading a magazine she’d brought along. A gentleman, probably in his mid-fifties, kept staring at her. He finally mustered the courage to speak to her.

Gentleman: “Are you [Grandma]?”

Grandma: “Yes, I am.”

The gentleman turned to his wife sitting next to him.

Gentleman: “[Grandma] was my schoolteacher!”

Grandma explained that she would have taught him in kindergarten. Everyone was pretty surprised at the recollection; it would have been nearly forty-five years, if not more, for the gent to have been in her class. Upon hearing his name, Grandma shocked everyone by recollecting his childhood nickname — one that he himself had forgotten!

A second gentleman walked into the clinic, and the first immediately pointed Grandma out to him; they were classmates, so he, too, would have been in her class. He was leaving the doctor’s cabin as Grandma was called in, so he happily pointed out to the doctor that she was his teacher. Even the doctor was surprised at the happy reunions.

Later, when we left, a third gentleman, younger than the previous two, entered the clinic. He saw Grandma and immediately bent down to touch her feet. Touching an elder’s feet is considered a mark of respect in Indian culture, a method of asking for and receiving their blessings. On inquiry, he revealed that he had been her student in the early 1980s, probably from the last batch she taught before retiring.

The school where Grandma taught, our old neighbourhood, and the doctor’s clinic are all on the same block, so whenever she’s visiting the doctor or any of our old friends and neighbours, we usually bump into a few of her kindergarten students on the road. All of them — many of them now grandparents themselves — walk up to her and spend a few minutes chatting with her.

I always marvel at such student-teacher relationships: relationships that began at the beginning of the students’ childhood, still as impactful decades later; relationships that transcend generations; relationships that are still in force even after your kids have grown up and their kids are in the same classroom where you were once. It’s heartening, giving me hope for the future.

Will Not Keep Your Opinions In The Interior

, , , , , | Right | October 19, 2020

I work as an architect and interior designer and have an amazing set of clients, but then there are always the occasional few who make you question your own sanity.

This particular client is my late father’s friend and he loves to keep reminding me of that. He approaches me about renovating his house.

Client: “Can your contractors do it in a minimal budget?”

Me: “I’ll get back to you when I’ve checked how much the requirements will cost. Give me about three days.”

Client: “You don’t understand the urgency! I’ll be taking only the designs from you, and I will hire my own contractor.”

This particular contractor has a big male ego and does not listen to a word I say, since I’m a woman. Unsurprisingly, it does not work out and the client has to come around and ask for my contractor.

Client: “Hey, so how much will your contractor charge to renovate the kitchen?”

Me: “It will cost you around $2300 and maximum $3000.”

Client: “Oh, $2300 works for me.”

Me: “It can go up to $3000, since the requirements are more.”

Client: “Okay, please try to keep it minimum.”

Me: “Sure.”

The work starts, and in the course of time, he comes to me with very high demands and expects the budget to remain well within the initial quote. I somehow manage to hold the budget at $2800 and am glad that it didn’t go above the initial quote.

On sending the invoice, I get a call from him and he is furious. I keep the call on speaker so that my partner can listen to this, as well.

Client: “You told me that it will cost $2300 and now you say $2800! Who the f*** do you think you are, trying to scam me?!”

I am quite alarmed but still manage to talk calmly.

Me: “I would appreciate it if you didn’t take that tone with me. I already told you earlier it could go up to $3000 and it’s come below that. I don’t know how much more I can help you.”

Client: “You have no sense of business and don’t know how to work professionally! You guys are incompetent and I won’t recommend you anywhere. You clearly don’t remember anything. You told me it’ll cost $2600 and maximum $3000 and now you say it’s $2800. How big a fool do you think I am?”

My partner comes over and speaks in a very calm yet stern voice, as I am speechless from the sheer stupidity.

Partner: “A big one. Please understand how basic math works and then call us. If you do not pay us, we will be suing you as we have everything on record with us. You have been extremely rude to [My Name] and she has been patient because you are her father’s friend. If you call her again and take the same tone, I will file a complaint against you for harassment and fraud. Do you understand that?”

Client: “Uh… but… uh… um… bye.”

They’re Going To Regret That In The Morning

, , , , , , | Right | May 8, 2020

I work at a call center for a cellular network. We are open 24/7 so everyone gets night shifts. 

A lot of callers are just drunkards, calling and talking dirty with female executives. At first, we are instructed to simply disconnect the call, but the number of calls doesn’t go down. Now, we have started logging in “caller used abusive language” and “flagging” the interaction. 

The QA on shift hears the call and if they find it abusive — which it always is — they will block the number. 

The customer will call next morning saying he isn’t able to make calls and the executive tells him that his number is blocked because of his behaviour. 

In order to unblock his number, he has to submit a written apology at his nearest cellular retail store. 

Within a month, these calls dropped.


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This Train Will Be Terminating At Your Hearts

, , , , , | Hopeless | April 24, 2019

Mumbai, India has two major arteries for its public commutes: its railway lines. They’re overcrowded, overloaded, and held together by sheer force of will and prayer, but they still carry the city on their shoulders. An average intra-city train with a capacity of 1,900 passengers will, on a normal run, carry over 5,300 at a time. Trains are identified by the time they are scheduled to arrive at the station, and even if they’re running a few minutes late, they’ll run the exact same route every single day. Platforms at each station can range from 300 metres length at the shortest, to over half a kilometre long elsewhere. They’re connected using a warren of tunnels and overhead bridges, so it wouldn’t be out of order for commuters to walk over a kilometer or two to reach the exit gates.

I commute using one of these lines. This time, while I was waiting on the platform, an old, blind man, hard of hearing and holding a crutch, was asking if the 12:15 to [Terminus] had arrived. The train prior to that, the 12:04, hadn’t arrived yet, and the passengers around him were saying so. He probably wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, so he kept asking. I gently told him it was the 12:04 next, and I’d put him on the train.

He then asked if he could be helped to board the 12:15, since the 12:04 would mean a walk of over two kilometres from the platform it ended at to the main gates at [Terminus]. The 12:15 landed on the platform closest to the gates. I had time on my hands, so I agreed. The poor guy was so overwhelmed that he held on to me for the ten minutes or so it took for the train to arrive. “My keeper is with me; I have no worries,” he kept chanting. I gave my bags to him to hold, as an assurance that I wasn’t going anywhere until he was on the train.

The 12:15 arrived and I helped him to the doors of the train. People on the train immediately held on to him, pulled him up, and held on behind him so that he wouldn’t fall. A few people immediately emptied their seats for him and he sat down on a corner, trying to occupy the least amount of space. I moved on, finding luggage space for my bags and then a seat for myself, so I lost track of what happened to him after.

When I was alighting at my stop, two halts before [Terminus], I caught sight of him once again. He was asking around if someone would help him alight at [Terminus]. A group of teenagers, heading home from school, told him they would do that. He was still worried and kept repeating his request to the compartment. So, they just created space in the middle of their own seats and got him to sit there safely, telling him, “Uncle, we’re all alighting at [Terminus] only. We’ll make sure you, too, reach it comfortably.”

I alighted at my destination with a smile, realising one thing: Mumbai’s regular commuters never lack empathy. They will give answers to everything you ask, even delaying their own journey if someone is in need. They’ll look out for everyone with more difficulties than them. No matter how uncomfortable the journey, if you’re less able than the rest, we’ll make sure it’s comfortable for you at least.


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