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Book In "Bangalore Calling", Brinda S. Narayan reveals the other side of call centres

inside job Brinda Narayan
inside job Brinda Narayan

T he BPO sector is one of the biggest revenue producing industries in India. Brinda S. Narayan's debut novel “Bangalore Calling” (Hachette, Rs. 295) explores life in a call centre.

The book traces the lives of 15 individuals working in Callus, a fictional call centre. Brinda writes from both an insider's and an outsider's perspective. “I worked as a quality consultant in call centres. My work was to filter agents by accent. The range was neutral to MTI, that indicated high mother tongue accent.” Brinda felt uncomfortable with what she was doing. “Fluency in one's mother tongue is a strength, not a weakness,” she realised.

She took a sabbatical from work to research the psychological effects on individuals working in call centres. She spent four years meeting agents and speaking to trainers, team leaders and their families. “I listened into live calls. I documented everything.”

Brinda recalls her stint in a call centre. “Some tried to pull off an American accent while others didn't try to mask their Indian identity. It was very jarring.” Call centres, for Brinda, are a microcosm of the effects of Globalisation. Brinda is dismayed at the “loss of authenticity” call centres bring with them. “It's created another division, that of the upper class looking down on the lower class, those who can talk the talk and those who can't.” Does Brinda agree that India is aping the West instead of learning the best from it? She thinks so. “We should be more conscious of what we're promoting and imbibing. We still need to learn tolerance for failure and zeal for adult education from America.” “India should not be relegated to an outsourcing hub”, she says. Call centres demand emotional and cultural labour she contends. “Arlie Russell Hochshchild in “The Managed Heart” writes about this. Individuals at call centres have to retain a positive tone while being shouted at by a customer. In call centres, we are subscribing to cultural labour. We are pretending to understand another culture.” Brinda hopes that India will not lose out on its rich heritage. “Over 190 native languages are nearing extinction. This issue is as critical as losing our green cover. ”

A review contest for “Bangalore Calling” is on till July 31. The top three entries will get a book hampers from Hachette.

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