Career Choice

He didn’t want to do it.

Mallesh Ramalingam was a Customer Service Executive at one of the countless call centers that dotted Chennai’s booming Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) industry.

He hadn’t planned to become a Customer Service Executive. His parents had high expectations when he started college. They’d tell relatives that he’d become a top engineer in no time. Well, things didn’t turn out the way they wanted, did they?

He’d scored well on his first year exams and then got into a few toxic friendships that got him hooked to tobacco and alcohol. What had started out as a once-in-a-while jaunt with friends to the deserted beach became a daily affair. He’d start and end his day with a mix of alcohol and tobacco. To top it off, he’d been suspended for a week in third year when he was caught drinking on the college premises!

By the time fourth year rolled in, he’d dropped from being in the top 10% of the class to struggling in the bottom 5% — which he’d expected anyway because he’d not studied at all. To his parents though, it was a wake-up call. They’d pulled him out of the boy’s hostel, brought him home and started monitoring his life on an hourly basis.

That’d probably been the worst time of his life. His ‘friends’ disappeared overnight. He needed his daily dose of alcohol but home was a “teetotaller” zone. He craved a smoke but couldn’t get one because Dad had taken away his pocket money. Surprisingly, Mom didn’t jump to his defense like she’d always done.

Mom’s lack of support felt like a kick in the nuts to the mama’s boy that’d always depended on her for help when Dad was upset. Robbed of his ‘needs’ and support network, he had no choice but to buckle down and study. He did.

However, the damage was already done. He’d scored better in fourth year than in the previous three years, but the overall GPA bordered a First Class. The few campus placement interviews he’d attended had all remarked on his lack of focus in the previous years and passed him over.

Out of contention for the engineering jobs that he’d dreamed of, he spent the next six months going around the city, applying to any mechanical engineering vacancies. Nothing worked out. It was frustrating, demoralizing and depressing.

Finally, having run out of options and needing to do something to make some money, he applied for a job at a call center and was selected within a day. Beggars can’t be choosers, so he joined immediately.

It’d been three years since, and he’d become a senior customer service representative at the call center last year. With the promotion, came a hike in remuneration that helped him save a little bit. He’d bought a bike to make the daily commute easier.

While life in general became easier with a paying job, deep inside, he felt like he was dying a little with every day that passed. He hated answering calls from idiotic customers all day long. He hated having to suck up to a sadist boss to keep his job. He hated working in the night shifts — waking up at odd times of the night to come to work. Most of all, he hated being surrounded by a depressing bunch of people that had no idea what they were doing with their lives.

He didn’t want to do it.

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