Tuesday, March 27, 2007

God bless the telephone.


"Hi, good afternoon. This is Heston from Sardar Patel College of Engineering, Andheri. Could you please put me through to your marketing department?"

"Hold on." As if I was hanging out of the train while talking to her.

Tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee..........
tee tee tee tee.......... tee tee tee tee..........
[Some tasteless, awful polyphonic version of Beethoven's Fur Elise; other times, it's a random assortment of senseless noises.]

Tee tee tee t..... "Hello?"

"Hi, good afternoon. This is Heston from Sardar Patel College of Engineering. We are going to celebrate our techno-cultural intercollegiate festival [everyone thinks 'big words imply big first impression'; I couldn't take the risk to see if this is false] in the month of February. We would like to have your company associated with this event."

"So you're looking out for sponsors....."

Those sentences end without an end. I can never place them as assertive or interrogative. For that split second, my English Grammar tutorials used to come back before my eyes to mock me and confirm what Einstein had once said about the Theory of Relativity; that an hour feels like a minute when with a loved one and when sitting on the stove, a minute feels like.....

You get the drift. I can perform well in person; even convince them about something so fundamentally flawed I ought to be hung. Upside down. But no, not over the telephone. First of all, the person on the other end may be making monkey faces while talking and I wouldn't know. Second of all, and I'm dead sure of this, the person on the other end of the other end is making donkey faces and the former wouldn't know. It's a direct insult to human conversation.

You may be wondering why I took up the task knowing very well I couldn't convince a soul to invest in our fest. To begin with, I didn't believe in it myself but wanted to see first-hand as to how cash is managed. Or rather mismanaged. It is a lot of fun to see how students get enthusiastic at the prospect of getting a sponsor [enthusiasm being directly proportional to the amount being sponsored]. Another reason was that all my classmates who were supposed to do the dirty work went on a week-long trip to all the hillstations in South India. They came back with stories of brandy and unmentionables shrinking to the size of raisins in the unbearable cold. I experienced the same in different circumstances. Minus the brandy. How on earth do I tell, for example, a respectable bank to sponsor a category of our events, that too preferably in cash [for reasons you'd guess by now]?

Well, I can't say I didn't try. I started off with feeble incentives like brand publicity and mentions as associate sponsors during media coverage but it didn't go down well with most of them. It was a relief when they began asking me to mail them the proposal and then they'd "Get back to you" which eventually never happened. I thought that was all until the self-proclaimed team leader put me to my next task the second week - following up all my calls.

There are times in life when somebody interrupts you during a moment of extraordinary brilliance. You'd do anything, within the law or without, to make him/her the 'miserabl'est you could. The follow-up was somewhat like that; I being on the receiving end. For that one week, nobody liked me, not even the canteen boy. It's tough living in this big, bad sponsor-hunting world. But I gained a lot of knowledge during my tenure as Finance Incharge [I swear I didn't make that up though I didn't know about the existence of this post until everything was over] - the most important being that I'm not yet ready for such stuff. Makes me cringe. The second-most important one was that come hail or sunshine, Shakira or samosa pav, a person is always in a meeting when he doesn't want to talk to you. The universally accepted, polite way of saying 'Buzz off'.

All in all, it was a good experience. Except the fact that I made the most number of calls and got in the least amount of money. Now make sure you don't let them know this because I will make it up next year. Maybe. Mother promise.