Tenure : 4 years.
Address: P-28, Manicktala Main Road, Kolkata—700054.
I thought of continuing the CMC Ltd. job and do late evening classes at Arena Multimedia , Salt lake:
When I told Mr. Randhir Ghosal about my decision to leave CMC, he suggested me to join the Salt Lake one and continue working as well as studying! He even added that thrice a week he would leave me early. Well- not a bad idea I thought ! Rs. 2500/- as a pocket money is alright – at least my traveling expenses could be taken care of ! After all, how long could I go on asking my retired father for money – I thought !
I went for a Counseling session with the Salt Lake Counselor.
It had just been inaugurated. The Lady who was the Counselor there looked from an affluent family – very rich saree and laden with gold jewellery. She had recently got married it seemed.
Just then a ‘Churan wala’ (a digestive species / mixture seller) came in the Centre. I was waiting at the Reception. Everyone out there rushed towards him. The Counselor bought a packet from him and opened immediately to have it. I was astonished at their behavior ! A customer is seated and they are least bothered about her presence !!
hen some Customer used to walk in the Centre at CMC, I used to get so alert and tried to make them feel welcome and give the ambience of Corporate World. Maybe because I belong to a middle class family – we are out to please others – as I guess we do not have an option ! But this Counselor was rich. Even if she lost her job – she would not miss much I gathered ! But by that time I had lost faith in the Institute! If , they can be so leisurely with a prospective customer – what will happen if I eventually join here !? They would fail to recognize me only – once I made the payment I thought.
Anyways I sat for the counseling – she was chewing the tablet and making facial contortions, sucking the digestive –sweet & sour tablet – she continued to Counsel me! It was as if I had visited some remote Indian Village where people are happy go lucky and do not quite understand formality!!
Well I did not like being treated like that ! I left with a huff! Undecided to join Multimedia. The next day, a friend of mine – very pretty – she was the Librarian at CMC- told me about the Kankurgachi branch. I was not street smart and told her I cannot go very far – to which she said that its just the next stop to Ulta-danga and would be convenient to commute.
I went to Arena Multimedia Kankurgachi.
I got down at the crossing and started asking from people about its position. Not many were aware. It was very inconspicuously situated actually! And then I reached. I started climbing the narrow stair case – and while climbing a dream that I had seen some 4-5 years ago suddenly flashed to my mind.
In my dream – I had seen that I am climbing a narrow staircase and around me were pencil sketched drawings all over the wall. In the dream , I had seen that there are glass cubicles and people are seated and working and some were smiling at me.
Somehow I knew instantly that this place has some significance in my life or maybe I have come to the right place after all !
I entered and my favorite song was playing in one of the inner rooms – since the door was open – I could hear it from where I stood – it was most probably the Starship song ‘Nothings’ gonna stop us now’. I felt very relaxed. I liked the ambience. Dimly lit reception. Quiet all around. Just like it should be in an Educational Institute. It had the NIIT décor in fact – see through classes and students doing their respective works.
My meeting with Partha Da
I waited at the Reception for some 15 minutes. Later I was ushered in Partha’ Da’s room. He started to ask me about myself. Well folks – if someone gives me a chance to speak – I think I can continue speaking till the end of time.. anyways – he made me feel very important.
Upon listening to my background – he said that getting a job for me would not be a problem at all – with all my experience ! I spoke to him for about 1 hour 45 mins – talking about myself , family and elaborating on Shero’s (my Alsatian) episodes ! Maybe I had become very frustrated by then. It was already year 2001 – I had come to the wrong side of 30 – as they say – still had done nothing in my life – neither did I get married – nor a good career – my state was really pitiable – just that my Parents were very supportive – they never let me feel inferior…and continued to pamper me consistently – maybe that was what was keeping me alive !
And people around had started telling me that now I’ll start getting proposals from Divorcees or widowers ! or even if the man is short or pot bellied or ugly or old & haggard to look at – I still will have to marry him !- since I had aged !! – I used to laugh out loud – at people (relatives, friends, acquaintances) who said such things to me – I used to say – How will such a thing ever happen to me – I’ll never say ‘yes’ to such a character !? But then people around – calling themselves experienced and worldly wise told me that as I‘ll age I’ll understand the need for a life partner…Well folks – honestly speaking – I still do not understand the need for a Life Partner!! Maybe if someone – tall, good looking and spiritual minded had come my way – I might have thought otherwise …but no one of that sort ever came to me – so I am fine as a spinster – and whatever knowledge I have of myself – I do not think that I will someday become so desperate that I would marry anyone blindly just for the heck of it !!
Anyways I told him of my interest in Web Designing as I thought of myself to be very creative minded. He suggested me the course and the amount and I agreed.
I told my father that yet another Rs. 30,000/- will be required for the course. He gave me the money. I joined.
My first Class :
Well folks- let me make an honest confession – I had already had an experience of the classy corporate world and since I had studied in NIIT – my expectation from what a class should be like and how the Faculties should behave etc. was based on my previous experience. Kind of NIIT was the bench mark – but obvious.
I went to the class room – the chairs were not arranged – just pull a chair and sit anywhere – anyway you like – very dis-orderly. The Faculty came and started introducing himself. Atrocious English. Somehow managing. He had also passed from NIIT – when he heard that I was a GNIITian – he looked surprised – What brings you here then? He asked . I fumbled for words – felt very depressed. His profile was not any big deal – but there he was – working as a faculty and what was I doing? Just wasting my father’s money !
Others in my class were obviously much younger to me – I was 30 – they were 22 – 24 – all discussing about boy friends and marriage – I had nothing to discuss – so I used to chat on different tpics with them like Astrology, Numerology etc. That way I never had any problem – I had many topics to discuss about – and I do possess a hypnotic effect on people when I talk to them (not really – just imagining).
The Faculties were very young and lacked the Corporate culture totally :
..or maybe I felt it that way – since I had seen a lot of the Corporate world so my expectation of everything spic and span and formal was but obvious ! Everyone around had a couldn’t care less & bindass kind of an attitude . Maybe because of all this – nothing ever entered my head – I thought that I have become utterly frustrated and old – so nothing was getting into my head.
Since I had taken Web Engineering, Adobe Image Ready was there in the syllabus. It so happened that suddenly a man – Mr. Pradosh, entered the class and opened Image Ready and started teaching ! He had been my batch mate in Dreamweaver ! – I was then told that he teaches here as well. So I just told him that I had not done Photoshop – how on earth would I understand Image Ready – to this he just tilted his head and said “Get out then !!” (in a very derogatory manner) – just imagine folks ! What should have been the Corporate reply : “don’t get flustered – you will be taught Photoshop after this & again this software will be repeated” – because this is what Partha da later told me when I went to him (fuming inside – I could not stand Mr. P’s attitude basically – too rude and uncouth!).
Anyways – he was funny too. Since he was my batch-mate as well earlier, so I couldn’t remain angry for long. One day I was absent so in the next class I asked him to explain me what I had missed – he suddenly looked at me very seriously and said – Certainly Aparna – during the Practical session I will sit with you and personally attend to all your queries. During the class he came and sat beside me and started in a very serious tone : Well – you see Aparna – these Adobe guys – while making this Software – wrote a mandatory point in their Terms and Conditions note– do you know what it is?
I said I did’nt.
To this he said – Mad people will never be able to understand it – and you are raving mad Aparna – I just cannot side track / defy those Multimedia Giants !!- all this he was saying with an utterly serious face because there were others there in the class – thus saying he walked out of the class for a smoke….well by that time I had adjusted to their style of life so did not mind really !!
Then there were Shree and Satya who taught me Java and Flash respectively – both were some 10 -12 years younger to me ! Maybe I had developed a major mental block or maybe I felt depressed by the fact that such juniors were teaching me – and that my learning has not yet ended !!Therefore nothing entered my head ! Whereas some students were doing pretty well with the same software.
One day Satya gave a task of making a Flash Presentation on ‘Goldilocks and the 3 Bears’ – thus saying , he went out. I started to work on it when I saw most of the others were just sitting pretty ! I asked them why were they not working on it? To this they replied : What is this Goldilocks?!
Gosh! I fell from the sky ! – They didn’t know the most commonly known childhood fairytale?!…. my siblings often teased me saying that I mostly landed up in places where I become ‘Andhon main kana raja’ (meaning in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is the king!) – well it was so true ..yet again!
Anyways life was carrying on when suddenly my father read in the Newspaper (I do not read newspapers) that Kankurgachi Arena was looking for Counselor. He asked me to find out about it. I went and told the Administrator (Sourav) about my interest in the job. He forwarded my CV – and after a formal round of interview, I was selected.
I liked working there. It was a very homely atmosphere. I was comfortable working here.
I typed in database of previous enquries:
Since the Counselor who preceded me had been trying to change job for some 2-3 months so she was careless of maintaining & updating the database (as told to me by Partha Da).So for the first couple of days , I filled in a whole lot of enquiries in the automated database S/w (CAS)- I had become an expert in it as that is something I had done at The Park and CMC !
I noticed that most of the previous data were incomplete – not all fields were entered (just name of candidate and course name –rest were left blank) – then I was told that after Cas was introduced – the previous database of already admitted students had to be updated – therefore not all fields were filled ! Oh!…what logic!! this environment is pretty Cool – that is what I inferred!! A software which keeps the capacity of generating many kinds of reports just at the click of the button – would fall flat if the fields were not entered properly…well this is something that only I felt – probably because I was from the IT Industry and I had worked on RDBMS -Sybase and even wrote a program on extracting data – so I knew how frustrating it is for the Programmer who writes the code – keeping so much on mind – but the people who actually implement the S/w – couldn’t care less !!
I introduced a lot of Corporate Culture here as well:
Initially, fees structure and other details of facilities offered were given hand written on a blank sheet or behind the leaflet! I made a proper letter and typed the name of the enquiry (candidate or walk-in) on the top of the letter and started giving out printed sheets to the enquiry. Later Boss further improvised on the details and we made a hand-out of 101 reasons to join Arena.
A lot many Enquries used to ask about where the placements have been done – and I used to stop after being able to say 4-5 of them. Partha da had been there for long and he has the capacity to remember names – but I totally lacked it. Therefore I made a big A3 collage enlisting all the Placements – which I had taken out from Placement file ofcourse (all information was there beforehand – just the exposure was not there) – I just made efforts to make collages and put it on the board to see. It was not appealing – design and color wise – but then the motive of the that Placement Notice was to bring to notice some information related to Career and their future – according to me the lesser the color it has and bolder the text – the better it is – because Career prospects and future is what the Enquiries came seeking for and not admire the visual beauty of information. As far as visual beauty was concerned – there were Artworks of the Students on the Board as well – which showed the artistic quality of our student…and that was what is required to see .
Later I made a Power Point Presentation of the entire Counseling session that we take and talk about- taking both my USP and Partha da’s USP – merged it and made a good presentation kit out of it. It was based on both our experiences on handling Enquiries from various background. Kolkata , being a metropolitan city- there were several kinds of walk-ins from varied cultural and educational backgrounds – each was different – each had to be handled different – but some information factors were common to all – those were the ones that was shown in the presentation.
The onlookers and the Aptech head office fellows occasionally sent ppts on counseling etc. and repeatedly told us that each individual is different – and has to be handled differently – I wondered what exactly they think of us Counselors – Parrots?!.. who wouldn’t know who is in front and go on chirping whatever little it has been taught !?
Then there was this Book Fair and Career Fair. We used to get some 150 to 200 databases out of which 60 to 80 of them were : wrong addresses/wrong phone numbers/incomplete address.I used to take half of the enquiries and left the other half for Parth da to call up. Such calls do not take much time actually as usually most of them have the following replies :
- Hello!…no he is not at home…no he studies in Pune – Mechanical Engineering.
- Yes! ….he is not at home..no no he is just in class 11 – we are not interested.
- Hello! …yes I went to the Career Fair – who me ?! Mam, I am 60 years old and already working in a Bank…no I do not have any daughter or son who might do this course. Okay thank you Mam.
- Hello! Yes – ..I went to the stall – no no I will do MBA – I am preparing for Cat.
- Hello – No I am doing CA/CS .
- Hello! Oh! Yes – for how long is the offer – okay where is your Centre? Oh! But there is another Centre in Park Street – ..yes I live near – but I go to college so Park Street is a better option…do you have their number – yeah…I have misplaced the leaflet…..
- Yes! Oh! Arena – but I have already joined. No I have joined <beep> Centre.
- Yes!…oh!Arena ..well I am a Student already in another Centre …but I want to do just one software – 3ds max…what will be the course fees? – …and discount?…but Book Fair is offering discount –Oh!..okay then I’ll let you know if I am interested.
- Yes Madam……Okay Madam- I will come after 24th – with my Father …he is out of station now….miss the discount?! Oh! Please mam – keep the offer for me – my father only takes the decision…
So folks , you can understand how much time it takes to to follow-up such enquries. On an average the call (made by me) lasts for 1 to 1:30 minutes – so to follow up all the enquires (wrong numbers included) how much time does one require – around 1 hour. SO one hour on calling up.
After that, since Partha da never used to get time – as he had to look at the entire Office Administration as well – so I used to call his share of enquiries as well.
After that I used to enter the database in the excel sheet – I was smarter – just as has been suggested by MBAs “Work smart – not work Hard” – in case of absence of Pin code – I used to check at Calcutta Telephones (suggested by Partha Da ) – then I used to make Labels in Mail Merge– MS- Office zindabaad (I love Bill Gates and the entire Microsoft team ..several Love Notes to you all dear S/W engineers – you made my life very comfortable indeed) – made the Front Office Assistants cut and paste the Labels – get it couriered .
I used to make the Covering Letter – or design the Offer Card – got it approved by Boss – He usually approved most of my write-ups at one go itself. Actually I had studied him for the first couple of months – what corrections he makes – so I gathered what kind of written expressions he likes / dislikes– I used to be very elated actually when my letter body used to get approved at one go – since at The Park – I had to go on and on & on with the single letter body !
I was into a lot of technology – I took the efforts to Mail merge – letters should go in the name of the candidate to give it a personal touch etc. In fact in follow up letters – I even used to write a stanza on the discussion we had on personal level – ‘bid best of luck’ to those who were appearing for exam etc. Initially, bulk letters used to go as a Xerox offset copy – with ‘Dear Candidate’ – written on all !
Initially – such envelops used to go hand written – and it used to be written in the ugliest hand writing possible by many people together ..out of which some were 8th class pass only(hence the hand writing of a more or less uneducated person) – when I first saw it – I was shocked beyond repairs! What the hell – with Printer, MS Office at our disposal – why should envelops go hand written!!
The letter speaks of us – our Company I said (this was taught to me by Mr. Arunesh Maiyer at The Park – he had made that particular Soft Skills session rather interesting – in fact he had called me to the front and said – this Lady here – she is correctly dressed and look at her hair – all properly tied at the back – this is called the Corporate look !…well maybe that is why I remember that session so well !)
Anyways, so I started this corporate look funda at Arena as well.
Whenever I gave out a certificate or a letter to a student it used to be properly aligned and justified. Others used to give it just somehow! One day I even remarked to one of my colleagues as he was taking out the Print out – Why do you not make it justified ?! And bring the matter to the centre of the Letter head – why have you kept so much space below – to this they usually say : what’s the big deal?! Eh! Its just an information – that he lives in Kolkata and studying here at Arena – do you think the one who reads it will come and give you some award if you justify it?! – (followed by a sarcastic & crooked laughter) ..then followed by : if you are so keen on Corporate look – why don’t you take the responsibility!- I’ll be saved – I have so much other works as well! (this was basically a typical problem here at Arena – No one wanted to take any responsibility – NO One ! they worked very calculative-ly ..and were very verbal about it as well : Boss – I’ll not get paid for it – so why should I do it?! – I do not want any appreciation – it does not fill the stomach – you got to eat food – for which you need money……Well, that’s the way the Cookie crumbles!