Tuesday, August 10, 2004

What Was I Thinking?!

I was trawling through the net yesterday and read Anirudh’s blog about Quixtar (aka Amway, e-commerce opportunity etc.) Man, they sure are keeping up with the times, aren’t they?

I haven’t encountered an Amway type in a while. Either that or that I have my defences up so high, they can’t get through. S and I are naturally suspicious of any unknown desi who walks up to us and starts a conversation. We have cut short more than one such sally with “… if this is about Amway, we’re not interested.”

But not all Amway/Quixtar types are desis. A few years ago, I was at a laundromat and was chatted up by a firang. He was all sugar and honey.

“I am DBA here at *** (a large pharmaceutical company)… Oh, I love sambaar and rasam… I watch cricket with my Indian friends… I am going on a short trip to India this fall….”

I was suckered! You certainly don’t expect your average gora to con you with Amway… Anyway, I certainly didn’t. Most of my experience up until then had been with desi punters peddling Amway products.

For most of the drying cycle, we made small talk about the weather and the politics of the local township. He passed me his card as I was leaving and just as a matter of courtesy, I gave him mine.

Fast forward a couple of day’s and Ken (that was his name) called me up at work, just as I was about to leave for the day.

He babbled about the how well Indians spoke English and about some other inane issue. I was trying hard to disengage, keep the phone down and head home. At that point, he started talking about some “E-commerce opportunity that I shouldn’t miss.”

This was still in the hay days of the Internet boon – the late 1990s, so I guess, it had some kind of relevance. But suddenly, alarm bells went off in my head.

Up until this point, I had been very civil, but not any more…

“Has this got anything to do with Amway? Are you trying to rope me in into some kind of pyramid scheme?”

I think my question took him aback, because he began to stutter and make excuses and offer explanations.

Pressing home my advantage, I said that if it was, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I offered a curt greeting and replaced the receiver on the cradle.

But Ken was made of sterner stuff and over the next several days called me a couple more times. In the end, I had to threaten him with an exposse in the local newspaper to get him off my back.

I have known people with fair promise and decent social skills go the am-way and become social outcasts. One chap I knew back in grad school was ostracized to the extent that people would cross the road if they saw him coming his away and pointedly ignore him even if he talked to them. It was a shame!