17th February 2005, like many dates, remain one that is very significant in my life for it was on this day that I decided to pay a visit to the famed Gecis, the BPO arm of General Electric popularly known by perhaps two of the most recognizably famous letters of the English alphabet; GE
The letters etched in scripted font encircled in trademark black / blue signified raw power, overwhelming presence and true business accomplishment across the globe all alike. All the more intriguing is the fact that despite the size of this mammoth conglomerate, it seems to have made an impact in the lives of people from all spheres and strata alike. After all, the names of Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt light the minds of any prospective innovator. And although I would not dare call myself an innovator, I was one in many ways!
Therefore, I set out to locate 22B that morning in the hope to catch a glimpse of this outsourcing monolith which had made waves across the nation.
The drive from any part of Delhi to the buzzing ITES capital of the North, is in itself a ride to take. An estimated 150,000 vehicles of many shapes and sizes make their way in an out of this city every single day. While the very thought itself remains very amazing, the roads remain perpetually packed with a long line of vehicles snaking and honking their way carrying their contents to the intended destination. An hour into the drive I set foot into Gurgaon. The surrounding background is many contradictions imprinted into reality. While the dusty roads give way to the serene acres of mustard plantations, one is thrust into the life-size architecture of elegantly designed high-rise edifices that boast the names of some of the most outstanding names in the corporate sector.
When at last I did reach Sector 18 which accommodates 22B along with many similar establishment, I must confess my slight disappointment. I expected to see the conspicuous insignia plastered on the face of this enterprise, but there was none on display. Worse still, there was no billboard that implied that I had reached my destination. It was thus no surprise when I queried the guard manning the entrance thrice if I had reached my intended destination, much to his displeasure!
The clock in the security room announced a few minutes past 10:00 am and I spoke to a person gazing intently into the screen of his terminal without looking at me. And when he finally did turn to me a few moments later, all he did was wave me to a row of chairs a few paces away. The cubbyhole security center became my place of wait for the next half hour after which I was escorted into the building and given another place to ease myself into. Words such as leadership, integrity, values, ecoimagination, customer centricity and focus were boldly emblazoned on every available wall.
Waiting was something I had no personal taste for and thus resulted a few cups of strongly brewed black coffee.
About an hour later I was approached by a lady who like many others pronounced my second name with much difficulty. The exercise of determining my 'suitability' to be a part of this organization had begun and concluded about an hour later on a very positive note.
It was well past midday before I actually met anyone who would tell me anything related to the kind of 'profile' I would be attached to. And that was Sameer Khetrapal, a very unassuming man who appeared to be someone with a number of things on his mind. After a few minutes of straight-talking, he picked up a stick-on and scrawled his name and number, handed it to me and led me to an adjoining building where from he 'operated'. It was an untold sign that I had made it to the next level but unknown to me a protracted wait had begun and I was beginning to feel impatient especially when a digital display flashed that it was a staggering 5.5hrs past noon.
Sameer, I was later told, had been a part of the American Space agency, NASA and was at the time Asst. Vice President - Operations with Gecis. It was not the first time I realized that looks could be very deceptive.
My series of interviews and meetings with atleast six other people lasted for a couple of hours and before I left for home, I still had no concrete answer if I had 'made it'.
All I was told was that I was being more time to consider my decision of wanting to be a part of this organization. Now, that seemed strange. Why would someone offer me time to consider a decision which I had so definitely decided upon. Stranger it seemed when I was asked to present myself on the 21st, which was four long days away. Suddenly, I felt weak. Anxiety and confusion gripped my core. I lost all track of time while the immediate surrounding was bustling with fanatical activity. Pacing around, I was stunned when I realized that it was well past the evening and into the night. I decided to leave for home and finally when I did reach home it was past midnight and a new day had begun, but my uneasiness refused to die down.
Thankfully, I had neither the effort nor the determination to introspect and besides a breather of 4 days perhaps assured me that I had enough time to restructurize if need be.
Waking up at daybreak, I realized that I was feeling no better instead my anxiety began to peak to disproportionate levels. I had to 'look within'.
Without wasting much time I spoke to an elder cousin; Vikas, who with good reason was regarded as a shining example of success in the family. After a patient hearing of my word-by- word account all he remarked was "We will talk about this when I return". This made me feel numb. What had I done? Thoughts raced in my mind at the speed of light and now I was left with nothing more than the days newspaper, the television and a very friendly Scooby, the well mannered Labrador who dutifully assured to be my companion for the day.
Phew, I was paranoid and prepared myself for a full-scale nervous breakdown.
The weekend came all too soon and I was devoid of answers. Vikas seemed engrossed in work and hardly spent time away from his laptop. I thought it best not to be persistent and made a compelling effort to read Margaret Mitchell's celebrated work of art; Gone with the Wind.
It was a marathon effort to read even a few lines. My mind was overwhelmed and I discovered my disability to concentrate. I shamefully realized my inability to attain the sublime level of relaxation which I so necessarily needed.
When Vikas finally decided to talk, he made me repeat my tale. After a very patient hearing he declared that I had no reason to worry and that I go back with the same levels of confidence and present my case with no modification what so ever. Surprisingly, I had subconsciously decided that this was the best course of action. If only ones assumptions justified facts, this whole world would never have existed in the first place. Seemingly easy to settle in, I still fail to understand why I had not accepted this mental response as a convincing answer. Why did I need someone to tell me what I already knew?
So when 21st of February finally dawned bringing the appointed time, I walked head held high with an air of confidence and assertiveness like never before. I was never so sure of myself before, as I was this day. Anyone who would have delved into me that day possibly mistook my poise and disposition for arrogance. Tejinder 'Tony' Hara and Rohit 'Randy Gold' Goel both prospective managers of mine entered into a final session of tripartite talks with me. Interestingly, Tony shared with me his stint with the Indian Army from where he moved on to the training school of the National Security Guard, India's elitest Commando Force and how later embarked upon training the Anti-Hijack Squad of the NSG. Randy, I was told was a veteran with Gecis for a long time.
I was asked if I had reviewed my decision and if I had any new found reservations to which I replied with an emphatic 'NO'. I handled every query with supreme confidence and renewed conviction.
A quick 20 odd minutes later, Tony demanded to know how soon I could join and in one breath I shot "How about tomorrow?". "Tomorrow it is then" came the answer with a firm handshake and a warm smile. I had accomplished my mission! After I secured the necessary documentation that assured me of my being part of this venture, I left for home.
Unknown to me, I was about to embark on a long journey filled with experiences of ultimate proportions. A journey that would change me in a number of ways and shape me as I move forward in life. A journey so overwhelming that I had no idea of its resultant impact.
As I watched the passing traffic on my way back home, I knew I had crossed a milestone of significant importance.
A music player in the cab blared a Hindi number beamed from one of the many radio stations active in the frequency, over the clamor of constant chatter being emitted from an adjoining wireless transceiver.
I needed a good-night's sleep. It was a long time since I enjoyed one.