Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cricket Contest, part 2.

This is a continuation of my story about participating in a contest related to the T-20 Cricket World Cup Tournament held in June 2009. See T20 Cricket Contest for part one of the story.

After a week off on our trip through north India, I returned to work refreshed. With the contest going at work, I had followed the T20 World Cup cricket tournament. I only followed until the top 2 favored teams, which of course I had selected, were knocked out. I didn’t really mind not having to try to get the results. We met very few people who could communicate in English and who were also following the tournament. Whether they didn’t understand the question or I didn’t understand their answer, more than once I was given incorrect info about the previous day’s results. 1

As the tournament end approached, I started to worry about what I would get for the prizes. Recalling the prize I received from the lucky draw (which was probably rigged for me to win) at last year’s company party, I decided that the winner might like a gift certificate from Music World or Planet Music. With CDs costing around Rs 500 (~USD 10) sponsorship wouldn’t be too painful.

Fortunately I found out from Shiyas that the prizes had already been acquired before I went out and got more. He and a few of the other supervisors and engineers had also been tapped as sponsors and had contributed money. While talking to him, it wasn’t clear if my role as sponsor was being supplanted or supplemented, but when I offered to contribute as well, he was very quick to accept.

As with many purchases in India, the amount to be paid was not set. When buying in a shop, you make an offer and hope you are in the right ball park. If you offer too little, you receive either indignation (way too low), a counter offer, or grudging acceptance. If you offer way too much, you get a refund or disingenuous thanks depending on the character of who you are dealing with. If you are just a little high, you get happy and enthusiastic service. I guessed right and was glad I didn’t need to go shopping.

The prizes were going to be handed out at afternoon tea2. Since I had gotten off light on sponsorship so far, I figured I would bring snacks to go with the tea. People often bring snacks for the whole office to celebrate the birth of a child or to brag about getting a promotion or a new car or home. I had seen the same snacks at the local bakeries and figured I could manage this over lunchtime. At first the bakery counter clerk was confused by my questions about his goodies and perhaps by my mere presence in his shop. I began ordering a few of these and a few of those and this and that. He caught on quickly and started having fun suggesting things for me. Mission accomplished.

Baiju and Steven At the appointed time I went down and assembled with most all of the operators, technicians, engineers, and supervisors, about 35 people in all. As expected, I was asked to say a few words and then present the prizes. I don’t know why, but I absolutely believe that Indians think receiving a prize from a foreigner makes it better. Why else have I been asked to hand out prizes many times now, including once by a radio DJ who was broadcasting live at a home show Angela and I attended?

Winner Swarish with prize clock.I thought the prizes I passed out were rather cheesy and slightly tacky. However, everyone really seemed to like them. I see the stuff in the “Ladies, Fanci, Stationery, and Gifts” stores around town. The stores are unrelated mom & pop stores, but they all use similar names, often with the same misspellings. Indians’ love of kitsch is also used as part of the storyline in Outsourced3 so I guess it’s confirmed now.

After passing out the gifts, we had our cakes and snacks. The contest organizers provided some marble cake which was passed out first. It was typical Indian cake: dry, not too sweet, no icing, pretty blah in short. I was pleased to see my selection of goodies gobbled up. I’ll know what to bring for my next birthday. (I had difficulty getting rid of the cake I brought last year.)

So over all, the cricket contest was a success with a good time had by all. One of these days, I may even get to go to a live cricket match.

1. As the tournament was played in London, the results weren’t usually known by the morning newspaper’s deadline and weren’t covered in the paper we read at our hotel breakfast. The previous day’s results weren’t published either since they were old news by then.
2. Tea time is at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM. The “tea ladies” bring a cup of coffee, tea, or chai—usually containing more milk and sugar than brewed liquid—to each person in the office. It is often the highlight of my day at work.
3. Outsourced is a movie about a guy who comes to India to improve the performance of an order fulfillment call center which was outsourced from the US. We really enjoyed the movie since we could relate to so much of what the guy goes through.

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