This frigging ephemeral life

On Christmas eve, I got a terrible news about my cousin. He had a fatal accident and passed away. I tried to make a plan to go to India immediately, but it was too late. There was no way I could make it to his last rites. First came the shock, then the confusion, then devastation, then anger and now its just indifference. Indifferent, numbness. I have been trying to internalize it – it’s really hard sometimes to think about life in general. I mean I think of it as if there is no ending to it. I live as if I am going to live forever and my friends and family are going to be around all the time.

Death news has only one advantage – it brings extreme focus. I have been thinking about it and I realized that all thinking about his death and how fragile life is – has made me more focussed. Focused on important things. It’s a sad way to get there but I am there. With the new year just kicking in – I have been pondering about it a lot. Thinking what I should resolve to this year? Stoics believe that if we remind ourselves of how short living is our lives often we will be more appreciative of it. Bhagavad Gita talks about how all this is just a stage and we are playing out our acts. This is what Steve Jobs was talking about when he said that he checks himself every day – what if this is my last day on Earth? I think that totally changes the perspective on life and that day.

Now I wait. I wait till we mourn. Mourning for 40 days. Thinking and re-focussing.


All my years growing up, my dad always talked about how I need to find my purpose. The purpose of my life. He used to talk a lot about ‘maqsad’ == purpose. I liked it couple of times but hated it most of the time. I thought it was rhetorical. The teenager in me ignored it. When I started to work, I was happy with my life. Getting paid well and loving what I do and not to mention working with my best friends and getting drunk!

I thought I realized the purpose indirectly. But my dad didn’t see it that way. He kept talking to me about it. Now after all these years – it has me all stirred up. This thing has been on my mind since September and my visit to India last month has made me wonder am I really living the purpose of my life? I mean I am happy and content. I have the best family and friends. My work is cool and I love what I do. But there is something missing and I can’t really put my finger on it.

It’s very rare I come across people who really know what they want in life. I mean money, power etc are laudable goals but not really good enough to qualify as purposeful life. I have some friends who are leading purposeful life. They are on the path which is basically their life. And I have a lot of friends who are like me – happy, content in the moment but missing the overall purpose.

I have no idea what mine is. Dwelling heavily on philosophy and religion – gives me answer which basically says that the purpose of being born as a Human is to reach God. But I don’t know how to do that. I mean without uprooting the lifestyle I have now. Thinking in terms of work – I think of a lot of things that come close to being purpose but not good enough.

As I close my eyes to go to sleep every night, my dad’s words ring in my head. I can’t let it go. I need to figure this out and I don’t think there is an easy way other than just facing it. I really hope I find out soon, because this thing is killing me.

The sorry state of Customer Support in India

Customer support for any service in India sucks. Big time. I am sure there are some exceptions, but most of the major players who run businesses there have the most crappy customer support. I know a lot of American companies use Indian companies for their call center – but I think it’s not all that good as it may sound. If you think, you calling Dell customer support sucked big time because some guy “Ray” (who probably is Raghav in real life) didn’t answer all your questions, try calling a Indian business customer service.

I think I know the reason why too. India is the only nation with more number of people under 25 yrs old. There are as many people under 25 in India as there are in US – the whole population. This means a lot of cheap labor. The kind of people you come across in customer support are the fresh graduates who are out of school and are willing to work for Rs.3000/month. They are good at reading out the instructions but that’s hardly any customer support!

I had 2 bad customer support issues while I was in India last month. I wanted to buy a 3G-to-WiFi dongle from Vodafone (a major cell service provider in India, which also owns 45% of Verizon here).  I called customer support and this is how it pretty much went–

Me: Hi, I would like to know more about your MiFi device.

CS: Huh? Sir, please tell me your vodafone number.

Me: I don’t have any vodafone number, I am calling in to find out more details about your product.

CS: (Silence. This probably isn’t listed in their script. Now the person is on their own and I had an inkling that this is not going to end well)

CS: Sir, if you don’t have a vodafone number, why call no??

Me: I want to find out more details abou the MiFi device.

CS: Let me check with my manager sir.

….I wait for some time.

CS: Sir, thank you for holding. Please go to a nearby vodafone store for details.

Me: Huh? Why can’t you tell me over the phone? I just need to know the price and other details.

CS: We don’t have any details about it, you will walk to the nearest vodafone store.

Me: Hmm. That’s weird, you are the customer support for your company. Anyhow, ok can you tell me the nearest store address?

CS: Tell me your address.

(I told them my address)

CS: Sir, the nearest store address is – so and so…

Me: Can you tell me the store’s phone number, so that I can call in and check if the device is available.

CS: Sir, it is our policy not to store any phone numbers of our stores!

Me: You are kidding me. You literally meant for me to walk to the store!

CS: Yes, sir.

Me: That’s crazy, you don’t have any information about YOUR OWN product. And you don’t have the contact number for the store which MIGHT sell YOUR product.

CS: Yes, Sir.

Me: Pulling my hair (or in my case, scratching my head). I don’t believe this.

CS: Thank you for calling Vodafone.

That’s how it ended. I never got that MiFi device, because the site for vodafone was advertising it but it wasn’t being sold at all!

There was another crappy incident of how IndiGo airlines stole my camera but it’s another post.

I  believe that the reason why these Indian companies can afford to have such a crappy customer support is because of such a huge population, if they lose 10 customers, they gain 10 new customers. So, they don’t have to try hard to keep the existing ones or try get new ones. There are very few operators at that level and because they don’t have the draconian 2 year contracts like US does, people always switch phone companies. It’s very normal and the customer support isn’t there to help the customer, but to just lodge complaints and do nothing about it.

This is the sad state of customer support in India. It’s prevalent everywhere, and there is nothing you can do about it. I sometimes wonder, what would happen if someone starts a customer support service firm who can help customers like Zappos does here – I wonder if that will ever give edge to companies there?