Postcard from... Delhi

 

He was a thick-set man and in truth he took up most of the space on the Delhi Metro's narrow seat.

Once I'd squeezed alongside him I spotted he was carrying a paperback copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

"I'm trying to read it," the young man corrected me. "I've read The Fountainhead [one of the Russian-American philosopher's earlier works] 20 times. But this is hard."

The man was originally from Bihar and he was heading to work at a call-centre in the satellite city of Gurgaon where every night from 6pm he dealt with queries from US airline customers.

At 5am, a company vehicle dropped him back in Delhi. He had large black rings under his eyes.

His dreams had never included working in a call centre, he said, but he'd stuck at the job for five years, sending money home to his parents. We chatted a little about Paul Ryan, the US Republican candidate for VP and another fan of Ayn Rand.

I couldn't help wondering what mental image the man's callers from Kansas or Missouri might have of the person they were speaking to once their line clicked through to "India". Surely not this man with his paperback (unless I am being guilty of stereotyping myself).

Sometimes callers were rude, other times angry. Was he given tips from his firm on how to soothe them?

"No," he replied. "If you try and say anything they just start again. The trick is just to let them talk themselves out."

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