Episode – 1
The air-conditioned buses that ply from Bengaluru city railway station are comfortable enough to get indulged in a bit of book reading. I had a book to finish – Eminent Historians by Arun Shourie about which I have written in past. While I was immersed in my study, a soul who sat beside me called me out and inquired about the book. He must have been younger to me by 3 to 4 years. Once I explained what the book was all about, he mentioned his whereabouts and his interest in history.
He asked me a few questions about the book and I happily obliged. When I had to get down at my stop, he wished me a good night and hoped to meet again to discuss such subjects as that day. I am a person who would be willing to speak to a stranger more often than not. I was happy that I made a new acquaintance. He asked me for my contact number to keep in touch, invoking the commonality of statehood and interests. I obliged. After about a couple of weeks when he called me, I could not place him right as the number wasn’t saved on me. He had to remind me of our interaction in the bus. He spoke for about 3-5 minutes after that. I kept looking for some shred of historical or philosophical content in his monologue. Disappointingly, it was not to be found. What he did speak of was a business idea that he and some of his friends were working on and asked me if I would have liked to work with them. When I tried to extract a rough idea of his so called business, he dodged and extended an invitation to some meeting that they were going to have that weekend. I smiled on this side of the phone and tried to explain to him how we can save each other’s time by keeping things straight. On that came the question I dread the most today – ‘Are you an ambitious person?’
‘Are you talking of Amway?’
‘Are you talking of Britt World Wide?’
‘Sorry to tell you but I am not interested. That is not something I would like to do right now in my life.’
Episode – 2
I got a call from yet another unknown number a fortnight ago.
‘Hey, So we are a group of professionals working beyond our day job for extra income and we are looking for people from IT background to work with us.’
‘Okay, tell me about it.’
‘It will be difficult to tell you all on this call. First tell me, are you looking to make some extra income?’
‘I am open to the idea.’
‘Excellent, so why don’t you come this Wednesday to ‘venue’ and we will discuss about it. Because we also need to see if you map to our requirements. It should be a both ways compatibility and you can also see for yourself.’
‘Sorry, I won’t be available on weekdays. Weekends work for me.’
‘Alright. Let me see if we can meet on the weekend but first tell me this. Are you an ambitious person?’
‘To hell with your ambition man. No, I am not an ambitious person.’
I didn’t say that. I tend to be more polished than that. I told him the following –
‘Hey, let’s not get into those things right now because I might be doing a lot of things for my ambition already. So, why don’t you tell me what exactly do you do and I will tell you if it ticks the check-boxes of my ambition. Wait a moment, are you by any chance working for Amway?’
‘Amway is one of the companies.’
‘Britt World Wide then?’
‘Alright mate. Hard luck.’
I am not writing this to launch an attack on people who work for such firms as Britt World Wide. I am just trying to document my impressions of a race of homosapiens who have lost the art of being human beings in order to make money. That might sound judgmental but it serves them right. They must be judging me to be a fool for not accepting their invites to a couple of hours of wind-castle making workshop.
The Amway Agents (AA) as I call them, can be found mostly sharply dressed, well spoken, well behaved until they hear a No from you. These are people who are not very different from the telecallers from banks’ loan division who try to sell personal loans to you. Add to the list the callers from credit card division of banks who tell you that you are going to get a credit card for free and make the whole deal sound like you just have to open the door and look for the delivery guy. Only that most of these people at Amway are in a regular job and use networking at workplace to get more people onboard. AAs are better as well as worse than the regular telecallers. They are of-course better at communication. Even if one is not, they find one who is and make him the go-to man for all the interactions involved. So, it works more like a jungle. The lion hunts. If a jackal becomes an AA, he waits for the lion to hunt to get his supper. Needless to say, we are the hunted.
I suggested that they are also worse in a way because getting away from them is an emotionally draining exercise. With a telecaller, a mere thanks or not-interested usually suffices. Not with AAs – they usually befriend you first. Once you become a friend, ‘No’ becomes a difficult word. There you go – trapped, game set. I know of many people who are AAs only because the one proposing the idea to them happened to be a friend. They are worse because they lay a trap. A very intelligent trap by their standards. The trap starts with striking a conversation. From there to reaching a seminar or convention of their leaders, is a very extensively laid-out trap. If you are not careful, you will end up breaking a few friendships on the way, of course only if you refuse the proposal. I say this because I know of an incident of a friend who was extremely excited at the prospect of reuniting with a friend after some 10-15 years. However, he found that the friend under the veil of meeting, dragged him into an Amway get-together. Only the fine upbringing that he has, could keep him there till the end of the meeting. While bidding goodbyes to each other, both of them knew that with the meeting, a friendship ended as well. This is where I suggest we must draw a line. I do not know if these guys make any money but if making money is your only goal, then you become susceptible to all such schemes. There was a scheme called Dewsoft. I was still in school then. A few of my friends were promised money and motorbikes on joining. Join they did and as it turned out, it was not a journey I can explain without a sense of sympathy for them. They lost a very important part of their childhood in the greed for money. The bike was for illustrative purposes only. A point must be put in perspective here. It is not that only children are susceptible of losing their childhood. The grown-ups are more gravely exposed and run greater risks of losing the human side of their personality in their quest for gold. When I see people turning into a machine, more precisely a tape recorder with a special arrangement of being able to play only one song – Amway, it feels wrong, plain wrong. The guy who struck a conversation with me on a book I was reading, I must say made the smartest move of any AAs I have met so far. It was extremely unfortunate to see him lose his cover so easily after a couple of weeks.
I don’t want to generalize but when you see a sudden drop in their interest in your conversations, in you as a person after you have become friends with all sincerity, it does affect you. Not that we should let it affect us but you regret putting in your time for a friend who just happened to see a business prospect in you. This is the menace of our times. This is not only a big city phenomenon, I got exposed to it way back during my childhood when a few people in my society converted. They were new converts. They were still humans. So, it didn’t affect me much then. However incidents like the ones described above has made me doubt every single individual who tries to strike a conversation. I have my answers ready for the sort of questions these people ask. I have found the answers that drive them away. Too personal mate, too personal. I am sure I won’t lose out on opportunities of making good friends in the process. People who are genuinely interested in you as a friend should have better questions than – Are you an ambitious person?
To my readers who are already trapped inside – it’s never too late. Try quitting before you mutate into an organism that is always on the prowl for a new victim.
To the readers who can’t tell the difference and are easily kidnapped for their meetings every now and then – remember that you are a person with no ambitions. You do not want any money in your life. You believe in living off charity and are ready to die any time. Blurt this out the moment anyone asks for your ambitions and dreams. They will never look at you again.
To the AAs – You remember Joker? Yes, of the Dark Knight. I know the squealers when I see them. Stay away. Stay safe.