The Article: An imaginary exchange:

(Telephone rings…)

Me: Hullo.

Kevin: Good afternoon Sir. This is Kevin speaking. I am calling …

Me: Now, now. Your name is not Kevin at all, is it?

Kevin: Sir, I tell you most truthfully that I am Kevin. I assure you, Sir, that …

Me: Now look Kevin …

Kevin: Ah Sir, thank you …

Me: That was just me using the only name I have — Kevin — but I simply do not believe that Kevin is your real name. Not in a trillion years are you Kevin.

Kevin: Oh Sir, really I must…

Me: No mate. You are not Kevin. Look, within the past couple of months I’ve had a Dean, an Alby, a Raymond, two Archies and a Sid would you believe. They all had rich Indian accents and one of them admitted he was in Poona when I pressed him on the matter. The others wouldn’t say where they were. Very coy, all of them. A couple of them said they were employed by Ring-a-ding Communications Inc., or something like that, and the rest were paid by a crowd called Semaphore Signals. So, I’m sorry but …

Kevin: Do not be sorry Sir but I am Kevin …

Me: (Voice rising) Balls. No way. In fact bullshit. That’s what it is.

Kevin: Oh Sir, you have aspersed our sacred animal. Bulls and cows are very sacred in our country, you know, Sir.

Me: I know that, Kevin. The missus and I got a lot of dirty looks in Delhi when we even trod in cow poo.

Kevin: That does happen, Sir. Yes.

Me: Kevin, I reckon your name is Jawaharlal or Mahatma or something like that. Oh and my name is Nick. Call me Nick.

Gotcha Kev!

Kevin: Oh thank you Sir. Er Nick. But please. Mahatma is the name for the very most important people in my country. And how did you know, Sir, Jawaharlal, the name? It was the name of the great leader Nehru, Sir. Nick.

Me: Gotcha! Gotcha Kev.

Kevin: What do you mean, Sir? Gotcha? What is Gotcha?

Me: It means “got you”; trapped you; did you like a dinner.

Kevin: But Sir …
Me: … no buts Kev. You said “Mahatma is the name for the very most important people IN MY COUNTRY.” That’s what you said.

(Long silence)

Kevin: Oh dear Nick, I think I have oops-ed it as you say in Australia, have I not?

Me: Yes Kev, you have certainly just oops-ed it. But no worries. I wont say a thing. And where did you pick up Oops, Kevin?

Kevin: In Melbourne, Sir, when I did my Ph.D. At Monash University.

Me: Well I’ll be buggered. I suppose you supported the Mighty Hawks, eh Kev?

Kevin: No Nick, the Doggies. I have Scotty West’s autograph, Sir. In my wallet right now it is.

Me: And they’re looking very good right now, your Doggies.

Kevin: They are, Nick. They are and I have my fingers crossed for the finals, Sir. Nick

Me: Well good luck to you Kevin — for the Doggies and for your future and your family.

Kevin: Thank you, Nick. And the same for you and yours.

Me: Oh. And by the way, what is your real name?

Kevin: It is Chandra, Nick. It means the moon.

Me: Nice. I like it. Good luck Chandra.

Chandra: Thank you.

A sigh of relief

I did breathe a sigh of relief when I heard the recent announcement from the Federal Government that, in twelve months time, we shall be able to opt out of receiving unsolicited telephone calls from socalled tele-marketers. Even so, my reaction was shot through with some regrets and reservations.

First, there was the great relief that we would be able to avoid unwanted telemarketing calls at any time, let alone just when we were having or about to have dinner, finishing a quiet beer or sherry or scotch. Whether working or retired that period between, say, 5.30 and 7.00pm is for many people the most treasured of the day. It is when families or couples get together to talk about today and tomorrow; about what went right or wrong; about the children’s day at school or TAFE or university; about the work place gossip; and a time, too, to browse the paper which was only skim-read at breakfast.

Of course nothing is as simple as that and I thus reflected on the many Indians who would probably lose their jobs due to the possibly heavy uptake of the opt-out provision. Whether they have no qualifications or a PhD, Chandra and his many colleagues doubtless have financial commitments — by way of mortgages, car payments, educational costs and other fees and charges. True, the Indian economy is taking off in a quite spectacular way at present, with concomitant jobs growth but, with a population of some one billion people, there remains a lot of unemployment to mop up.

And yet, for all that, if there are any spare jobs on offer from Australian businesses then I would like to see Australians getting them. Alas, the communications sector and other large enterprises have seized on the advantages of a seemingly ever-shrinking world by getting employees where they are cheapest. At present India is one such place and there is not much we can do about it. Indeed, the problem may well compound due to the seemingly harsh provisions of the new industrial relations arrangements. Besides, telemarketing is not confined to the communications sector.

Oh dear, it is a complex world, isn’t it? . I wonder if William Lane’s descendents have a caravan going to Paraguay. Probably not. There you go — out of luck again.