Take Nothing for Granted

Making phone calls in India is crap shoot—you never know who will be on the other end, what their level of English will be, and if they will understand your “American accent” even if they are proficient in English.

OK, so this isn't exactly relevant to this post, but I couldn't help it.

It is so frustrating to finally get in touch with the contact at an organization you’ve been trying to get a hold of for days, only to smack into the harsh wall of a language barrier.

I’ve had to make a bunch of calls recently to recruit participants for our marketing & communication strategy study.

This could be an actual transcript of these calls:


“Sir, my name is Eric Saltzman calling from the Centre for Development Finance in Chennai—-”

<he interrupts with incomprehensible Tamil (an ancient classic language of south India) muttering>

[repeating painfully slowly] “Sir….my…name….is…..”

<he repeats his words, thinking that this time I may suddenly understand>

We then sit in silence for a few moments, both coming to the realization that a conversation cannot possibly take place–at least without the option of charades.

“Thank you for your time, sir—”



So, next time you have to make a call at the workplace and you feel like complaining that you were on hold for too long or the guy was long-winded, before you do, just remember: at least you two had the means to communicate.

Nothing else could motivate me better to pick up a Tamil learning book than the helplessness I feel while making these calls.  Tamil 101, here I come!