Monday, July 09, 2012

When I lied to novelist P.A. Krishnan

The last 10 years of my career has been spent in selling services. I was trained as an Engineer and worked as one for 5 years before stumbling into sales. With my inherent shyness and inability to make a lasting impression, I struggled in the initial years. I could sell to them over phone, I was pretty confident with words, but meeting one to one was a torture.

During my initial ship chandling years, I visited Dubai to sell our services to ship owners and ship management companies there. I was tagged along with a sales person from our company's associate concern in Dubai. This person was an Anglo Indian from Mumbai, and a born sales person. I went along with him for a week in client visits. He was able to connect instantaneously with any client. He could talk passionately about EPL footbal with an Arab Sheikh for an hour, and in the next floor extol the miracles of Mahim Church with a Mumbai Christian.

Those were my initial days, so I looked up to him with awe. During the breaks he used to explain to me - "Always look for a connect with a client. It might be anything - football, movies, religion - but find something common that binds you both.". It was easy for him - but I never could do that. In Glasgow, a shipping company executive asked me "Is Nathan your Christian name?". I blurted out, "No it is my Hindu name". I was that inept.

I do try to follow his advice and it has helped me in my decade of selling services. Couple of years ago I was with a purchase manager from one of the mills that I serve. He had been using our services for a couple of months then, but we still hadn't cemented our place. So I was talking to him, exploring for some connect.

He asked me "Where are you from ?"

I replied "I am from Karaikudi area, but am living in Tuticorin and Chennai"

"I have come to Karaikudi a couple of times. My father was an active participant in Kamban Kazhagam" he said.

Bingo. I had participated in a Kamban Kazhagam (a society that actively promotes Kamba Ramayanam) during my schook days and had even won prizes for recital. I had my connect. As I told him about it, he asked "Oh, so you are interested in Tamil Literature? What magazines you read?"

In order to look sophisiticated I lied "I read Kalachuvadu and Uyirmmai". These are the powerful literary magazines in Tamilnadu. I don't subscribe to them, but read them whenever they are available free online.

He was impressed. "My brother writes in Kalachuvadu regularly. You might know him. He is P.A. Krishnan"

I bluffed once again "He is a favourite writer of mine. I have read his novel புலி நகக் கொன்றை. It was awesome".

I knew about P.A. Krishnan, I knew about the novel, I had read about the novel, but I had NOT read the novel. No harm in lying for a sales contract, I told myself.

"Oh you are such a fan of his? Ok, let me call him and you can talk to him".

Now I was caught. I had to go through the lie. I talked to P.A. Krishnan, told him that I am his fan and safely steered the conversation away from the novel to his essays a few of which I had read. He asked me about his latest article in Kalachuvadu about Egypt, I hemmed and hawed and managed to end the conversation.

Whether this bluff helped me or not, I am not sure but I did serve his brother's mill for quite some time. His brother has since then left the mill. I too don't serve them anymore, so I can put this in public domain.

I did buy புலி நகக் கொன்றை in the next Chennai Book Fair and read it. It is one of the better Tamil novels I have read, centered around 4 generations of a Thenkalai Iyengar family near Nanguneri. It is on par with "The shadow lines" by Amitav Ghosh.


ashok said...

Would love to see you write more Chen...miss your sarcasm...

Chenthil said...

I am trying Ashok, I am trying.

Hawk Eye said...

yes. we want more posts from chen

Anonymous said...

"Is Nathan your Christian name?". I blurted out, "No it is my Hindu name". I was that inept.

That sounds like something I'd say -- but I'd be caustic and militant rather than inept.

The thought of havign to "connect" with someone for money makes me ill -- which is why I will never see any lnog money.

Chenthil said...

Hawk, am trying back to get into regular blogging mode.

Anon - I didn't think of it as a discriminatory thing. That guy was probably trying to connect to me.

No connect no sales, no advertising, no lot of careers.