Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cinnamon Gardens - Among the very best of fiction!

What is the raft of "Will" and "Wont"
  Against love's raging waters?
           - The Tirukkural, verse 1134
 Tirukkural will always remain Tamil literature's towering contribution to the world. Every chapter of Shyam Selvadurai's Cinnamon Gardens begins with one pertinent verse from Tirukkural. When I smelled and leafed through the pages of this book at the library, as I usually do, I instinctively felt I should read it. 

After a long time, this novel captured my interest and held me spellbound. The amount of research that has gone into this work is admirable and deserves special mention. Set in erstwhile Ceylon in the 1920s, Shyam has managed to capture that epoch exceedingly well. 

In every period in history, there are customs and traditions that are sacrosanct and inevitably in every period, there are people who dare to defy these customs. By their acts and deeds, these men and women come to exemplify the battle between the old and the new, the conservative and the liberal, the tolerant and the intolerant and the subservient and the rebellious! Cinnamon Gardens is the story of some of these men and women, how, life to them, is claustrophobic and constraining, how, they struggle to express their feelings in an environment that views them as outcast for who they are! 

The caste system, woman's rights, questions of nationality, labor rights, infidelity, the Sinhalese-Tamil equation and simmering tensions, gay rights - all these - set in a upper class suburb of Colombo, with the Sea serving as the backdrop - come to life through characters sketched with the skill of a master craftsman. I kept turning the pages in feverish haste and not even a single instant, I was disappointed. One's heart would immediately warm up to the characters of Annalukshmi and Balendran.

The scale of imagination, the simple, but powerful language and the attention to minute details together result in a hugely rewarding read. A must-buy for lovers of literature, fiction and history! One review summed it up best here - " Sensual, perceptive, and wise, Cinnamon Gardens is a novel of exceptional achievement – an exquisite tapestry of lives."

Picture courtesy -

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cold Calling Experiences

This is what transpired during one of my calls -  

Me: Hello, Good Morning!
Receptionist:  Good morning Sir
Me: I am Sivaraman calling from company - Y
Receptionist: Okay...
Me: Can I please talk to Mr. X?
Receptionist:I would need his badge number
Me: I am sorry. What is that?
Receptionist: All our employees have a badge number Sir. You have to give me that
Me: Sorry, I don't know Mr.X's badge number. Can you look him up in the extension directory please?
Receptionist: Let me see...(a min later) Sorry Sir, I cannot find him
Me: Can you please find Mr. W then?
Receptionist: Mr. W? This is regarding?
Me: This is regarding a business meeting
Receptionist: What business Sir?
Me: Can I please talk to him directly about it? (ending with a smile)
Receptionist: Hmm...I am putting him through. Please hold
Me: Thank you! 
W: Hello, W speaking, who is this?
Me: Good morning Sir! I am Sivaraman calling from Y. I got your reference from ____. Is it a good time to talk to you? Can I have 5 minutes of your time?
W: (a little hesitating) Yes...What is this regarding? 
Me: Sir, this is regarding....blah blah..

This is one experience where I got to handle 3 objections and got rewarded ultimately. When making calls, it is important to handle certain objections, especially if we are calling the board number and talking to a receptionist. 

Objection: Mr. X does not work here/Mr. X is in a meeting/business trip/on vacation
Counter: Can I talk to Mr. W then?
Objection: He is not available today/He is not at his desk
Counter: Is he on vacation?/Is he in a meeting?/When can I call again?/Can I have his extension number?/Can I have his email id please?

  • The idea is to get as much information as possible in a single call. It can get really annoying to a receptionist if we assume a rigid/matter-of-fact tone. One has to respect the time of a receptionist.
  • When we get to the person we want to talk to, we ideally get a maximum of 5 minutes, so, we should get to the objective of the call as quickly as possible. 
  • Homework before calling is paramount. 
The success rate of cold calling is not very high. Hence, it pays to be persistent and methodical. Cold calling should always be complemented by direct mailing and follow-ups to be effective. 

Here are some articles of interest if you would want to read further -  

Statistics and tips
Dilbert Comic
Mail or call

Pros and cons
Benefits of cold calling

You are welcome to share your experiences...

PS: This is the first work related post I am making in my blog. More to come... For this post, thanks to the sales professional and friend who taught me how to handle objections...