The Storm

My name is Ravi.  This is the first thing and the last thing I want you to know about me.  The first thing, because I want to introduce myself. 

 I am twenty-three years old, and I live in Mumbai, India – the city where I was born.  I have a sister who is twenty-one, and a little brother who is ten.  I speak three languages:  Hindi, which is the national language of India, English, which is the closest thing we have in India to a common tongue, and Malayalam, which is the language spoken in Kerala, where my mother was born.  Two years ago I graduated from the Institute of Technology with a degree in Information Technology.  The government in India is very committed to the Information Technology sector, and I think this field will give me excellent career options.

 Right now I am a technical support agent for a modern, efficient Service Export Center not far from my home.  My job, along with the other 800 people in the Center, is to help people solve problems related to their PC’s and other computer equipment.  Most of our customers live in the United States or Canada. 

 It’s really a great job.  I was hired right after I graduated.  After a month of training, I began working on the Inkjet Printer e-mail Support Line, answering e-mails from customers who needed help with their printers.  During that time, I also stayed after work three or four days a week to train for more challenging positions.  In order to qualify for my current job, I had to learn how to solve PC problems and how to use the remote resolution tools.  I also completed courses in American English and Culture.  I am very fortunate to have this kind of opportunity and I am very optimistic about what I can accomplish if I work hard and keep up my technical understanding.

 This morning, though, we are all just grateful to be in the office.  Not long after the bus arrived at the office, the first big rainstorm of the season hit.  In this part of the world our seasons are not so much winter, summer, spring and fall, but “wet” and “dry”.  And believe me, “wet” is an understatement.  When the summer monsoons blow in from the southwest – from the Indian Ocean – they bring torrential rainstorms that can sweep entire villages away.  But they also bring the water that sustains life on the entire continent and powers the turbines that generate most of our electricity.  We have very mixed feelings about the monsoon.

 Anyway, this morning I got into quite a discussion with my little brother about the monsoon.  He’s only ten years old, but he can drive you crazy sometimes.  “How do you know a storm is coming?” he wanted to know.

 “The weather forecast,” I told him.

 “Is it always right?” he asked, baiting me, since he knows that the weatherman on TV is often wrong, and in fact had already predicted incorrectly that this storm would hit two days ago.

 “Yes,” I played along.  “The forecast is always right.”

 He didn’t like my answer.  “I don’t think so, Ravi,” he said finally.  “I don’t think the forecast is always right.”

 “Depends on what you mean by ‘right’,” I responded.  “The man says it will rain, and it will rain.  Maybe he says  ‘rain on Tuesday’ and it really rains on Thursday.  He’s still right, just not very precise.”

 “But that is not ‘right’,” he argued.  “If the man says ‘rain on Tuesday’, then I take my umbrella to school on Tuesday.  I wear my mac on Tuesday.  I drive only on paved roads on Tuesday.  Not Thursday.”

 My little brother is going to be a lawyer or something.  Why do I let myself get into these discussions?  I told him,  “You don’t have an umbrella or a mac, and you’ve never driven anywhere.”

 “But if I did!” he insisted.

 “If you did, it would be better to be prepared and not need it than to be unprepared and get wet.”

 He thought about this for a minute.  Finally, he announced, “I don’t like the monsoon.  I think the man should not forecast monsoons at all.”

 “The monsoon comes whether the man forecasts it or not.  He is only trying to help you to be prepared.  Besides, we need the monsoon.  Without the monsoon we would die of thirst.”

 “Oh”, was all he said, and I thought I had concluded the discussion nicely.  Then he continued.  “Do they have monsoons in America Ravi?”

 I knew where this was headed.  “No, they don’t and no, they don’t die of thirst.  They have terrible snowstorms and even worse hurricanes, and if they didn’t then they would die of thirst – even in America.”

 “Wouldn’t it be a lot better for all of us if it just rained a bit every day?  At night.  But not on Saturday night, so the cricket field is dry on Sunday morning.”

 I really hate cricket.  If I could control the rain, I would order rain every Sunday morning just to rain out the cricket matches.  But I’ll skip that discussion this morning.  “Yes, it would,” I say instead.  “But it doesn’t.  We have big storms and they wash roads out and sometimes they cause buildings to collapse.  We deal with it.”  I was getting a little tired of this conversation, plus I didn’t want to miss the bus.  For a brief moment I thought about drawing an analogy between the monsoon and social change, but I really didn’t have time to explain it.  And he is only ten years old.

 “But your building won’t collapse, will it Ravi?”

 “No, not my building,” I assured him.  “My building is safe.”

 Anyway, I was just remembering that conversation from this morning.  And now I’m looking at the ceiling for water stains every ten minutes.  I told you, he’s only ten years old, but sometimes he can drive you crazy.

 Right now I have a PC to fix.  Diane Blakely’s personal assistant left me an urgent voicemail last night saying that suddenly they can’t print.  “Help me Roger!” she always says.  I think this will be an easy one.

 I know the Blakely’s setup very well, because they have a premium support contract. They use their PC at home for work - he’s an attorney and she does graphic design work.  Since they signed up for full remote management, I can really do a good job for them.  I keep all their software current, do backups once a week, keep a log of system changes, and warn them about new viruses. 

 My customers and I normally work together in joint on-line sessions where we can talk, type messages to each other, and exchange web pages.  I can send them software updates while we talk, and can even take over control of their PC in order to diagnose and fix the problem they are experiencing.  If their PC is not working, we normally start on the phone or over e-mail until we can get the PC up, then I can get inside and do my job.  But with customers like the Blakelys, where I know the setup very well, they can just send me an e-mail with a quick description of the problem, and I usually can take it from there.

 First I always check the activity log.  The problem is almost always caused by a new piece of hardware or software, not by a failed component or even a virus.  Here it is – yesterday someone loaded something called Pageant Wars.  That would be Lauren.  Yuck – ‘Pageant Wars’.  Anyway, for some reason the installation reset the default printer.  I change it back and print a test page, and it seems to be working.  Roger to the rescue – I really love the easy ones. 

 OK, you may be wondering who this Roger guy is.  Some of our clients make us choose American names to use with customers.  My American name is Roger.  I don’t like it, but I go along with it.  Ravi, Roger, whatever.  It’s still a great job.  The pay is good, the hours are good, the work is interesting, and I have lots of opportunities for advancement.  By next year I’ll be qualified on home networks and after that I plan to get into network design services.  That way I can help people design great systems right from the start instead of just patching them up when they break.  And I’m learning all about other cultures and my English gets better every day.  Someday I may even visit America.  Maybe I’ll ask someone there why they want their PC fixed by someone named Roger and not someone named Ravi.

 Some of my friends give me a hard time about all this.  They think that somehow I’m less Indian because I work with Americans all day and because I am picking up some American habits and preferences.

 But I am Ravi, even if some of my customers call me Roger.  I am Indian, even if I wear Dockers and eat french fries and prefer baseball to cricket.  I think it’s a little strange that in a country with 850 languages in daily use, my friends think my character is flawed because I speak English with an American accent.  I am good at what I do, and I will do well by doing it.  There is no shame in that.

 And my name – is Ravi.

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