The incident took place almost eight years ago. It disturbed me more than I can possibly say. Since then I’ve tried to see it in different lights because it impacted me so greatly.
Living in Singapore at that time, my husband was offered a lucrative position in his company’s headquarters. He was issued a work visa while my year old son and I, were issued dependent passes as per the family immigration rules of the country.
I began looking out for a job after the initial acclimatisation period. I applied for various jobs but was refused multiple times, mostly because I was on a dependent pass. I finally received a call from a well-known travel company who were hiring travel consultants. My interview went well and I was informed to join office at the earliest.
All the new recruits were supposed to undergo training before starting work. My job was to convince walk-in customers to book or buy the holiday packages offered by the company.
The atmosphere in the office was open, cheerful and even informal. Everyone worked in tandem. Of course, most of my colleagues were either Singaporeans or Malaysians. I was probably the only Indian there. Everything was still new to me including the language, work culture etc. I was still trying to get used to the new change.
Once I felt confident to begin work independently, I was allotted a small cubicle to attend to the walk-in clients. Most of these customers came into the office at the promise of an attractive gift at the end of their meeting.
My first clients were a pleasant Vietnamese couple living in Singapore. I started off well. In fact, I was so involved that I crossed the time limit for the “introduction” section. Nervously, I looked around, saw someone gesturing me to move on to the next step. I did exactly that. Things were going well when suddenly in the middle of the presentation I went totally blank. I’d forgotten the next step. Yet, I kept them engaged. The trainers were keeping an eye on all of us as we were still new. One of the trainers (a young Singaporean girl), was standing nearby. Since I was stuck I sought her attention and asked her if she could help me with the presentation. She nodded but her entire attitude towards me from the moment she arrived at my desk was as if I was some repulsive creature she had to deal with.
Firstly, she snubbed me right in front of my clients and asked me to sit-up properly. Next, she tersely asked me if I had explained the clients about the point system to which I replied in the negative. Instead of listening to my explanation, she ignored me completely and went on with the rest of the presentation herself. The poor duo was perplexed and passed me a sympathetic gaze. The girl’s body language was even more aggressive than her words. I was shocked and ashamed! I’d never been humiliated so badly in my entire life. That too publicly and in front of my own clients who looked equally embarrassed. Finally, the torture came to an end. The clients did not book any package. At the end of the presentation, they said they would think about it, collected their gifts and left. But before leaving the lady said to me that I had been most helpful and they would come back. However, her kind words could not salvage my hurt pride.
I left the office without meeting anyone that evening and never went back. Not even to collect my cheque. Later, I got a job with a much better profile and position, but it took me a while to wash out the sad incident from my memory. The thought of confronting the girl occurred to me many times afterwards. However, I did not return. I couldn’t. But because of that unfortunate incident, probably today, I make an extra effort to relate to the people who are ‘different.’