An American accent

Priyanka Borpujari in Boston Globe:

My brother had just finished his studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Mumbai, and was waiting for a company to hire him. His friends who had studied information technology had already gotten jobs, and were now meeting their former classmates over weekends at plush malls. Manav began to circulate a single-page resume across employment websites. After three months of wait that included watching TV, scouting the Internet for courses for higher studies, and occasionally playing cricket, he finally announced that he had a job offer.

Elated, I offered to treat him and our parents to thin-crust pizza with extra chicken toppings. When I asked him the name of the company, he said, “FIS.” What do they do? He was silent for a moment, before blurting out, “It is a call center, for American Express cards.” I think he noticed that my eyes had popped out. After spending four years of time and money getting an engineering degree, a job with a call center was the last thing I’d want him to do.

That night, we hardly spoke. Soon, he explained that he had been hired with many others to handle customer complaints for the Amex card during the “festive” season in the United States. They began the job with a month of “accent training.” He brought home books that had words broken into syllables. I would laugh aloud, and he would retort “Shut up!” with a sheepish, almost embarrassed smile. “Our trainer has a nice accent!” he would tell me. “Is she a gora?” (‘Gora’ means ‘white’ or ‘fair’, and it is a colloquial term to refer to a white foreigner). “No! She is pure Indian.”

And then, the job began — but not before he was completely Americanized. Each worker was allowed to choose a name. “What is your name?” I asked him, with pure wonderment. “Frank,” he replied. Why Frank, of all the names? Because it was his favorite football star. I gave a frown, and he jumped back: “My name is better. One girl has called herself Angel!” More:

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