Friday, August 27, 2004

Sammy's Day Out
Today ventured out into Lucknow city after long. Went with three of my group mates. We were going to conduct a survey on mobile phones for our Economics project. Completely new experience interviewing and accosting strangers in a strange city. We split in groups of two, and pledging to be in touch using what else but our mobiles, in case we got lost or landed up in an unsavoury situation. We came to a crossroad in Aliganj, called Puraniya Chauraha and decided to venture in opposite directions. Kept observing people on the streets trying to spot our first Bakra. As everyone knows the first time is the toughest, we were hesitant in popping the question. Finally saw a person ,looking like a vegetable standing on the corner. The first question from me "do you have a mobile" , takes him aback thinking that I will be borrowing it for a call. I then whipped out my mobile to put him at ease. Then gave him the gibberish about us being students, doing a survey and collecting data for academic purposes only. Slowly the ice melted and he started filling it up, with me goading him on. So we had our first respondent, but with so much emotional energy expended I was thinking how come we will be able to finish 50 odd.
Then voila luck changed we saw a group of people standing outside a building, we went there and started distributing the forms to a few people, and they were enthusiastically filling it, one or two aksed whether we are giving free mobiles with it ? Then suddenly some people started crowding us asking for forms. This was incrdible, too good to be true. Then we figured it was a BSNL office and the people were collecting the precious forms for the prepaid connection launched recently in Lucknow, and they thought we were doling out the aforementioned goodies.
We hurriedly disabused them of their notion, when we heard people saying these are fake and so on.
We then decided to leg it from the place without further ado, before the people thought that we had taken them for a ride.

Our other group also had a unique experience, they had given the form to a loquacious Kashmiri shopkeeper for filling,he was regaling them with philosophical drivel, in the meantime a customer came to the shop and the attendant tended to him, in a few seconds the customer was out apparently unimpressed. The shopkeeper suddenly realized it, and started ranting out to his poor attendant, who hadnt disturbed him thinking he was doing a important job. The shopkeeper shouted at him "Main Hoon Naa" and then furthered enlightened him that "Huna" means Dog in Kashmiri. Seeing the commotion our other team tip toed out before the Kashmiri cannon could be swiveled in their direction.

We then went in search of a mobile dealer, after getting enough respondents in a "Coffee Day" outlet in Hazratganj. Managed to locate one in an inaccessible location, a small shack on the first floor of a dilapidated building, only access was through one feet wide and two feet high stairs. After our hamstrings had got a good workout. we entered the hallowed innards of the shop, which we came to know didnt have electricity for that whole day . The owner was elated to see us, and his enthusiasm didnt go down many notches even when he figured that we werent going to buy even a mobile cover from him. Maybe because of the fact that we were his first contact of the human kind, up in his pigeon hole on the day.
He proceeded to give us the complete low down on the market, giving us lots of gyaan on consumer preferences and tastes, I conducted the interview with him in chaste Hindi,with my Mallu partner, who can't speak a word of it, jotting down the conversation assidiously. Thanking the guy ,we trooped out again on the pavements of Hazratganj, met few uncooperative dealers, who protected their information like a state secret and viewed us as a combination of undercover Income Tax officials and pestering door-to-door salesmen.
Eventually we fagged out, then had a beer in a seedy Beer bar discussing our experiences and insights of the day. It looked more of a psychology project to us, than an economics project, considering the diverse human interactions we had, also it took a lot of effort on a behavioral level from us, reacting to brusque rejections, learning how to extract information, knowing when to zero in on probable respondents and so on.