Skip to main content

I'm sorry, What's your name?

I admit that we Indians do look alike. I have elaborated about this earlier, and it's a fact I've come to accept. Till recently I also had a strong belief, that once you got to know us Indians, viewed our facebook profiles, talked to us, understood our problems - you would begin to view us as distinct individuals.

All that changed yesterday.

I stood there at 4pm, fretting in front of Bread Talk, waiting for Varun. The poor guy was dragging his holiday suitcase all the way to Novena Bread Talk to pick up my house key. (Varun is the other guy in the picture - the one on the left. Yes we are not twins). Since I couldn't reach him by phone, we both could only rely on gross miscommunication for aligning on the venue and time.

Varun didn't show up for 5min. And I had an equally important chai break to attend. So right then it struck me that a standard movie ticket procedure could also work at Bread Talk.

So I went to the Bread Talk counter and waited. "Welcommmmme", all the ladies screamed in unison. I walked up to the least occupied Bread Talk lady in her funny hat.

Like a typical television copy, I stuffed multiple messages and instructions in a 30 second Voiceover: "Hi. I am waiting for my friend here to give him this key. He was supposed to come here at 4pm but hasn't shown up. I thought I could leave my key here and you could hand it to him when you see him. Can?". I flipped out my phone and the pre-selected Varun facebook picture. "This is what he looks like."

She stared at the phone, and then back at me.
"I'm sorry I don't understand."

So I repeated the exact same message. Now spanning 1 minute and zoomed into the picture so she would make no mistake in recognizing Varun. By now, 3 Bread-Talk ladies had heard the speech and seen the picture.

The lady nodded and handed me a paper strip. I wrote down my name and phone number in BOLD letters; Made a box around it and wrote ME. Then in a bigger font I wrote down VARUN and handed it back to her.

"Thank you", I said and walked away towards the chai shop.

It was an excruciating 10 minutes. The tea tasted good, but I kept worrying about poor Varun, lost and wandering around Bread Talk. What if he stood far away and didn't show his face to the ladies? What if he didn't quote my name and was denied the key?

I decided to walk back to Bread Talk, abruptly ending the chai break. Saurabh, the chai break guy, obliged and came along.

The paper was still stuck on the Bread Talk wall. Clearly the plan had flopped.

I approached the same Bread Talk lady again.
"The key please, I don't think my friend is coming", I said.

She pulled out the paper from the wall. She stared at the paper, and then back at me.
"I'm sorry, What's your name?"

"I gave you the key," I said. "Can I have it back?"

She again stared at the paper and then back at me.
"I'm sorry, What's your name?"

"I am Arvind. I gave you the key. My friend isn't here so I want to take the key back."

She again stared at the paper and then back at me.

Words obviously were having no positive effect. And with Saurabh literally pointing fingers and laughing 2 feet away, I wasn't able to craft any other argument.

So I resorted to what was my last weapon. I stretched out my hand, tilted my head, politely stretched out my palm and smiled. The bread talk lady hesitantly placed the key in my hand, as if I would guffaw like a thug and run off.

When a friend visits Singapore next time, I'm going to get him an extra set of keys. Or at least gift him a fake moustache. You might not believe me, but we Indians do look a bit different.


  1. You bwown people ol luk the same to me, la

  2. Why did you lock the house door in the first place??

  3. I think you guys are totally different, it does not look alike !! but this is interesting topic, do you think all the Chinese or all the Japanese look alike ?

  4. HI, i chanced upon your blog and thought you were someone i knew, ha, kidding. Although its true that i chanced upon your blog. so, anyway, coming to the comment: you're right!! we do NOT all look alike, in fact one could probably attribute the entire key confusion to the fact that, may be, just maybe singaporeans lack the ability to tell the difference in our(indians) astonishingly distinct features.

    No offence to any of you singaporean people (i'm only taking the liberty to make such a generalisation, in the light of the above story)

    right. thats it i guess.

    Priya Kadur

  5. Aishwarya Ganeshan says: Great read!
    And how in the world should I contact you? Your fb profile leads to link after link and this was the only way I could write something to you


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Mangalyaan: A Guide to countering Mangal Dosh via Lord Hanuman

#Mangalyaan was a great success , thanks to the countless hours spent by the ISRO scientists who made this happen. Reports state that they prayed to Lord Balaji (Source). To hedge their risks some of them might have also prayed to Lord Hanuman to counter Mangal Dosh (Mars ill-effect) . This Hanuman prayer for protection from Mars may have helped the team enter the orbit of Mars; the jury is out on that one. Speaking of Hanuman, in the recent past there was a bizarre incident regarding an Aadhaar UID which captured people's interest briefly. Let’s talk about that. If you suspect that this #mangalyaan introduction was just a thinly veiled segue to my dated post, you are right…

A few weeks ago we learnt that an Aadhar Card was issued for Lord Hanuman with a legitimate 12 digit ID (news link) The police eventually figured out that this regressive action was conceived by a progressive person named Vikas. His intentions for applying for a fake God ID were not malicious – but rather ste…

A Review of Indian Election Inspired Advertising

It's election season in India for the past few months and the topic has dominated online and offline discussions. And when elections are the central activity / attention of the nation, as a marketeer for FMCG brands, it's quite tempting to plan creatives around the topic during the season. Over late 2013 and 2014, we have seen at least 11 Indian brands which have developed dedicated commercials around the election theme. The categories have been quite diverse from noodles to electrical wires, telecom to vests. Given the marketing investment backing these campaigns, let's try to answer the obvious question: When does it make sense to plan an election themed advertising for your brand?
The role of advertising is to 1) Get a brand noticed and 2) Refresh and improve brand association using distinctive cues. This grows brand mental salience for the consumer and hopefully then grows market share! (source). In addition to the usual advertising principles (where we assess the cre…