Monday, March 20, 2006


I watched Wide Angle's (PBS) documentary on outsourcing and the call center industry (1-800-India) last night, and let me just say, many a scene was cringe-worthy. The film does well in focusing on one operation - GECIS, in Gurgaon - instead of attempting to map the call center industry in multiple cities in India. The film also does well in approaching the call center industry as one that has transformed urban life in many, many tangible ways (leisure/entertainment, housing, food, transport, shopping, and so on). But what could've been an interesting examination of contemporary urban India ended up being a stereotypical take on the "effects" call center jobs have had on the young women who make up nearly half the workforce.

While some of the stories rung true, for the most part, the discussion was framed in terms of women in India being "liberated" and finding a sense of "gender equity" thanks to their call center jobs which have forced their friends and families to rethink gender norms. And lest the womens' stories allow any ambivalence to creep in, the voiceover ensures you interpret the documentary correctly: it is about Indians having to "balance traditional Indian family values with Western-style social and economic mores" (Wide-Angle). Tiring.


  • have you seen this? - I have not seen 1-800-India, but the 'voice of god' telling me how "liberated" urban young Indian women are definitely prevents its inclusion in my Netflix queue. "Tiring"- Amen!-swati

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/21/2006 7:02 AM  

  • swati - yes, I saw last night and that too was tiring, but in a different way. It was ok - funny in parts. But the last frame - the image of an African man in traditional tribal garb, spear and all, taking a call on a cell phone spoiled it for me.

    By Blogger Aswin, at 3/21/2006 11:35 AM  

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