Ape America!

Today, I was at the Bangalore office of a Technology Solutions company. The office is located in central Bangalore in a tall building in a busy area. The company is a fairly popular one, headquartered in New Jersey, USA. So, I think it is reason enough to believe  (without any prejudice) that they tend to adhere to American standards and follow American practices. I was there to meet a friend’s friend who brought back for me, the phone I forgot and left behind during my visit to the US earlier this year.

I walked in to the building, towards the security desk (which also did the job of a reception desk) and asked them where the lift was. He said, “which office maám?” I told him that I did not know what the name of the company is and I know for certain that I need to get to the 6th floor. The man refused to give me any directions unless I told him which company I want to go to. I made a call and found out. I was going to company ‘N’. He showed me way. I took the lift and reached the 6th floor.

I was met by another security official there who asked me, rather politely, what I was there for. I told him that I was there to meet this particular Gentleman. He asked me to record my details in a register. The columns it had are: Name, where from, who to meet, official/ personal, mobile number, time in, time out and signature. I filled my name without last name or even initials. I left the ‘where from’ column empty. I wrote the person’s name that I was there to meet and marked it personal. I filled the time in details and nothing else. I signed my initials at the end.

In the mean time, the security official was filling some form. He asked me where I was from. I asked what he means and he said ”Are you from Bangalore”? I said yes and he wrote that on the form. He then filled in details of time in and handed me the form and told me in no uncertain terms that I need to get that signed by the person I was here to meet.

Immediately after, he asked me if I had a phone. Well, yes. He asked me to switch it off. I looked at him thinking “I was going to meet someone for not more than 2 minutes”. He then asked me if there was a camera in my phone. Damn, yes. It had to be switched off. He opened the door and led me in. He asked me to wait and left the scene. I met whom I was there to meet and left the place. The security official promptly took back everything that he gave me and let me go.

After giving you every little detail of the procedure that company followed, I have a few questions the answers to which will substantiate my argument that we are brainlessly following American procedures without any thought of adapting it for the Indian milieu.

Firstly, what could possibly be the reason they are asking for my details? Security, may be? In case I take away some valuable information from the company, they will know who I am? Or may be in case I bomb the place, they can find me? Or may be just to keep track of who is visiting who? In all these cases (or any other, as the case may be) they will NOT be able to track my identity. Even under the assumption that I gave all my original details, with only my first name and my city of residence, it is highly unlikely they will be able to find me. Even if they had a picture of mine recorded on their CCTV system, they can NOT get too far.

Next, what is with my phone being switched off? If I intended to take pictures of the place, would I not have a hidden camera in my bag? Or even a pen camera in my pocket? Will I try to conspicuously use my phone? Or do they have their confidential information at the reception desk that I am going to text to a competitor? What’s the logic yo?

Finally, if I had given them false details, how are they to know?

The point I am making here is not the futility of taking visitors’ details. I am not so disillusioned to think no details need to be recorded. But, I do insist on doing it right if there is anything to be done. If you want my name, why not ask me for ID? For reference, why not take down my licence number or any such detail that would establish my ID (very likely I would not want to give you that). But, in case I was a terrorist or a traitor, you would at least know who I am. Why not do it electronically so that I can be searched for in a database, if need be? If it is a discipline issue, to see how many employees have how many visitors, wouldn’t this make more sense?

Are we just following the West? A name and location combination is the States or the UK would generate reasonable search results that can be worked on to find me. In Bangalore, I bet one cannot find my details unless I am already in Police records. In such a case, shouldn’t we at least do a complete job of what we intend to do?