“Ne” means “Yes”

I had the best experience of joining an organization when I joined Amdocs Development Center in Limassol, Cyprus. There was some confusion in Amdocs making the Appointment Letter reach me through Price Waterhouse. However, once I signed the appointment letter, things were smooth (all most. Adventure never leave me). After the acceptance, I received a letter from Amdocs stating that I needed having a valid Driving License, Tax Clearance from Income Tax Department of India and Police Clearance from the local Police Station.

I had a Driving License from Thailand at that time and did not have an Indian Driving License. I contacted the RTO in Barasat and they told me that I had to apply for a Learner License and wait for 45 days before I could appear for the final test. I contacted an agent and he was very happy to help as I told him that I knew how to drive and did not need lessons in driving. I applied for the Learner License and passed the test. I told Amdocs that instead of joining in Sep00, I would join in Oct00. They agreed. After 45 days, I appeared for the final test and got my license. The agent did all the paper work and I paid him as agreed.

In parallel, Sudipto da got me in touch with Praveen Khemka, who owned a Law firm set up by his father dealing in all Tax related issues. Praveen asked me to get the details of the income tax deposits NIIT had made on my behalf for the year. I approached TPC, who was the head of Finance in NIIT, Calcutta. TPC asked me come after 1 week. When I went after 1 week, I was told that this could not happen till I had completed my full and final settlement. So, I requested for the advancing of my relieving date and after some negotiation relieving was agreed for 08Sep2000. I waited for some time and then went back to the NIIT office. I could no longer enter the office as I was no longer a staff. On one appointed day, I waited in the lobby, smoking cigarettes from 10AM till 7PM before I got the required documents. I rushed to Praveen and gave him the documents. Praveen asked for 3 days. After 2 days, he called me saying that I had to get a refund of around Rs. 40,000 from Income Tax Department. If I did not pursue it right away, he could get the clearance immediately. I thought for some time and told him to get the clearance. Praveen’s father told me that he will try for the best option and let me know. After another 2 days, they called me to tell me that they had got the Tax Clearance. However, they could not get the refund. I was anyway grateful to them. Till date, I have not recovered this Rs. 40,000 from Income Tax Department. I wonder what this amount would be now as the Government is supposed to give interest on such amounts. Praveen’s father has told me that he will fight my case for free to get this amount when I want to push for this. It has been my laziness that I have not pursued this till date. Maybe, I am keeping it as a security with the Government of India.

Also in parallel, I worked on the Police Clearance. For this I requested our neighbour, Nag Kaku. Nag Kaku took me to the Barasat Police Station in his scooter. We waited outside the Officer-in-Charge’s office for some time before we were called inside. Nag Kaku requested the OC for the clearance certificate and explained that I had got an appointment abroad. The OC told me to meet the Inspector and he would do the needful. So, we went to the Inspector. The Inspector asked for the appointment letter. He started to turn the pages and asked me what was the salary. I told him 72,000 per year. He said that is all. I said that it was what the company was ready to give. He told me to give a paper and a pen. I said that I did not have one. He told me that there was a shop outside the Police Station and I could get it from there. I went to the shop and purchased one ream of paper and one Reynolds pen (Buying the pen was a stroke of genius). I returned and gave the ream of paper and the Reynolds pen to the Inspector. He told me to tear one paper from the ream. I did so. He told me to fold a small part on the left side of the paper. I did that. He told me to fold a small part on the top of the sheet. I did so. He explained that this was the ways to create the margin. He asked me to write the certificate. He started with “To Whomsoever It May Concern”. I wrote what he dictated. After I had finished, he asked me to paste my photograph. I did so. He then asked me to give the paper and the pen to him. I gave him the paper and the Reynolds pen. He asked for the rest of the ream to keep under the certificate. I gave it to him. Then he had a long hard stare at my face. He said that he could not remember seeing me in any incidence and so he would sign the certificate. He signed the certificate and then put the seal. He gave the certificate to me and kept the rest of the ream and the Reynolds pen in his drawer. He told Nag Kaku that for so little salary this guy was going abroad. He elaborated whether there were there no jobs in India? I thanked him and left the Police Station. I mention the Reynolds Pen so many time because in my pocket I had my Cross Pen, which was 18 carat gold coated. From that day, I do not carry anything valuable to the Police Station. I would prefer going in shorts and a vest if I have it my way. I am confused till date whether US $72,000 per annum was a small salary in the year 2000.

On 02Oct2000, I boarded the flight to Delhi. From the Airport, I went to Hotel Priya Continental in Vasant Vihar. I was given a single room. I was asked to meet at 8:00 AM in the restaurant for breakfast. I was on time. I met the coordinator from PWC and she introduced me to another 33 members who were joining Amdocs in that batch. 29 of them were fresh college graduate from Vivekananda College in Bombay. The remaining 4 were experienced – Bala from Chennai, Vinod from Bombay, Mahesh from Delhi and Nilesh from Bombay. So, I had 33 new friends. After breakfast, we were taken to Hotel Maurya Sheraton. We underwent 2 day workshop on etiquettes. We were taught how to use the spoon and the fork and the napkin. We were taught how to drink the soup, how to talk while dining, how to start a small talk, etc. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. There was a prizes if someone knew the correct etiquette before it was taught and I was grabbing many Five Stars. All the students from Vivekananda College soon aligned with me and I mixed with them like water in milk. Soon, they declared that I was to be the leader of the group. This could have been also because I had the highest designation in the team and I was the eldest in the team and I was the only one who was the father of 2 kids.

Next day, we all went to the Cyprus Embassy and got our visa stamped. We were all set. In the evening, we went to the Indira Gandhi International Airport and boarded the Gulf Air flight. We changed plane at Bahrain and landed in Larnaca in the afternoon at about 1 PM. Larnaca is an ancient airport. It was like what I had seen in Tintin comics. We got down from the plane and walked to the terminus. We formed a line in front of the Immigration Officer. The team was asked to stand in separate line. I was carrying a letter and a list provided by PWC which was to be given to the Immigration Officer. While we formed ourselves, I saw a very beautiful lady coming in my direction. She was a stunning beauty. She had short skirts on and a netted top which transformed her from being a beauty to being a sex bomb. My mind was blown and I was not able to apprehend why she was walking in my direction. I had read that Cyprus was the land of Aphrodite and here was Aphrodite in person. The lady reached me and extended her hand. I was in a daze. I managed to extend my hand as well and shake hands with her. She introduced herself as Aristi Savva (See, I have not forgotten the name even after so many years).

Aristi took the papers from me and asked me to follow her. I followed her. We went to the Immigration Officer. He took the papers and started going through the same. Aristi went back to our line and collected all the passports. She handed over the bunch to the Immigration Officer. The Immigration Officer stamped all the passports and we all entered Cyprus. We walked out of the Terminal and were taken to a bus. All our luggage was lined up in front of the bus. We identified our luggage and confirmed that everything was in order. We all boarded the bus and were on our way to Limassol. I sat on the first row of seats next to the door. Aristi sat next to me on the other side of the aisle. The bus started. Aristi started by asking about the journey. I replied to her and gradually came out of my daze. I also recalled that I had a beautiful wife and 2 lovely daughters back in India. All this while, I had not noticed Alex, who was the Administration Manager. Alex came over from behind the bus and joined our talk. We had a wonderful drive to Limassol and I was already settled in Cyprus.

We arrived in Limassol and were lodged in Hotel Lordes. It was a small boutique hotel. However, it was very comfortable and my room was fairly big. After I had settled down, I heard someone calling my name. I went to the window and saw Sudeshna with her daughter on the porch. Sudeshna was my senior in NIIT and was one of my managers in the Assam Company project. I was so delighted to see her. I rushed down to meet her. I did not know that she was married and had a daughter. It was a very pleasant surprise. Sudeshna took me to her house which was a little away from the Hotel. She treated me to dinner consisting of Salmon and other delicacies.

The next day we went to the office in a bus provided by the company. The office was not very far from the Hotel. (After a few days, I realised that Limassol was a very small town.) We were first taken to the canteen on the first floor of the office building. I found an elaborate arrangement for breakfast. The canteen itself was huge. While we had settled down with our breakfast at our tables, Veena asked for all our attention. Veena introduced herself as the HR Manager and requested our attention to the welcome address by the Managing Director, Mr. Artzi Benkujari. Artzi came on the floor and welcomed all of us. He then shook hands with each of us and we introduced ourselves. Then we finished our breakfast.

After breakfast, we were taken to a room. I took a seat in the last row. After we had settled down, Veena came and outlined the plans for the day. First, she brought the representatives from Bank of Cyprus. The bank representatives got each of us to fill the needed forms so that they could open 2 accounts – one account in local currency and another account in US Dollars. After the bank work was over, Veena got our joining advises. We all went through the same and signed wherever required. I had to sign an extra form as the company gave me 1,000 shares at the rate of US $64.16 as a part of the contract. After we had finished this, we were told to go to the lobby and meet the Car Dealers and the Real Estate agents.

I first went to the Real Estate agent. I found a very attractive lady (again) named Yota and she told me that she had a 3 bedroom apartment owned by a lawyer very close to the office. I told her that we could go and see the same. Yota took me in her car to the apartment. The apartment was on the first floor. It had 3 bedrooms and 1 huge drawing-room with dining space, a huge kitchen with a small dining  area, a huge store and only one toilet. The apartment was fully furnished and the furniture was very attractive. I instantly liked the apartment. It was 10 minutes’ walk to the office. The beach was 100 meters away. The Limassol Park was on the opposite foot of the apartment. Yota told me that the rent was 260 Cyprus Pounds and I would need giving 1 month rent as advance. I accepted. Yota told me that she would complete the paper work in the evening and fix up a time next morning to have the formalities completed with the house owner. All was settled. As I came out of the apartment door, I met another beautiful lady. She introduced herself as Nota. She told me that she was a Secretary in Amdocs. Nota told me that her mother stayed on the second floor of the building just above the apartment I had just seen. She took us to her mother’s apartment and introduced me to her mother. Mrs. Kordounis arranged for Tea and Snacks for us. Shortly after, we thanked Mrs. Kordounis and Yota dropped me at the office.

On return, I joined the rest of the team at the canteen and we had lunch. The lunch was also elaborate with Western Counters, Indian Counters and Greek Counters. After lunch, I went back to the lobby and met Mr. Yannagis and Stephanos. They took me to their garage. There are lots of cars in an open space. I was amazed. I went through the cars and selected a Green Colour Fully Automatic Honda Civic. The car was 2 years old and was driven by one owner for 20,000 KMs. They took me for a test drive. I was very happy. We came back to their office. They said that the price was US $ 3,500. I liked the car and I was to get US $ 9,000 as car allowance. So, I did not think or negotiate and agreed to buy it. We signed all the papers. Yannagis told me that they would service the car and make it ready by next evening. It was okay for me as I could not have taken it in any case till I moved into the apartment. Stephanos dropped me to the office. I went to Administrative Department and submitted the papers. Aristi told me that they would transfer the US $ 9,000 the moment they had the bank account details from the Bank of Cyprus along with the advance salary. I went to the canteen and had Tea and Snacks. I chatted with my batch mates and exchanged our progress. Most of them were still not settled yet. The juniors had to work out sharing agreements as they could not afford individual apartments. They would not buy a car as it was not part of their entitlements. I decided to walk back to the Hotel. I enjoyed the walk along the beach. On the way, I went to Woolworth and bought a few essentials. I had dinner in the adjoining McDonald and went to sleep.

Next day, I went to the office by walk. I had something to eat before I started. On reaching office, I found that right next to our room, there was a kitchenette and it was loaded with lots of food. One of the older members told me that every floor had a kitchenette. There was nothing planned for us that day as people were given time to complete their housing and car requirements. At around, 10 AM, Aristi came to our room along with the bank representatives. They gave us our Cheque Books and Debit Cards. Aristi told us that the money as required was transferred to the accounts.

At around 2 PM, Yota came to the office. She took me to the apartment. There I met Mrs. Hadjisotirou. Mrs. Hadjisotirou took us to the apartment. We engaged in a talk. After that Mrs. Hadjisotirou told me that she accepted me as her tenant and handed me the keys. I told her I had to withdraw the money from the bank and give her the advance and the first month’s rent. She said I could go with her and we could finish this. Mrs. Hadjisotirou took me in her car to the town centre. She took me to the Electricity Office. She transferred the electric meter to my name. After that she took me to the Telephone office and transferred the telephone to my name. Near the Telephone Office, I found a ATM and withdrew money and gave it to Mrs. Hadjisotirou. She dropped me to the office. Back in the room, Alex met me and handed me my phone along with the SIM card and the ID cum access card. The first call I made was to Mr. Yannagis. We agreed that Mr. Yannagis would come to the office with the car and give me the keys and collect the cheque. At around 5:30 PM, I had the car. I drove to the apartment and parked it my slot. I went to the apartment and had a glance through everything and decided that I would shift in that same night.

As I came out of the building, I found Mrs. Kordounis on the footpath with a lot of shopping bags. I went to her and asked her if I could help her carry the same. She said “Ne”. It sounded like “No” to me. I was surprised and did not touch her bags. I started walking away when I saw that her expression was changing to show discomfort. Soon, she took control of the situation. She gestured to me to come back. I walked back. She told me that in Greek “Ne” means “Yes” and “Ohi” means “No”. I had got my first lesson in Greek language. Very happy with myself, I carried her bags to her apartment and then shifted in that night.


Aphrodite (Photo credit: Ian Muttoo)

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