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Call centres, love life don't mix

August 31, 2004

They have changed the way youngsters earn, giving them the flying start that only (and probably) an IIT graduate could dream of. They have changed their eating and sleeping patterns.

Now, the industry sources and psychiatrists fear call centres are changing the way the young business process outsourcing industry executives view commitment in relationships.

"People are shying off from making a commitment towards long-term relationships and acceptability of short-term arrangements has increased by large. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that both men and women are equally inclined to go into a relationship without making any commitment," says Rajiv Kotnala, manager at a leading BPO.

While Animesh Upadhyaya, a BPO executive, believes commitment is a subjective issue and varies from person to person, he agrees that cases of relationships taking a back seat are on a rise.

He blames odd work hours for this chaos in personal life.

"You can take an example as simple as making a commitment to meet someone on a particular day. You make a promise but in-between, your shift changes. You are left with no choice but to call it off. Such situations arise often," he says.

"The problem worsens if you are staying with your family," he continues, "on work days your family hardly gets to see you, so obviously they want to spend time with you on your off days. You get stuck between your work and social obligations, with hardly anytime to carry on with a relationship."

Insiders say an increasing number of people are taking refuge in short-term relationships with a tacit understanding that they need not make a life-long commitment to each other.

Karishma Pandit, another call centre executive, elaborates: "To give you an idea of what the emerging scenario is I can very safely say that many a times a relationship is only as long-lasting as a particular shift. Your partner changes with your roster."

Dr Jitendra Nagpal, a psychiatrist at Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS), explains: "Most call centre agents are in an age group of 18-25, youngsters who want to make a fast buck. They do not want to attach any relationship tags at this age, but since work environment is so cohesive they cannot resist Cupid's arrow."

Although those involved in short-term relationships argue that there is nothing wrong in having 'walk-out-when-it's-comfortable' arrangement, as both the partners enter the relationship knowing the terms and conditions, the psychoanalysts refuse to buy such an argument.

"It is unhealthy to break a relationship abruptly even if both the partners pre-decide to 'walk-out-when-its-comfortable' because after the relationship is called off one person might come out of it while the other hasn't severed the bond yet," says Dr Sameer Parikh, a psychiatrist at Max Healthcare.

Psychiatrists believe the tendency to not-to make long-term commitments stems from bio-chemical hormonal changes that occur in body of an individual due to erratic sleep-awake pattern.

"Working in irregular night shifts disturbs the sleep-awake pattern of a person. Add to it the stress generated due to lack of socialising. All these factors have an overbearing on a person's day-to-day behaviour," says Dr Parikh.

"Not wanting to keep a long-term relationship is a reflection of changing psyche of a person, which is not healthy," he says and he admits more and more couples from call centres are coming for psychiatric aid as their marital life is suffering.

The reason for this, he cites out, is that they do not get to spend quality time with each other.

Dr Nagpal differs slightly as he says, "more than being together all the time it is important to know the value of missing each other in a marital relationship."

He, however, agrees with Dr Parikh that it is unhealthy to go into 'walk-out-when-its-comfortable' flings and says, "if expectations run high and one of the partners becomes possessive, the relationship might end up in fights, anger, resentment and, at times, even crimes originating from passion.

He does not rule-out repercussions like suicidal tendencies if one of the partners has high expectations out of a relationship while the other believes in hop and skip flings.

With mounting deadline pressures, erratic sleep patterns, and a drive to achieve-it-all stress is becoming a reality.

Shying off from commitments in relationships is an offshoot that not only reflects rising anxiety levels of an individual, but also threatens to wear out the social fabric of society, psychiatrists say.

-- PTI

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