The adventures of quota guy

Did you hear about the guy whose entire life seemed to be running on the quota system? To many outsiders, he appeared to be getting an easy ride through life, enjoying more than his rightful quota of happiness.

Humor Column2 His high school grades were nothing special –- he earned mostly ‘B’s –- but he somehow managed to convince his parents that ‘A’ stood for ‘Average’ and ‘B’ for ‘Brilliant.’

They rewarded him with a video game system, purchased with the bonus his father had received at the factory for exceeding the monthly production quota.

His parents weren’t surprised when their “brilliant” son gained admission to one of the top universities in the country. It helped, of course, that he came from a disadvantaged community, one that was vastly under-represented at the university, making him eligible not just for a quota, bTicket-quota-signut also a quota within a quota. And the university, as a result, was able to collect its annual quota of government grants.

Soon after graduation, he got married and landed a job with a multinational company that prided itself in having an original employment policy, hiring and promoting people based partly on their origins. Sometimes he performed his job well and his boss would say to the human resources director, “We need to promote him. He’s quite a guy.” Other times he did his job poorly and his boss would say to the human resources director, “We need to promote him. He’s quota guy.”

About three years and two promotions later, he decided to move to America and received a job offer from a Boston firm called Gupta & Daughters Inc. But when he tried to apply for an H-1B visa, a lawyer gave him the bad news: the government’s annual quota for foreign workers had been filled. “Try again next year,” the lawyer said. “Just don’t wait until February.”

Luckily a friend told him that immigrating to Canada was much easier. Thanks to his university degree, he had no trouble qualifying under the federal quota for English-speaking skilled workers with no medical conditions.

He and his wife arrived in the country bursting with optimism for a better life. But after months of submitting applications, he was unable to get a job in his field. To pay the rent, he reluctantly accepted a position at an electronics store, trying in vain to meet the weekly sales quota by convincing customers that buying a high-def TV without a Blu-ray player was like buying rice without dal.

Still looking at employment ads, he spotted the perfect opening at a telecom company and quickly submitted an application by email. But he didn’t hear from the company and realized that his email account wasn’t working properly. “You need to delete some of your old emails and files,” the man at the Internet service company told him. “You’ve exceeded your disc quota.”

Driving home from work the next day, he was pulled over by a police officer and slapped with a $150 speeding ticket. “But officer,” he complained, “I was only 5 km over the speed limit.” The officer just shrugged and walked away, saying to himself, “Great. I finally made my quota.”

His wife was sympathetic. She didn’t lecture him about the ticket, just patted him on the back. But when he joined her in bed that night and began to kiss her passionately, she reached for her copy of Oprah magazine.

“Sorry dear,” she said. “You already got your quota for the month.”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Good one, Melvin. How’s the book coming along ?

  2. Thanks, Mosi. The book is coming out in July.

  3. Jasmaine Payne says:

    Just wanted to say i love your work, whats the quota on how many times you’ve heard that? 🙂 I’m rookie journalist who was just offered a column due to the potential they saw in my style of writing ( which admittedly was inspired by you) enough babbling.. what do i have to do to talk to you exclusively?

  4. Manoharan says:

    Bro Melvin,
    I live in a country that imposes the quota system on just about anything – especially on the minority Indians.
    Your article is a great fodder….thought provoking, hilarious and I’m gonna use these ammo on my Member of Parliament when he visits my consistuency.

  5. Thanks, Jasmaine. I just sent you an email.
    Manoharan, I’ll know whom to blame when my columns are banned in Malaysia. 🙂

  6. Anto Giscard says:

    Good one..

  7. NotIndian says:

    Well, your style of comedy doesn’t usually crack me up, I might just smile every now and then, but it’s still sort of amusing.

  8. NotIndian, thanks for reading. Sorry I failed to crack you up. I guess I’ll have to try harder next time.

  9. Hi Melvin,
    The Canadian part of the blog sounds like deja vu. I have heard a first hand experience of struggle from a close friend. I guess, it is the story of most immigrants to Canada.
    Good read.

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