Thursday, July 24, 2008

Catching up

I've been away from the laptop for over a week. Checked mails occasionally while traveling, but left Google Reader untouched. Over 270 unread posts...hmm...

I am planning a savage struggle at reading them - relishing some fat bites from the first ones, quickly scouring a majority for fresh meat and rejecting the rest with a 'Mark as Read' button (sans any flushing sound!). The order pretty much underlines my expectations from them.

  1. Dilbert Blog, Sayesha, Basic Instructions and Greatbong for a dosage of quirky humour
  2. Indexed - no explanations needed!
  3. Seth Godin - business, marketing and the power of ideas all encapsulated in his posts
  4. Shared Items from friends - Vivek Malewar, Sandeep Rath, Akshay Mishra & Sudarshan K
  5. DesiPundit
Stuff left unread to be enjoyed later - AtanuDey, Indian Economy, Jabberwock and TheAcorn

In case you aren't acquainted with some of these, do give them a try.

* Firefox handles the links properly using Live Bookmarks. Internet Explorer may spoil the effort. In that case - shame on you for still not using Firefox!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Country Club

Country, in college lingo, means a guy with rough behaviour - flaunting the kind of activity, jokes or language that makes you squirm your nose and wish you weren't around them. College lingo as a set itself is absurd. So I won't bomb you with arbit CP. If this isn't chill, then kaata karo and peace maaro for a while.

Speaking of country personalities, there is an enigmatic person who appears at the end of this 30 second TVC for Country Club. It starts off with consummate cliche' imagery - an urban family of four, laughing and grinning like they are stoned, enjoying family activities throughout the footage with a bit of playful finger-pointing. Thematic words like Victory, Luxury etc are sprinkled in the ad.

Just after the voiceover, he appears out of nowhere.









I thought to myself - Who is he ? Some moronic attention seeking head of the company ? Well, it turns out he is! This man is Y Rajeev Reddy, the CMD of the organization. Today's print ad confirmed my suspicion.

Ad in Sunday Times with credentials (July 13th, 2008)

The media agency must have had a wonderful time, wrestling with him, cutting down his footage to a measley five seconds.

"How about I act like the father, mother and the kid ? You can slap some makeup on me. I don't mind."
"Sir, but the ad is about your travel business - isn't that your priority ?"
"Who is the boss ? Tell me who is the boss!"
"You are the Boss Sir. We'll have you on screen at the end. And you can be yourself in the commercial."
"Woo hoo!"

For building trust and awareness, there is nothing more effective than a rotund leader with a fat moustache, mysteriously grinning and giving a thumbs up sign. I've decided to plan all my fun-family trips from Country Club henceforth, unless the rival firm's head decides to do the chicken-dance.

If you found this man's actions to be embarrassing, there is a South Indian businessman who has surpassed him. If the Country Club guy subtly appeared in the commercial, the other guy's head is branded right in the middle of the company logo.
Meet Mr. Vasanth, owner of Vasanth and Co.
Being a large home appliances retailer in southern states, his business sponsors cookery shows. In the few episodes I happened to catch on DD Podighai, Mr.Vasanth made it a point to be the judge and guest of honour for every episode. He would personally eat up half the screen and slurp the sumptuous dishes accompanied by two sidekicks - A bit of grunting, some valuable tips to the gushing aunties and finally handing over heavy boxes as gifts while grinning at the camera. As the camera focussed on his face, the distinct line around the neck seperating his powdered and natural skin tone really spiced up the show.

I am certain that the same logo is also replicated in larger sizes across all stores. If he could just animate the eyes in the logo to squint and randomly stare in some direction, employee productivity would shoot up. I believe there isn't a better way to be remembered, loved and remind everyone that the boss is keeping an eye on you.

I am truly inspired. After a decade, in an optimistic scenario, I'll invariably be able to bully my media partners to splatter my face in my product commercials. I've already got the grin in place. All I've to do now is to grow a moustache, build a paunch and learn to be country.

Saala &*^^$*!#^

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If you liked this article, you may also like:
- Kyonki Impression ek din mein nahi banta
- D-War: The rebirth of legend

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Checklist for Shifting to Singapore

1. Understand that there are countries other than China and Japan in that area.

2. Buy lots of underwear. They are supposedly very expensive out there and you can never have enough of them.

3. Update Orkut profile to explicity mention a change in location - if possible replace your name with the whole address. Let no doubt remain that you are in foreign land!

4. As soon as possible, get hold of a camera and click a hundred pictures with Singaporean lamp posts, bus stops and large nameless buildings.

5. Post EACH one of those pictures on Orkut and Facebook

6. Be nice to the people of that country (is it a country ?) no matter how funny their name sounds.

7. Splash your ISD phone number in your status message. Maybe, just maybe some loyal friend will call you up.

8. Don't Spit.

Veterans enlightening me further in the next few days will get special South Indian sweets :)
5 days to go. Woo hoo!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

No Sweat, and I am lying

Struggling TV channels usually sell out part of their airtime to Tele-Shopping Networks. These infomercials have a distinct language and tone of their own (Check out the Bingo chips ad, a spoof of this concept since I can't find any original video). A few of these products are spiritual (like feng shui stones, or magnetic bracelets). But majority of them attack the number one problem of the sloppy,belching and lethargic viewers who are even daring to watch the show: Weight Reduction. The devices targeting this problem have become progressively ingenious, promising lesser strain, minuscule effort and BIG results. A product showcased on channel Sanskar yesterday (which has content worth another post in itself!) was the HomeJogger.

The HomeJogger!

It is a white and red plastic contraption equipped with a remote. See those aesthetic red incurvatures ? You lie down and place your ankles on them. Then you let the red platform sway to and fro and pray that it hypnotizes you into believing it has some positive effect on your throbbing bulges. To reinforce their case, they have decided to showcase real people, rather than muscled surreal bodies which you may never even see in your lifetime (forget about owning one!). As testimonials for HomeJogger we have:

1. An average looking yellow tee adorned youngster who presents his perfect inability at enjoying a jog
2. A middle aged saree draped aunty who over her 35 year life has perfected the art of appearing out of breath
3. A female call centre executive - the sanest of the lot
4. The fourth one is the best. He's a pot bellied uncle - with no ordinary pot. This humongous belly is so wild and unfettered, that it had its own independent life. It exuberantly jiggles and sways against the motion of the HomeJogger. When viewed from the feet end of the uncle, the tummy comfortably engulfs his face. His body hair, excited by whole calisthenics stand upright making quite a distasteful appearance.

The persuasive infomercial frequently aims to show these candidates 'enjoying' their stint with the Home Jogger. Their feet seem inconveniently elevated. Still, they manage to hold an expression of distinct amiability and comfort with the situation.

You may question my peaked interest in this device, since they are a dozen variations are out there which too make ill-fated promises. But its the USP of this contraption that seemed enchanting. The jingle goes like this:
Home Jogger se lete lete sehat banaaein
Jeevan ka dushman motapa ghataaein
(Workout using Home Jogger while just lying down, Reduce weight - the Villian of Life)

To improve the believability of their promise, they have decided to mock all other forms of effort and exercise. A few excerpts:
Aap hi bataaiye - aadhi neend se uth kar, joote aur tracksuit pehan kar.... (Who will wake up from a deep slumber, painfully put on a tracksuit and shoes....)
Aur phir paseene ka bhi problem.... (Exercise has an unwanted side-effect of sweat)
Aur aap isse on karke baaki kaam bhi kar sakte hain (at this point, the saree aunty is shown reading a magazine while lying flat, the magazine obediently swaying with her. The words would be a blur to her, but I am sure the pictures are conveying sufficient information)

The hostess of the show appears convinced and motivated while praising the features. I am sure while taking breaks in-between the shoots, she would be convulsing to let out the pent up giggles. The younger techies would be logging on to facebook emoting LMAO and ROFL to their buds. This cheerful, optimistic lady as a child surely must have been a go-getter; An ambitious I-must-reach-the-pinnacle girl. Because you require tremendous resilience to dole out such crap about useless products and yet maintain your sanity.

But I guess I shouldn't be the one mocking - since having entered the field of marketing, I suffer from the same risks too :D

Friday, July 04, 2008

Shantaram


This is not a book review. Else there would have been some fat description of the plot, some detailed appraisal of the characters peppered with criticism. This book is beyond such mortal blogger treatment. Borrowing the words from another review - 'Shantaram is not just a book; it is a sojourn, a spiritual journey into life that shows that even the most complex and powerful systems have at their core a simple and beautiful pattern.'

For those who haven't heard about it - the author of the book is Gregory David Roberts, a convict from the Australian Prison who escaped in the early 80's, landed up in Mumbai en route to Germany. But somehow he felt like staying back in the city for a while. This turned out to more than a decade long adventure - which he transformed into the book Shantaram. The author says that it is not an autobiography, but more of a semi-fiction.

Why is the book called Shantaram?
Why is it 944 pages long?
When did he manage to write all this?

I'll just answer the third question. After staying in India, he left for Germany in early 90's. He managed to join a rock band there! (this isn't a part of the book). Soon after that he was caught and served prison time till 1997. He managed to create 'Shantaram' in those years in prison (1991-97). The prison guards trashed his first two versions (and not through acidic reviews, but by actually destroying them!). He still persisted and completed the book by 2003.

The fact that someone would take pains to capture such details, scribbling experiences on diaries, napkins or small scraps is a testament to the richness of the story. The author caresses even the most mundane aspects with his words, lending some vivid imagery for the reader. For those who have not experienced India, this is as real a description as possible. I am pasting a few short excerpts from the book to prove this point.

A hotel room description : Each of the walls was painted in a different shade of headache green. The ceiling was laced with cracks. The cement floor sloped downwards, with mysterious lumps and irregular adulations, towards the street windows.

He (the waiter) let the bottle tops bounce on the table and fall to the floor, then swished a grimy rag over the wet surface of the table, forcing us to duck and weave as the moisture spilled in all directions.

Bar Description - Mirrors on those pillars, and on much of the free wall space, provided the patrons with one of the bar's major attractions: the chance to inspect, admire, and ogle others in a circumspect if not entirely anonymous fashion. For many, the duplication of their own images in two or more mirrors at the same time was not least among the pleasures of the pastime. Leopold's was a place for people to see, to be seen and to see themselves in the act of being seen.

Railway Station - There was an announcement. It might have been in English. It was the kind of sound an angry drunk makes, amplified through the unique distortions of many ancient, cone-shaped speakers.

On the taxi dashboard he'd installed a plastic shrine to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The gold, pink and green plastic figure of the goddess blazed an alarming fierce expression through the bulbs in her red eyes whenever he hit the brakes of the car.

I'd lost my closest friends in the same week, and with them I'd lost the mark on the psychic map that says You are here. Personality and personal identity are in some ways like co-ordinates on the street map drawn by our intersecting relationships. We know who we are and we define what we are by references to the people we love and reasons for loving them.
The book is a window to life in the slums, to the mafia world, to Bollywood, to religion and philosophy, to an undying spirit. It teaches one how to earn people's trust, their love, the meaning of friendship and the consequences of defying it. I'll end with the opening lines of the book. Being the poetic masterpiece, these few sentences somehow sum up the entire book:

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”

Related Link:
Youtube Interviews of Gregory David Roberts