Saturday, July 10, 2010

Books again..

After a longish break -- again back to books and writing. Picked up "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" and it became yet another book which I could not keep down once I started reading it. Fast paced, with a monologue styled writing, concepts of ideologies, identity, strong undercurrent of nostalgia in the first half, this book for me rates better than "Moth Smoke", which incidentally is another on my favs list.

Finished "The Middlemen" by Sankar. A moving read in terms of a realistic portrayal of unemployment in Calcutta during the 70's. The author, in the epilogue also gives the inspiration that went into writing this book, his inner emotional dilemma of depicting the bleak situation pessimistically as is versus his duty as a writer to bring the reality to the public.

Have now picked up Chowringhee by the same Author. Next on my reading list!

Tall Claims?

The Maharashtra FDA has taken a popular health drink maker to court over the advertisement for their health drink which claims that children who drink it grow taller by 2 inches than children who don't.
I have always been irritated by this advertisement and have often wondered why no rival company had created a ruckus over such an exaggerated advertisement and often wished someone would interfere to take these people to task for such baseless claims. If they indeed have "research reports" to back their claims I wonder what it would contain?!
Would they have had 2 identified groups of children one group who were regularly given the drink and the other one not, over a period of years? If yes, how did they neutralize any biases when selecting these groups? Did the children in the first group have tall parents compared to those in the second group, were they from any specific regions of the country, how was it known that they did not take any other health supplements etc etc...As much as I try I cannot conceptualize a bias-free study which could give this result...and hence my irritation at ads like these.....
It remains to be seen what the company's response in this case is.

Aside/Is it only me who feel that off late, all SRK ads are big disappointments? the bear one...the paste one...really really unoriginal and with no TOMR.

Loved the new NIIT ad though. Superb visuals.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fav Ads

I have always been interested in ads. When I was doing my ISB, although I was more inclined towards Finance, the thought of taking up a role in branding / advertising was always there at the back of my mind and this was one reason why I wanted a dual major in Marketing. Just to keep the options open :) but I landed in Finance nevertheless and so now I keep my interest in this area by closely following the ad scene in the visual media.
So on one particularly lazy day when I didn’t want to go play badminton and didn’t want to read any of the 3 half read books lying on my couch and didn’t want to write also ( :-( ), I decided to list down some of my favourite ads from the last year. And here they are…in no particular order!
1. Coke classic: Simply classic, one of those ads where there is no story/message/brand utility..nothing. It’s just cool! :)
2. Surf excel (The ‘Rosy Miss’ ad): For an ad for a detergent, it famously proclaimed “dirt is good” whereas the competitors was doing the age old formula of “removes dirt/makes perfect white/as good as new/etc etc”.
3. Mentos Dadhoo ad: Superb idea / graphics and very effective in TOMR for the viewers.
4. Limca Sushma Reddy ad: Very vibrant, playful & backed by an excellent jingle.
5. Tata tea (kyun ki hum khilate hain): Important message comes across superbly to the target audience.
6. Hindustan times (“Its time to stop” series): It’s so rare to find an ad which is message oriented and with a sense of humour!
7. Hero Honda ZMR: The Hrithik ad, just for the execution of the ad; superb and stylish.
8. Airtel (Abhay Deol & Raima Sen): Very cute & romantic! Was intended to connect at an emotional level with the audience and it hits the right spot!
9. Wild Stone aqua deo ad: Just for Sheetal Malhar :) I mean is there any other ad which is this sexy without being vulgar?!
10. Nescafe ads: Has a very feel good factor to them. You actually feel like having a Nescafe after seeing them!
11. Airtel (Kid with toy phone calling dad): Very endearing one and the kid does a really nice job!
12. Bingo ad (the chilli flavour): Too good an acting by the girl…and what an idea!!
13. Max New York life insurance ad: This ad makes you sit up and think “this could happen to me”.
14. Volkswagen beetle ad: Captures the desirability quotient superbly.
15. Zoozoo ads: Well what more can be told of these? :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An "Idiot"ic Thought?

So all of us saw ‘3 idiots’ and loved it! And I am no exception. If I enjoyed a movie, I don’t believe in sitting and trying to poke holes in it just for the sake of writing a review. It is after all a movie and not real life and there are bound to be creative liberties taken by the makers in the process of putting together something which enthrals millions of movie goers and behind which goes hell a lot of effort. A critic, on the other hand, has his job easy – watch the movie and tear it apart.
No. that would be quite harsh. And besides, all critics are not like that! That’s not the point of this post anyways.
It was heartening that one of the most important & concerning aspect of technical education in our engineering colleges was highlighted and articulated quite well in the movie. I consider myself lucky to be alumni of one such premier institute and even though I am proud of that fact, I have often felt that the way in which we were learning stuff there was not the best possible way. We used to cram up heat and mass transfer text books, vomit out whatever we learnt by rot in the answer paper and then forget about it. (I had cribbed about this in one of my earlier posts too). That message has been captured quite well in this movie and it helps in terms of reaching a larger audience when the same is an integral part of a super star’s movie.
But I felt that there was something else which bothered me about the movie. So here it is, trying to put that thought into words without really intending to “review” the movie.
It was another theme of the movie – the one on “Chasing your dreams”. On the silver screen, it looks good when the hero gets to follow his dream but the moot question here is, how many of us, at the age of 17 (when we are about to enter an engineering college) know what we really want to do in life? Do we have that much clarity at that age? And even if we have clarity, how many of us have the liberty and freedom to follow them? I might look stupid admitting this but if I had told my dad that I wanted to be an author and not an engineer after my class 12, he would have beat me with a cane to the engineering college door. (Ok..It was not that bad…but you get the point right?).
My view is that, at 17 years old, our idea of what we want to be in future is probably not the result of a well thought of and practical approach to life but considerably influenced by things like hero worship, peer pressure etc which often has a big role to play. It is the responsibility & prerogative of parents to guide us at that stage to equip ourselves with a basic degree which can then act as a backup plan in life if our dreams evade us and to that extent, R Madhavan’s (character’s) outburst of “I don’t want to do engineering …..because I know I won’t be a good engineer” did not cut slack with me. You get done with engineering and then pursue your passion but don’t say you are bad at engineering (and hence at clearing your exam papers) because your dream is something else. Doesn’t work in real life baby!
And again, on the other point of even if somebody is damn sure that his passion is X and not Y, how many can really afford to follow their passion in this country? I mean in the movie it was very convenient that Madhavan’s character who is from a fairly well to do middle class background wants to follow his passion of photography whereas Sharman Joshi’s character who is struggling hard to support his family is happy getting any job from the campus.
But what if it was the other way around? Would have been a tough (& probably implausible/impractical) situation if SJ’s character didn’t want to take up any job but instead wanted to take on photography?
Something worth thinking?

Rain, Music & a cup of hot Tea

Imagine it’s a day off from work and you are lazing around at home…its raining heavily outside and its evening 3 pm. You are sitting by the window side looking at the heavy downpour coming down hard on the small tin roof over the window shades and the tiny drops trickling down through the perforations in the tin sheet. You see little kids on the road, wearing raincoats those colored ones with cure little cartoons on them, walking back from the bus stop after being dropped by school buses, splashing water on each other, their laughter and squeaks drowned out by the rains. Buses pass by splashing the water collected in the puddles on the road on to the passers by, whose response to the same varies depending on their age. The elderly ones continue walking without noticing it in their concentrated effort to hold on to their umbrellas which flay wildly in the windy rains. The young ones are delighted when water splashes at them and smile with genuine joy…and the middle agers, angry at impudence of the bus drivers, break into an abuse….
You take in the beauty of the rain…a new book by your favorite author is lying in front of you
, waiting to be picked up. But you think, not yet…you want to just sit there, look at the rains and be lost in their dance from the sky……there is a cup of piping hot tea in front of you and a plate of kela (banana) bajji (Samosas if you are a north Indian! Or Dhoklas if you please ;-) )
What would be some songs that you would like to play in the background in such a beautiful setting?
I asked some of my close friends to share what are the songs that come to their mind…and some of them did. Here is the list (incl. mine).
v Badi sooni sooni hai
v Tere bina zindagi mein koi
v Neele neele ambar par
v Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain
v Rim Jhim Gire Sawan
v Neele neele ambar par
v Ye ladka hai allah kaisa hai deewana
v Main zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya
v Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko
v Dekha ek khwab to yeh silsiley huve
v Mere naina saawan baadon
v Kabhie kabhie mere dil
v Chandan sa badhan
v Ik pal hai jeena umeed ke bina aao hum is pal mein kho jayen
v Raah pe chalte hain ratoin mein basar karte hain
v Us din ki baat hai ramayiaa naav leke sagar gaya
v Rajnigandha
v Yeh dil sun raha hai

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ISB, IIM and More....!!

Before you go ahead and read the “interesting” article (the link for which is given below in the post), I would like to submit the following.
1. I do not think ISB and IIM’s can be compared because they cater to different target segments (yikes! Why am I talking in marketing parlance?).
2. I have immense respect for IIM and their alumni. Many of my friends/batch mates from REC have gone to IIM’s and these are some of the smartest people I know.
3. IIM alumni should be (and are) proud of the fact that at least 9 of the top 10 corporates in this country would possibly have an IIM alumni in their Top Management.
4. ISB alumni should be (and are) proud of the fact that in a short span of 8 years, ISB has created a reputation for excellence and is recognized among the top b-schools worldwide by FT.

For me, everybody is free to have their personal view on which management institute is better than another and so I see this article as just another view...without any offence to anybody. Period.
Now, read this article.
The article purportedly is about how ISB is better than IIM’s but after reading the article I felt (did you?) that the title should have been “Why IIPM is better than ISB and IIM?”!!!!!!!
One of the sentences goes like this.
Quote “.....fact that ISB got ranked at No.15 by FT ahead of the IIMs and that in the latest Zee Business B-school Ranking 2009, IIPM got ranked No.1 in ‘Global Exposure’ and No 5 in India overall, is only a sign of the times to come” Unquote.
I mean...really!? By speaking about both these incidents in the same breath, is it intended that both these events have the same significance? And if yes, the rankings of both these entities carry equal credibility? I don’t know and I don’t want to know!
Another one.
Quote “…in the case of a B-school professor who doesn’t have practical experience, the crowning grace then is about how much management consulting work he undertakes……. While IIM professors are, on an average, good……….” Unquote.
This point is justified by some research done among the alumni on how many professors they rate as very good/good etc and if there is some research on actual management consulting work undertaken by the professors from the IIM’s, the same is not shared.
Anyways….all said and done, read the comments at the end of the article. Some of them are absolute gems! Read on…have a laugh!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A beautiful Smile & X-mas Cheer

The cheer was missing.
In spite of it being one of my favorite month (and week) of the year, in spite of having a 4 day weekend and in spite of finally getting back to my writing and blogging, the cheer was plainly missing. It did not help that my family was back in Kerala and the plane tickets were costing a bomb.Suddenly i was missing being back home at this time of the year.

On my way to office in the blue A/C bus (yeah..ok the 'purple' A/C bus!) yesterday, i tried hard to figure out my dipped enthusiasm. Yes, the happenings at office were..hmm to put it mildly, "unsettling"..and i didnt have a clue as to where my career was going in the next 6 months. There were things on which i was pinning my hopes on which were not working my way. The only relief was that i was now getting myself to write again..but not quite as much as i would have liked to and so even this was not able to bring a smile to my face.Watching 3 idiots with friends was fun, but somehow the smile was already gone by the time we came out of the theatre. On my way back home in the taxi, i suddenly had this scary thought "My god, why is nothing making me smile these days? Am i really becoming "Mr Grumpy"?

The roads were empty because of the holiday and this time the extravagant decorations were missing out from the malls, shops & the roads. The taxi came to a stop at a red signal. The window glass was down and i was listening to an ustad sultan khan song when there was a tap on the window. I looked out and saw first not the guys face, but the cover of a book which he was holding out to me"
"saab...dekhlo saab...accha book hai..ekdum bestsheller...". "The three states" the bright red pirated paperback proclaimed.
"yeah right" i thought. Already restless that i was, this unsolicited literary advice didnt go down well with me and i shooed the guy away.
I had just about sat back and closed my eyes, wanting to be soothed by the voices of the ustaad and KS Chitra when there was again a tap on my window.I opened my eyes irritated and angry for being again disturbed...and looked out. And saw her.

She was probably 6 years old. She was wearing a rag of a dress and was holding on to a bunch of threads from which rose a bunch of bright multicolored balloons.Her hair was matted and unkempt, the result of not being washed for probably days and she had a slight cleft lip. But what stuck me the most about her was her eyes. There were bright and round and i thought it was ironical that god had given her such a wretched life but inspite of it, her eyes were full of life. Or was this also a sleight of hand by that great magician?
"do gubbara lelo sahib...10 rupaya".
The signal had turned green and the taxi driver had shifted the gear and was about to move. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him for a minute and looked back at her.
"ek tho lelo sahib...bhook lagi hai...vada pav khane ka".
I felt a tug at my heart and without thinking anymore , took out a 100 rupee note from my purse and gave it to her and asked her for 1 balloon. She handed over the end of a thread from which a single red big balloon was suspended and looked at me with confusion, holding the 100 rupee note in her hand. I then told her gently that she should go and get a decent meal with the money.

Before my moved away from the signal, i saw the girl's face break into a smile. A beautiful perfect smile. A smile that seemed to light up the entire surrounding, a smile so genuine which you get to see ever so rarely these days. Suddenly that odd realization which often strikes us but then is lost in our busy day today came to me..that here was a 6 year old who was happy and smiling at the thought of a full meal where we, inspite of having so much in life, sometimes lose perpsective and despair over materialistic things. How childish were my worries compared to hers?
The taxi was now speeding and i put my hand out of the window and released the balloon into the wind.....along with my worries and smiled.

The cheer was back.

Music & ..growing up down south of Vindhyas

It often amuses me when my north indian friends express amazement at my knowledge of hindi songs...particularly those old melodies..those ever green songs made immortal by starwalts like kishoreda, rafi, hemant kumar, mukesh, manna deyetc.For even though born and brought up south of the vindhyas, we had to learn during our growing up days in school,what was ostentiably the "national language" of india - Hindi.
When you are 6 years old and at an age when you dont rather like going to school at all, you dont really spare a moment to think what exactly are you taught at school. You just learn (or try to learn!) what they teach you at school. And so i learnt hindi (which was not my mothertongue) for a total of 6 years. Back then, it was just another "language subject" in which we had to get 35 marks to pass and that was it.Of course being in CBSE syllabus helped because we had an option to choose between hindi and sanskrit in class 5 and i happily chose sanskit. No, not because i didnt like hindi, but because supposedly it was easy to score marks in sanskrit for the board exams! (yes, this was indeed proved correct when i managed to get a 99 in sanskrit in my CBSE board exams - excruciatingly missing that magical number by 1 mark..losing that top honours to a pretty girl in my class who managed to score a full 100 in sanskrit and who got a special prize for the same whereas your truly, inspite of being the batch topper was not even awarded a plaque...sigh!)
Anyways..coming back to the point, we down south were blessed because we learnt not just our mothertongue, but also the language which is spoken by majority of our north indian brethren. Even today, this gives me a kick, a rather childish satisfaction, that i am comfortably able to have a conversation with my north indian friends in their language whereas they would never be able to claim the vice versa!
And for music lovers like me, this forced multi-linguism was a blessing. Becuase not only were we lucky to have grown up listening to the southern legends like yesudas, jayachandran, suseelamma and janakiamma, so were we swayed by the magical voices of legends of the north.
In fact some of my earliest memories from childhood of songs being hummed by my dad and mom were actually not malayalam songs, but hindi ones. Like "tere bina zindagi mein koyi" was/still is my mom's favorite whereas my dad was/is rather fond of "kabhie kabhie mere dil".And not just the popular ones, the tastes were eclectic...sample this - "badi sooni sooni hai". Where Rafisaab's voice tugs at and makes your heart ache when he sings an "ehsaan tera hoga", Kishoreda's voice gives you goosebumps and for those 5 minutes, you live a different life! I mean these were and still are some of the best songs ever writen and sung..evergreen in their appeal and expressions.
Not to say that malayalam classics were overlooked. An "alliyambal kadavil" was played as many times in my house as a "tum itna jo muskura rahe ho". Some of my really nice childhood memories include sitting on the porch at home watching my dad and uncle playing carroms and the radio playing "bina ka geetmaala / cibaca geetmala" in the background.
Those were the years....and sometimes when i am really down, playing one of those timeless classics brings about a serene calm and i am at peace again....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The New Coke Ad!

I had been pretty dissapointed by the Coke ads that were being churned out for the last 1 or 2 years. In spite of having some of the most saleable stars of the bollywood industry under their contract, their ads were nothing but average. That is why i was floored by the new coke ad. Simple settings - a college library where a cool dude and a sexy chick is sitting across a table...hell i dont think i can write about it and do justice to it! ;-) It is one of those ads that cannot be explained but really artistically done...quite a classic...quite cool..!

The Girl with the Pink Umbrella

I knew this would change everything but as I stood there transfixed, I felt helpless. Even the unpredictable mumbai rains which was now a drizzle but threatening to turn into a downpoar didn’t force me to move away from the open space to the shelter of the bus stop. I have replayed that moment a thousand times in my head since that day but never have been able to remember what was it about her that had me transfixed and reminded me of Riya. Was it that pretty scarf around her beautiful slender shoulders which seemed to have been casually worn but gave her a scottish village charm or was it the book that she was carrying in her hand (“The Fountainhead”) or was it the oversized goggles or was it the pink umbrella? Or was it the graceful ease with which she was able to give an impression of sophistication and innocence, of intellectual and feminine at the same time, something which was so typical of Riya?
All I knew was that the past was coming back to haunt me. Images of Riya flashed before me and I felt a strong feeling of déjà vu. Althought it was more than 2 years since I had lost my Riya, I had only recently come to terms with a life without her and would still often wake up with a start in the middle of the night, frantic on not finding her beside me and then cry throughout the night.
All I knew was that I wanted to befriend this girl, this stranger. She loves books and more importantly she loves reading Rand, I thought. That was a good enough omen for me. But the pain of loss had such a sordid grip on me that I was scared to fall in love again…scared to again lose a loved one.
I regularly saw her for the next few weeks in the morning at the bus stop..from a distance, never exchaging a word. Unknown to her, she made my day cheerful, just the sight of her in the morning. I painfully realized that as much as I wanted to get to know her, the irrational fear of losing her meant that I would probably never even get to talk to her…..
Till one day…..she walked over to where I was standing, smiled at me and extended her hand of friendship…
“Hi!! You are also a regular at this bus stop like me…I am Riya..and you are?”…..
Everything changed after that..just as I had imagined when I first saw her!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

there is still hope yet..

It was about 11 o clock in the night and I was returning back home after watching a movie at phoenix. I was in a taxi and it was drizzling slighlty and the taxi was going at a slow pace. A few metres ahead of me, I saw a guy starting his motorcycle and coming out on to the road but to my alarm saw that he had not released the stand of the bike. Having seen an accident happen due to the same reason a couple of years earlier, I was suddenly scared for this guy. I knew that the road ahead had lot of potholes and the moment the guy goes past by a pothole, the stand was going to get stuck and he would fall.
My taxidriver was an old chap (who I am sure was suffering from nightblindness!) and in spite of my repeated requests to speed up and catch up with the guy on the bike, he could not drive fast enough to catch up. My repeated requests to go fast was no doubt making him upset. Ahead, a turning was coming up and I prepared myself to watch what I was dreading would come true….
Then I saw those 2 guys…they looked like your local ruffian sort of guys, whom you will identify as faces which you would see in every nook and corner of busy & crowded areas in any town; guys loitering around without having any work & sense of purpose, mostly drunk all the time, passing comments on women passing by – the standard rowdy acts. They were coming out from a paan shop and then looking to cross the road and saw the guy on the bike approaching…and as I watched, both of them gesticulated wildly with their hands to the biker signaling to him that he had not released the stand of the bike. As soon as they did this, the biker passed by these guys and then slowed down to release the stand and then (not looking back because the road ahead was dimly lit) raised his hand to wave in acknowledgement, in thanks, to these two guys. He waved once, then did a thumbs up and then waved again….and sitting in the car, seeing this scene being played out in front of me, a smile crossed my face & the thought crossed my mind “There is still hope yet….and there is a little bit of goodness in everybody!!”
And then I told my driver..”kaka, abhi aap slow chalao….chalega!”