Eat.Click.Run. Repeat.

Yes I am sure you have seen them. The one in your group who ‘loves cooking’. Or baking. Or if she/he is a more recent phenomenon – has taken a step beyond and started ‘reviewing’ eateries. They have the full range – from risotto to sheddho bhaat to dal chawal – covered. And boy are they active on instagram. The food can wait – the Ludwig,Juno and Aden filters on instagram and the accompaying hashtags #Review #Yummy #Blend #Masterchef #foodie – cannot.

I love these folks- for the simple reason that they are the most unbiased walking real life foodpandas you can meet. Just remind them a bit about the immense knowledge they have about food, and then slip in your query- voila. Watch them put the Siris of the world to shame as they start their hour long monologue to give you multiple options on where you should go out to eat tonight. And not to miss out on clicking a picture of the ambience and the food. And then eat. If time permits.

Clicking a picture. Right. Reminds me of the second set you are most likely to meet these days –  the ones with the perennial squint in one eye, because the other one is behind the most abused abbreviation of the young Indian online consumer in the last 5 years – the D.S.L.R.

I must share this story of one such DSLR-ed friend of mine. Happened with him during the recently concluded Durga Puja in Calcutta. He was in his usual annual ‘kumortuli walk’ clicking away to glory the images of the work in progress idols. When the potter who was busy giving finishing touches to the idol, uttered “baa dik die tulun, light ta better ashbe- joy baba felunath shot ta bhalo ashbe, dosh-ponero minute aage ekjon ekhuni nie gyalo“-( take it from the left, the light shall be better, you shall get the Joy Baba Felunath shot which you are looking for,  someone else just took the same shot 10-15 minutes back). This without turning around even once from finishing his brush strokes.

Ray giving finishing touches for the original shot from the movie

Needless to say, my friend has still kept at his obsession. One remark from that smart ass potter wasn’t going to deter him or junk his Dee Es El Aar. From purani Dilli’s bylanes to Hyderabad’s eateries to the poor kids in Dharavi – all conspire to provide the unsuspecting subject and inanimate object which make up the world for him. With the lens strapped around their neck, his tribe is on the run, and it’s clear there is no stopping him or his ilk.

On the run-which brings me to the last tribe. You know that Sunday morning feeling which is becoming far too routine these days. You have just burped your happiness after a satisfying Sunday breakfast , and that’s when your social media timeline pings some 10 notifications.

Selfies of sweat soaked faces at the finish line of a 5k/7.5k/10k/21k and other varying versions of a marathon which they have just completed. The look of satisfaction, of achievement written on their faces. Months of preparation, of shared fitness regimes and goals on the fitbits and Fuels, of that nutritious diet inching themselves closer to the target mark- coming true. It feels good, that there is this new rage, of getting fiery fit. And you really wish that the tribe gets bigger by the day, and then may be, may be you join it yourself some day.

But then it’s a Sunday. And you type away. Write about these 3 tribes. And repeat the procrastination.

Eat.Click.Run.Repeat.

Image courtesy:

True Story. The one which got me to MCG for the cup Final.

March 2015. So I win an online contest and land in Melbourne to watch the finals of the Cricket World Cup.
@The G The contest was about writing a story as a cricket fan. Idea: tweak an existing blog post of mine about a cricket quiz which I had attended back in 2001 in Calcutta and give it a shot. A month later that ends up being judged as one of the best three entries from across the nation from amongst thousands.

Many have asked me since to share the story which got me inside the Olympic Room in MCG. Here it is.

“The year was 2001, it was Holi- a couple of days to go for the soon to be historic test at Eden. We had just been mauled in the Wankhede test inside 3 days, and Gameplan,the Sports Management co, had pulled off a coup of sorts by roping in Gilchrist and McGrath as guest quiz masters for a cricket quiz to be held at The Park in Kolkata.

There were loads of match tickets being given away as audience prizes-almost all for the 4th and 5th days- everyone, led by Mr. Harsha Bhogle the other guest QM of the day, had a good laugh as none expected the match to last that long.

My father who was in the audience answered one question from Gilchrist and got a 5th day ticket- when Gilly asked him whether he wanted to change it for a 1st day ticket, the old man remarked- I will go to Eden on the 5th day and India will win this test. Gilly chuckled and shook his hand and handed the ticket over to him.

Eventually, I finished 2nd in the quiz and when Gilly was giving the final prize to me, I told him he surely won’t score a hundred at our Eden and will find scoring difficult here. He again chuckled and thanked me for ‘wishing him’.
He eventually scored a pair at Eden- both golden.

How can I not consider my individual contribution of jinxing Gilly to be right up there alongside VVS’ 281, Dravid’s epic 180 or Bhajji’s heroics?”

Bangladesh goes to the World Cup- a true story,well almost

Morning of 30th January 2015.

So India is on its way out from the Tri series down under- another pathetic all round batting+bowling+fielding performance to maintain our spotless losing streak on the current tour in Australia. It was right then that I found the perfect antidote to feel a little less sad. My colleague in my bay wanted to talk about his team’s chances about the Cricket World Cup due in a fortnight’s time- and it was his country of origin which got me thinking. He is from -well, Bangladesh- enough said.

Now how would he and his fellow countrymen approach a cricket world cup? I mean it would be vastly different from the expectations from us in India,right? Where we are the defending champions- no matter how remote the chances look, no matter how overboard Star Sports has gone shouting ‘We won’t give it back’- as if it was Srinivasan’s BCCI/ICC/CSK/MS Dhoni ownership…ok,we digress-back to our friend from Shonar Bangla.

The current Bangladesh team: So I ask him who are the star performers in your team. He answers in a split second-Shakib Al Hasan. Ok, who are there in the team who can win matches? Shakib Al Hasan-he says again. So who is the best bowler in the team? He looks at me as if asking- ‘cmon!’ I look puzzled- he nods and tells me-there is no one else in the team worth talking about. That crushes me.

Shakib-1024X768

‘Everyone is an Afridi’: He mentions that every player in the Bangladesh team is like Shahid Afridi. I ask him does that mean all of them are 18 till they die? He patiently explains- they are too erratic in their shot making, are too careless, play away from the body,no footwork, throw their wicket away….. ‘Dhawan #$%’- I murmur- he barely hears me.

When winning at home is a worry(2013:Bangla-3,New Zealand-0) : This was the most amazing anecdote. He talked about the rare home series victory that Bangla had versus New Zealand in late 2013. With each of the 3 wins in the series, apparently the entire country was getting even more scared that how badly was New Zealand going to shred them to pieces when they meet in their backyard in Hamilton during the group fixture.

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The fixtures(Bangladesh’s 2015 cup schedule) : Both the hosts Australia and New Zealand being in the same group isn’t much of an encouragement. The toughest games though are against fellow minnows Scotland and Afghanistan- the pressure is always on Bangla the moment they take the field as anything but underdogs. They are not used to this unusual feeling, and it makes them play a different brand of cricket than what they are used to.

Have to win the toss:  He tells me the entire nation will be praying that Mortaza wins the toss and elects to bat vs Australia/New Zealand/Sri Lanka. Logic being simple. There is much less shame in losing after scoring a 150 odd – than fielding first and conceding a 400+ score and resetting the record books from the wrong side- a feeling all too familiar for them now.

Favourite cup moment: He fondly recollects the memories of Port of Spain 2007 (here), when India was beaten green and yellow by them ( ya, Greg Chappel, thank you ) and their nation had a week long holiday declared to celebrate the same.

What about India’s chances in the ’15 cup? He chuckles- you are just a ‘sub continental world cup champion.’ This from someone who gets worried each time(not too often) they win a home series fearing a mauling when they visit the country in the return rubber.

Thank you neighbour. That was some boost listening to you on a day when Moeen Ali was treated by the Indian batsmen as if Saqlain Mushtaq and Muralitharan were his biological parents.

Peekay likha: The Raju Hirani template

A successful brand knows its audience well. A successful brand remains consistent over the years with the elements using which it speaks to its audiences.

RKH2

Raju Hirani is still an ad man and a very good one at that. His 30 seconders have simply taken the shape of 3 hour movies and the man in the Fevicol ad now has well and truly created a successful brand out of his RKH films banner. With quite an enviable track record of 4 massively successful films spread little over a decade, it is interesting to note certain executional elements which form the core of the ‘Raju Hirani template’– branded with a stamp carrying his signature- almost like the mark of the trident on Boman Irani’s bum in Peekay.

RKH

  • A subject which the audience can easily relate to : medicine, law, education system, religion (read Hinduism).
  • A protagonist who doesn’t belong to the ‘system’ and thus ends up asking uncomfortable questions which end up adding to the humour. e.g. Munna, idiot Rancho and PK
  • Attention to Detail – it shouts out from every shot. Mark of an ad man of the highest quality. Too many examples to single out any.
  • Rib tickling scenes -mostly subtle and sometimes borrowing from popular culture jokes which one reads as mobile forwards. Case in Point : most sequences in the classes of Imperial College of Engineering in 3 Idiots (definition of book) or Peekay ( sandals locked at temple gates)
  • A lovable antagonist who represents the conservative view on the subject in question. e.g. Dr. Asthana, Lucky Singh, Virus , Tapasvi.
  • The use of an easy to relate to catchphrase as a call to action for the audience to latch on to and which helps spread the word of mouth about the movie. e.g. Jaadoo ki Jhappi.Get Well Soon.All Is Well.Wrong Number.
  • A ‘demo’ to land the core point of tension in the movie.e.g. 3 Idiots,PK
  • The shot of the ‘demo’ in Connaught Place in Delhi. He seems to really love the backdrop with the white pillars. e.g. 3 idiots, PK.
  • A recurring shot representing everyone from all walks of life latching on to the delivery of the film’s core message on live radio/live TV.e.g. the barber,the policeman, the IT guy, the man driving to office.
  • The father in Parikshat Sahni, who undergoes the transformation in between the two intervals. Angry eyes.Denial. Slap. Teary eyes saying ‘bas kar rulayega kya’ admission in the end.
  • Foot tapping feel good numbers.e.g. M bole toh, Pal Pal, Zoobi Doobi,Nanga Panga Dost
  • The editor in Raju Hirani being completely overshadowed by director Raju Hirani. Some sequences beg to be edited better and stretches the second half unnecessarily. e.g. Court scene in Munnabhai, operation scene in 3 Idiots, TV show scene in PK.

It surely is good to live in the generation of such a filmmaker who has created a unique signature of his own. Here is looking forward to the next one from the Raju Hirani stable- the Sanjay Dutt biopic.

10 things one must do on social media to ‘belong’ :

John Doe@Social1. Review a film/book/ eaterie / Television commercial. You got it.A review.

2. Link lists of books read/films seen/pics taken on instagram, pinterest, goodreads etc. Strut.< IT folks don’t get excited>

3. Comment on other posts in threads to provoke. Troll.

4. Share your career progression in flashback mode.Share updates on completing schools,graduating-as if everyone on your list waited with bated breath to know that when you are 35/40.Timeline.

5. Use convoluted hashtags as a summary to your 30 line status.Well.#Hashtags.

6. Ask everyone not to share images of sorry looking pets,old people,poor kids, deities. Those images.

7. Share breaking news at a speed which will put Reuters to shame.Breaking News.

8. Crowdsource options to buy the latest gadget. And to subtly show you can afford one. Crowdsource /Strut 

9. Follow/subscribe to pages/people which make you appear well informed.Follow.

10. Share blog posts on your facebook wall/twitter handle. Guilty as charged.

2012: A digital review

Thought will do a roundup of all things digital which touched my life in 2012.

 App-wise

In all, fiddled around with around 150+ android apps at different times of the year. The ones that stood out were:

FlipBoard

  • Flipboard– wonderful,wonderful intuitive UI. One could simply read on about absolutely meaningless stuff for hours.
  • London Olympics official apps– following your favourite player, and your nation was never this easy. Also with this app, ‘real time’ was actually real time. One could follow the exact miss of Sondhi which ensured India won’t get one more medal in shooting. You almost didn’t feel the need to curse DD/ESPNStar anymore
  • Linkedin- kept on giving updates at the rate of knots.
  • Temple Run and Subway surfer– ya ya, me too. They lived on-for a while- till I realized there is no end to the ‘high score’ you can set in them. < Or that others were much better at it.. >

All other apps shared space on the smart phone for hardly about a few weeks before being uninstalled.

Being Social

FB

Image

  • Topics for the status updates varied mostly between sports( London ‘12/Cricket), politics, travel etc.
  • Not surprisingly, the post on Tintin’s ( that’s my kid) addition to the family drew the maximum response from my burgeoning facebook base.
  • Got selective( finally) in adding anyone and everyone to the friend list. The ‘not now’ button proved to be a God send.
  • The birthday reminder continued to be THE most useful feature of fb.
  • Crucially, ‘m pretty sure, I accessed more of fb on my phone than on a laptop/PC.
  • Had impressive growth on the company page at www.facebook.com/boroplushealthyskin/
  1. Host of activities(ATL,BTL) integrated online
  2. Listened to the consumer
  3. Engaging conversation(s)
  4. The agency was proactive-in handling stuff real time- again crucial for attaining nirvana on your company brand page. I sincerely hope they are not reading this line and planning to get complacent tomorrow onwards 🙂

Twitter

  • Used it as a source of real time information
  • Was more active in the latter half of the year
  • Was thankful for following some wonderful folks who added a lot of value with the stuff they shared.
  • Discovered that most ‘famous’ folks were quite responsive on twitter- to relevant tweets. From @BishanBedi to @BDutt to @bhogleharsha- they were all pretty real time in responding to direct messages.

Blogging

Continued to be lazy on this promising front. It’s a tragic stat that I had more unpublished drafts on the blog than the glorious number of F-I-V-E posts which I managed during the 366 days of 2012.

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Here is a cool way to read what I raked up on my blog which is now almost 6 years old 🙂 https://alekhya.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/2012-in-review/

The world didn’t end- but a 2nd new quizzing blog which I attempted to begin certainly did. The blog was more of an attempt to keep myself updated on trivia in the Business world. But yeah, it didn’t live to see even a 2nd post on it 😦

Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, glassdoor

  • Had flings with them. Suffice to say, none of them will ever have the longevity of a twitter or linkedin- let alone facebook.

Websites

  • Cricinfo continued to be the most favourite site after the utility and the informational sites ( moneycontrol,business standard, afaqs ). Their update in the new android app sucked big time though-hope they are doing something about it.
  • Firstpost surpised with its precise writing, real time posts and quality journalism

So yeah, that’s that. Speaking digitally, 2012 was by far the most engaging year- and early signs prove 2013 will better it- by some distance.

We are all to blame

I write this while being in the Capital city. Was strolling in the wonderful Delhi winter evening yesterday, when I overheard someone talking about the ghastly gang rape of a medical student in a public bus between Munirka and Palam. That’s like a stone’s throw from where I stayed a little more than a year ago. A short check on the net later, a strange chain of thoughts hit me.

Come to think of it. Each day- at various touch points of our lives in this country, how many people belonging to the proverbial middle/ bottom of the pyramid do we come across and inadvertently royally ignore or behave as if they didn’t even exist?  Is it too unnatural for them not to able to bottle up their frustration in lives and let loose the beasts in such ghastly avatars from time to time? Sharing some examples below. Think again- whether you haven’t been party to such acts yourselves.

  1. The security at the mall who frisks you. During each of your visit to the mall you are likely to splurge money equivalent to his monthly salary (at most times his annual salary). Next time you push him aside on your way out of the mall with the 10 odd packets in hand- do keep an ear out to listen to the barely audible sigh from that man.
  2. Your driver/shuttle driver/ bus driver before whom- you feel an obligation to speak in English as if he is an insect whose being present there was an accident. Just place yourself in his shoes. How does it feel to first try not to listen to your discussions on amounts of money he possibly won’t even see in totality over his entire life time and then to be able to understand bits and pieces of the English which is being used solely to ignore his presence as a fellow human being?
  3. The person at the counter at the retail store. Will never be able to buy the service/ product he has to demonstrate to you- but has to come up with that fake smile to greet you each time.
  4. The Chai wallah in your office. Who overhears you make insurance plans of crores for your family members- for risks which he and his family face on a daily basis without an iota of concern.
  5. The plumber/electrician/carpenter who come to your home. His ‘ishq di gali vich no entry’ ringtone being the only entertainment on his Nokia 3315- while he dutifully remedies the fault in your LED tv or your shower panel costing lacs in your loo.
  6. The security at the bank. You ask him whether he knows where the drop box for the cheque is located. He tells you and then you almost feel him asking, ‘kitne ka cheque hain b*%#$ / m$@# ?’

At no point ‘m suggesting the perpetrators should not be punished for these heinous crimes. But we got to realize to some extent all these are our doing as well.

Is this a problem merely because of law and order issues? Is it merely an issue with certain regions in the Nation like NCR?

Recently came across this wonderful quote – “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”

Each day there will be more such touch points as above where we mingle with this real India whom we have royally ignored and have been a part of creating the damage which is now too deep to be rectified quickly. It’s all hanging on a knife’s edge. Be afraid. Be very very afraid.

Ei Samay: My verdict.

Here it goes.The verdict on the most awaited launch in recent times in Bengal. Ei Samay-the bengali daily
from the house of TOI. Waited for the 2nd edition of the paper to come out today before sharing my views.

The good
1.The Mamata cartoon by Ajit Ninan. Killer.To accompany her interview,and surely to be seen by her
majesty-a superb touch.
2.The article on Mary Kom on Day 1.Well researched.Beautifully written.And a super pic of Mary Kom in a
saree to go with the piece.
3.Sanjib Chattopadhyay-he is back..this time getting a little emotional talking about his connection with
the Ganges. If the TOI folks are listening,please-if you haven’t yet planned-make sure you make him write
a weekly article at least.
4.R K Laxman’s cartoons in bengali. Where is the superlike button on print when you really need one?

The bad
1.The ‘futuristic’ Bengal of 2032 supplement.Done to death formula.Big boring piece on Day 1.
2.Sports coverage on Day 1.Extremely weak.Marked improvement on Day 2 though.
3.Ads.At least 60% of the inventory dedicated to ads. But what else do you expect when it’s TOI you are talking about?
4.2032.Kolkata Premier League football.Royal Bengal Reds coached by Leo Messi. Mohun Bagan coached by Drogba.Cruz Beckham playing for Mohun Bagan. Someone in the TOI office loves his football and really was having a field day writing this.Apart from the spectator slang section at bottom right-nothing was funny in the piece.

The ugly
1.The first 4,yes FOUR pages on day 2 were full page ads.And TOI claims they will speak ‘new age lingo’
of Bengal with quality content. LOL.
2.Ok. This is the 3rd post on Cartoons.Henry,the iconic comic strip by Carl Thomas Anderson,which all
bongs have read as ‘Gabloo’ in the ‘Shuktaras’ and ‘Anandamelas’ has reappeared here.But-who gave TOI
the right to change it to “Gollu”!! That’s a sacrilege! As bad as ‘news pollution’/or Chowmein resulting in
rapes.
3.Dennis the Menace is NOT written by Hank “Ketchman”! Aarghh!! As if the ‘Sohobaag’ and the ‘Shochin’ -s of ABP were not bad enough. Our bong pronunciation is the object of ridicule for many-please don’t use such disgusting translation of proper nouns to rub it in further.
5.A futuristic Time magazine cover of Mamata as PM of India. The same day that the rapes owing to
freely mixing comment was made.Period.

A word about the Editor-Suman Chattapadhyay-one of the most respected senior journos in the country. Knows the state well.His debut on TV was nothing noteworthy-but this time around he seems to have a strong strategy in place. Very few could interview MB as frankly as he did in the Tuesday edition.

What did you think of Ei Samay?

I thought I was a marketer. Till I met..

I thought I was a marketer. Till I met..

Till I met the kirana store wala who told me I could improve the packaging of my product so much more. That I could give so much more margin than my competition- that I could do everything else apart from taking his place in the store and selling the product to his customer 🙂

Till I met the Sales Officer who advised me to design better Point of Sale material- use better adhesives. Give more Sales Incentives- design better commercials. To get a better celebrity. 🙂

Till I met the Media person who advised exactly how big and where my logo should go in the TVC, or what the right duration of my commercial should be. Or why my chosen colour combination is not the right contrast for my product’s Print advertisement. Or why the BTL activity ‘basically’ could not give enough ‘mileage’ than my TVC- of course I dared not ask how to define ‘mileage’ or the all important ‘basically’ 🙂

Till I met the Supply Chain guy who told me to time my launches to better suit the seasons. Of course I dared not ask him about the machine readiness-which could ensure an ‘immature’ launch of the product much before the season. 🙂

Till I met the Social Media Guru who ran those Social Media success stories on Youtube to teach me about the ‘evolving media platform’. Of course I dared not point out the FMCG companies-who were conspicuous by their absence in the list of these Social Media success stories. 🙂

Till I met the chaiwala in the office- who made you fall off your chair when he advised you to have a better key line drawing for your sachet design. You then realise- he has been in the company for 12 years-and you a little more than a year- of course work experience counts stupid. 🙂

Marketing. You think you will learn most of it when you step into the hallowed halls of your B School with those dreamy eyes. Ah well.