Friday, 30 October 2009

Driven (badly) by our genes

Remember last month's post titled, 'Fonts & Football'?, where I went off on a tangent to quote a study about the relation between men with longer ring fingers and aggressive driving?
(This is the second post I am starting with 'Remember...' It is an indication of something, I just can't remember what.)
Well, today's Times of India carries a Reuters story on the same lines: 'No need to curse that bad driver weaving in and out of the lane in front of you - he cannot help it, US researchers reported on Wednesday. The research suggests individuals born with a certain variant of a gene don't stay on the road as well as their counterparts'.
I wonder what drives (no pun intended) these researchers to research whatever they research. Okay, studying genes is serious business but what the Huh?! makes them want to research the connection between a funny gene and driving? Maybe they have a dart board with things people do written on it...

Whatever their reasons, I have carefully cut out the article and have put it in my wallet, right next to my driving licence.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Names 2

Remember the post about names? Here's another unimaginatively funny name:

Safe Emergency Hospital, Bhanugudi, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Death & Bad Habits - 2

If a smoker dies early, the death is a strong argument for giving up smoking.

If a non-smoker and health freak dies early, does it become an argument for not giving up smoking?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Death & Bad Habits

Ranjan Das, CEO and MD of SAP for the Indian subcontinent region, died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Wednesday, says a front-page news report in The Times of India. Das, 42, joins a list of illustrious IT professionals like Dewang Mehta, former chairman of NASSCOM who died at 40 and Sunil Mehta, another senior NASSCOM leader, who passed away at 41.

The Times report continues, "Ranjan was a health freak. He ate right, jogged and worked out daily. He had no bad habits like drinking or smoking. He was very ambitious, and always believed that four hours of sleep were enough for him to be fit and fresh. He was a bundle of energy. He even ran the Chennai marathon a couple of months ago. His demise is such a shock to all who knew him," said a source who knew him closely.

All death, untimely or otherwise, is tragic and what I am about to say is not to make fun of it, but of the reactions that sometimes follow it. "He had no bad habits like drinking or smoking," is one such. Smoking I can understand; it is an in-vogue whipping dog like whale hunting, bull fighting, deforestation, pollution, non-vegetarianism, bursting firecrackers etc. But why is drinking a bad habit? Maybe the source meant 'excessive drinking'. Maybe it's just a cultural thing: All drinking is bad, as portrayed by the seventies wall painting, 'बाटलीने बाटला तो संसारातून उठला!' 

But Das's death and the healthy life that preceded it has me worried: After 26 years of smoking, I have quit. Out of choice and not because of an illness or emotional blackmail. And it's been just over a month. 
Maybe Neil French, famous copy writer and ex-Creative Head WPP Worldwide,  was right when he said to me, "Smoking doesn't kill, drinking doesn't kill, stress kills".

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

En Joy

In the advertisement for the 'All-new' BMW Z4 Roadster in today's Times of India, Mumbai, the word 'Joy' spelled with a capital 'J' appears eight times. And though there was a time when BMW ads had a lot of words in them, this ad is not one of them.

I can picture two things:
Clients who are pleased as punch with their own product. (Understandable.)
The Joy on the clients' faces as the writer read out the copy to them.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Boo hoo, that big portal, is all over newspapers with full page ads and on TV with a we-spent-a-lot-of-money commercial. I haven't seen any yet, but I am sure there are big and mighty hoardings lurking around, looking down at passing pedestrians and jammed motorists.
Fiona Ramsay, (no relation to the horror-film producing Ramsay Brothers), reports from London that after Vodafone and Yahoo, a brand called Asda is using the fashionable strategy of 2009: Empowering the consumer. For proof she quotes the new tag lines of Vodafone (Power to you) and Yahoo (It's you). Read her full story here.
It is a Huh?! moment this: 'Empowering the consumer' is a strategy on its own? Isn't that what every brand is supposed to do? But maybe I am out of touch with what's fashionable, especially in 2009.
On the other hand, old-fashioned me is always a little wary of all advertising that claims a brand is 'about you', 'for you' etc. in so many words. Shouldn't the consumer say, after being exposed to the advertising and/or the brand, "Hey, this is about me, for me"? But I guess, 'Say it loud enough, say it often enough, say it everywhere' is a strategy that always works...

But looking at all these big bucks being spent in print and on TV (released on live 20-20 cricket, that big), I don't envy the job of the guy who works in Yahoo's ad sales. Imagine the poor chap trying to convince a media buyer that: "Digital is the future man!" "The internet, dude, that's where all the youngsters are!" "Traditional media is so dead!" while, in the background, the yahoo commercial plays on prime time TV.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


'Now, Archie comics in Hindi, Malayalam' reads the headline of a story in today's Economic Times, Mumbai. The story goes on to say that 'The American teenager has become a local cultural icon, influencing film-makers like Karan Johar in films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.' The correspondent filing the story is obviously a young man and probably has never heard of the interview where Raj Kapoor claimed that the inspiration for his cult teenage romance 'Bobby' came from Archie comics. Or specifically, from seeing teenage girls dressed in skimpy bikinis. 
According to the article, 'Archie's Indian popularity influenced the company to launch an Indian character, Raj, in the series'. A small, 'Huh?!' moment that. Was it Archie's Indian popularity or was it the increasing Indian population in the USA?
The Economist, which interviewed Fernando Ruiz, the creator of Raj Patel, has a different story to tell: 'Together with an increased focus on the African-American Chuck Clayton character and Veronica’s friend Ginger Lopez, it seems that Archie Comics is making a concerted effort to make their books more diverse'.
Obviously the correspondent is out of his depth more than once. 
Later in the story, he gives some insightful figures about the sales of Archie Comics: According to the Indian distributor, Mr. Arora, '“We normally import 10,000 copies of each digest, which sells over two years". In the USA, each edition does about 2,500 copies!
To me, it seems a misguided effort to tap India's vast potential as the 'new' and 'emerging' market to rescue what is clearly a hero who has outlived his popularity...

But what really worries me is this: The all-American (ethnic minorities included) context is going to be so alien to the small towner the comics plan to target. Especially with their strategy of:  "We‘ll just be translating the text in the speech bubbles," as Mr Arora admits.  

Reminds me of the poor guy in the late seventies in charge of translating Popeye for a Hindi newspaper. The sub-editor was intrigued on reading, "रफू को भेज दो!" being said by Popeye. He asked for the original and found this: "Darn it!"

I wonder what they will translate Weatherbee's "Egad!" as...

Monday, 5 October 2009

A luxury called Mahatma Gandhi

FREEDOM. "The way to truth lies through Ahimsa (non-violence)".
His strength came from his faith, but his true religion was tolerance. Armed only with obstinate determination and offering an ascetic life as an example to follow, he gave his country freedom and the world a new weapon: non-violence. Montblanc pays tribute to the man whose words had the power to move the masses and the soul.
- Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition. White lacquered surface reflecting cotton texture, 925 sterling silver mountings on cap and cone, shaped to resemble a roughly-wound yarn on a spindle, a saffron-coloured mandarin garnet on the clip, hand-crafted 18 K solid gold rhodium-plated nib finely engraved with Gandhi's image. MONTBLANC. A STORY TO TELL.

Actual text from Montblanc ad released in The Economic Times, Mumbai on October 2, 2009, Gandhi's Birth Anniversary. The pen costs fourteen lakh rupees only.


Friday, 2 October 2009

अंग्रेज़ गए लेकिन

In last Sunday's Hindustan Times Vir Sanghvi comments on Shashi Tharoor's 'Cattle class tweet'. (You can read the full article here.) I quote from Counterpoint, Sanghvi's column:

"But while I'm mostly on Tharoor's side on this one, the contretemps seems to me to be one more reminder of how difficult it is for successful professionals to fit into the Indian political mainstream. They usually don't understand the system, they rarely master its idiom, and most times, the system unites to repel them.
You may not think this. If you look at Indian politics today, it seems full of bright, articulate professionals, most of whom speak good English and all of whom love to appear on television. Many people argue that politics is now full of smart young guys who have replaced the dhoti-wallahs of old."

The italics in the quote are mine and so is the anger: If you speak good English and wear Western clothes you are smart, modern, intelligent, cool and whatever. 


Vir Sanghvi is a very senior journalist whose other column 'Rude Food' influences hundreds of people in their choice of restaurants and hotels. Hundreds and not thousands or millions because the places he reviews are out of reach of the dhoti-clad masses (except the ones in politics of course). Maybe he should just stick to being rude about food. But I am being nasty. And I am loving it.

A day later, I happen to see a TV commercial for a brand of paints. It shows a wall getting messed up while a man tries to clean it. His son says, “क्यों हो गया ना, California Orange का Nagpur Orange?”

Closer home, in my daughter’s diary I stumble upon a list of cool and uncool things. One of the ‘cool’ things is ‘having an accent’.

There is a disclaimer at the end of Sanghvi’s column: The views expressed by the author are personal.
I wish they had remained so.