Sunday, April 28, 2013

The ‘Ring the Bell’ Meet Again

Previous part here

In the previous post, I had tried to discuss why a woman does not stop her husband from physical abuse when he first attempts it. The tacit assumption, of course, is that the first such attempt happens in the early days of marriage and that assumption would probably be true for the most part.
Issues of inter-personal relationships are normally complicated and, as humans, we tend to complicate those issues far more than they really are. For example, in the first instance of physical abuse, the wife may even feel that she was at fault. Clearly, being at fault does not make it acceptable for the husband to beat her just as punching a subordinate for mistyping your name is not acceptable. People, however, do not see things that clearly even in cold blood and, when wallowing in a welter of emotions, everything appears murky.
So, what is the way forth is a woman has allowed her husband to get away for a period of time with physically abusing her? What if she has a couple of kids? Should she continue to live this life of physical abuse, return tit-for-tat if possible or walk away from the husband?
What could have been solved with firmness when the first instance occurs may not be possible after you have accustomed the man to acquiescence. To continue to live a life of physical abuse is not merely demeaning to you but is harmful to your children as well. This idea of staying put in a relationship for the sake of the children has always seemed quaint to me. Is the psychological scarring of marital strife any more a happy atmosphere to the children than a broken home? If that is your only consideration, then I think you not only bring up psychologically healthier children by splitting but also inculcate in them the thought that physical abuse of a woman is not acceptable. Is it the thought of losing custody over your children that is vexing you? That is a tough one to answer but I would still say it is worth more to keep your peace of mind as well as set an example to your children – not to mention that you should not accept defeat in the battle for custody before you have even fought it. Is it the thought that the father can provide for a better future for them than you can? Well – there is a choice between material benefits to the children versus psychological benefits. But, make no mistake, staying put has its costs for your children.
If you are financially dependent, there is an issue. The idea should, nevertheless, be to achieve your financial independence – be it by your own work or by way of alimony. If the achievement of the idea will take time and you have no choice but to stay on, it is still not worthwhile to put up with the physical abuse. At this juncture – after a few years of accustoming your husband to acquiescence – it may require more than words to stop the abuse. Am I advocating violence? Yes, in retaliation and self-defense. Non-violence is a great ideal in the clashes between cultures, civilizations and communities since you can expect a majority to be reasonable and good people. Apply it on any one-on-one relationship and you may well be showing the other cheek to Jack-The-Ripper and, if you think it is going to melt his heart, you belong in cloud-cuckoo-land. Even that apostle of non-violence – Mahatma Gandhi – said that it is not against Ahimsa for a woman to fight with every weapon at her disposal to save her honor. I am a votary of Swami Vivekananda who is reputed as having said that you first learn to be Rajasik and fight against evil, even by violence, before you start talking of being Satvik. Too often, we find votaries of non-violence arguing for being the patient victim and nothing encourages the violent more than a passive victim.
Am I talking of a lifetime of such battling at home? In some circumstance it may work out to be so, since the woman may not be able to achieve economic independence for herself and a decent future for her children on her own. If she can, and the very moment that she can, she should adopt the third option of walking away from the marriage. Why should one live a life full of resentment and anger when you can achieve peace by merely avoiding the person who causes the strife?
If it is at all possible for the woman to walk away with dignity, she should. That does not mean that she needs to give up her rights – either to property or, more importantly, her children. As for what the world would say, it is a question of facing it down. I have hardly found anyone persisting in nagging a person with unwanted advice and criticism when she says, “You may like living a life of physical abuse or not have the courage to act against it. I do not!” As for what the world would talk behind your back that is something it would do anyway regardless. No-one, not even someone who loves you, lives the life you do and it is your needs that should be paramount and not their gossip.
Of course, there is an additional plea to all women – mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, neighbors whoever. When a woman chooses to act against a life of physical abuse, could you kindly be more supportive? Is there a pressing need to always prove that the worst enemy of a woman is another woman? Men, I am sure, need to change a lot of their attitudes but if women find it so difficult to change their own in favor of their own sex, how then do you expect men to change?

The ‘Ring the Bell’ Meet

I must, at the outset, admit that I normally do not expect to find meets on serious topics interesting. The focus\, normally, turns on one particular viewpoint of some admittedly serious flaw in Society and the discussion ends up in painting a very gloomy view of Society, which jars on a natural optimist like me. The ‘Ring the Bell’ meet in Bangalore today was a very pleasant surprise because there was a mixture of entertainment and stimulating discussion rather than a one-sided diatribe.
In contrast to the ‘Bangalore for Women’ meet, which focused on problems faced by women in their interactions with the outside world this meet was more focused on domestic violence. A mono-act ‘Durga’ was put up by the ‘Ring the Bell’ team about a woman facing her first act of domestic violence, remaining silent and, thereafter facing repeated acts of violence till one day she retaliates and is forced by Society to apologize to her husband. The discussion that arose on what she ought to have done gave rise to a very stimulating discussion.
The best solution is for the woman to strongly object to the domestic violence at the very first instance. In any relationship, there are lines that the other person is not expected to cross. This line in a marital relationship has, at least, to be drawn very firmly at physical abuse in the mind of a woman.
There are three main issues why women do not do put their foot down at the first instance of physical abuse. The foremost problem is that most women do not draw the line that cannot be crossed in their own minds. In fact, in most cases the woman is herself unsure whether she has the right to draw a line at all or whether she has to adhere to the lines drawn for her by her husband. This lack of certainty about her rights arises out of the fact that Society tends to think that it is the woman who has to fit into the contours of the relationship as desired by the man – and that thought drives the reactions of parents, relatives and neighbors to any so-called ‘rebellion’ by the woman. So, the first bell that needs to be rung for women and for Society at large is “A woman does have the right to decide the sort of relationship she wants in her marriage and, most certainly, physical abuse is NOT acceptable”
The second issue is that women are seen as relationship-builders and most women tacitly accept that it is they who will need to build relationships – with the husband and his family. In and of itself, this is a virtue but, as the saying goes, any virtue carried to excess is a vice (and one can validly argue that it takes two to build a relationship so why should one person make all the compromises). Thus, when a woman faces the first instance of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, even she thinks that she can modify her man’s behavior – the typical reaction of ‘Sati Savitri’ of the old movies of trying to change a brute into a man by the power of her love and sacrifice. Yes, there are bound to be clashes between two people trying to build a relationship but, as ever, some lines should not be crossed. So, putting your foot down on physical abuse is not a refusal to accommodate or love – but a refusal to compromise on some vital areas. If your man is worth the effort of making compromises, the least that you ought to expect is that he shall accept that you shall not compromise on some things. The only thing that compromises on everything is a doormat and I really cannot see why you would want a pair of dirty feet in the place of a husband. The next bell that needs ringing is that “Openness to compromise in order to build a relationship does not mean that you need to sacrifice your pride or your value systems.”
For a lot of women, financial security is dependent on the man. Thus, the fear of being thrown out of the house and finding parents also urging her to adjust is a reason why women do not find the confidence to put their foot down at the very beginning. This underscores the need for both education for women as well as independent financial security – either by way of a job or by way of inheritance. This also means that women need to keep their finance independent of her man, especially where she is a house-wife and has no ready means to earn her living. So, the third bell that needs ringing is “Every woman should be at least confident of living on her own without having to depend economically on the man”
As a man, I would prefer a woman to want to live with me and not have to live with me because she is afraid of Society or afraid of penury or both. I would consider anyone less than a man if he does not have the confidence to keep his wife with him without coercion of one sort of the other. So, why should any woman want to live with an imitation of a man rather than living alone?

More of this here

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The importance of hypocrisy

It is customary, I know, to pick a dictionary and define the word before you go ahead giving out your unique ‘wisdom’ about it. Since, however, I have this irresistible urge to find out whether I have a common-sense, let me go ahead based on the common-sense definition of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is understood to mean behavior that is at variance with the stated moral position of a person. We consider a person a hypocrite when his thoughts and actions do not match his words. In other words, a hypocrite is a person who does not ‘Walk the Talk’. A further exception to this definition is that we are not outraged by the hypocrisy of a person who talks like a sinner and behaves like a Saint. You accuse someone of Hypocrisy only when the reverse is true. 

All of us hate hypocrites and want people to shed their hypocrisy. I am afraid that this feeling that the world would be better off if people were not hypocrites is erroneous. We tend to tacitly assume that if people were not hypocrites they would end up ‘Walking the Talk’ i.e their behavior would be as moral as their words. What if they started “Talking the Walk’? 

I know you tend to feel that, even if they did speak out the immorality of their thoughts, you would be better off since you would know where you stood with them. If that were all there was to hypocrisy I would agree with you. The thing is there are a lot of things that get done because of hypocrisy which would never get done otherwise. 

Assume that most of the Companies in a sector actually care more for their bottom-lines than for customer service. As long as everyone keeps mouthing ‘Customer is King’ and does not vent their true feelings, they would not even know that the majority of the Companies feel this way – and the fear of losing market share to competitors keeps them paying lip service to customer care. What if this veil of hypocrisy is torn and someone speaks out about it? Your customer care service – if there is still one – would probably return an answer like this 

Do you think we can hire an army of people to run around at your beck and call? We are in this for profits and are not a Social service. Our people are busy and will get around to your complaint in five or so years time. 

I know everyone is very worked up with Khap Panchayats and their diktats about women. Whatever you may say about them, they are people who ‘Walk the Talk’ – their morals and actions are in sync. Assume that most of the political classes think and act like these people. Now, please tell me, would there even be a discussion on reservations for Women in Parliamentary seats? Would it be better for you to hear the political classes say, “As per our culture, the place of a woman is in the home. It would be against our culture to allocate seats for women in Parliament”? 

I mean, it is only the fact that they need to pay lip service, at least, to women’s rights that is still keeping that Bill alive. If, once, that veil of hypocrisy is torn and they all start talking with no hypocrisy - like the Khap Panchayats – bang goes any miniscule chance of getting that Bill through. (Ah! Do not talk of their being voted out and all that rot. That assumes that there is, at least, one party which honestly believes in Women’s rights or has continued to be hypocritical! In the latter case, it would be hypocrisy that won the day for you) 

Take this burning issue of corruption. Once again, it is hypocrisy that is enabling the legislation that, at least, can attempt to curb it. Assuming that most politicians take the sub-rosa earnings as their right and assuming that they feel free to talk of it, would you not hear them say things like, “You get your stock options and bonuses. We take it by allotting de-notified land to ourselves and in kick-backs. So what is the big deal?” If they started talking like that, do you really think that the RTI act could ever have been passed or would they have shot down the idea saying, “What nonsense! You guys keep your salary details confidential and you expect us to hand over the details of our sub-rosa earnings to the first-comer?” Need they even have thought of paying lip service to the Lokpal Bill? 

The great service that hypocrisy is doing to our social set-up is immeasurable. So, till the time you can ensure that the elimination of hypocrisy will only lead to people “Walking their (current) Talk”, long live hypocrisy.

Disclaimer : I make no claims about the validity of the assumptions in the examples above!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Life, they say, is full of coincidences. A truth that manages to catch my fuzzy attention all too frequently at various points in time. 

Now, if you think I am about to start on how my boss used to pick THAT day when I wanted to go off and watch an IPL match to keep me in office with urgent work – think again! That sort of thing is too commonplace an occurrence – bosses exist for the purpose of raining on subordinates’ parades. What would be worth mentioning is a boss who is also packing up for the day in order to watch the same IPL match. Oh! And, by the way, do not exult if your boss is packing up soon – it only means that he is going to load his work on you so that he can go off and enjoy himself! 

These days, one of the major coincidences that I experience is phone-calls. By and large, my friends and family strive greatly to avoid any reminders of my existence and, thus, hardly anyone calls me up. Every now and then, however, they get this sudden optimistic hope that I have shuffled off my mortal coil and ring up with expectations of finding their happy daydreams confirmed. What surprises me is that fact that almost all of them get infected by this unwarranted optimism on the same day. A fortnight passes without my even having to remember that I have a phone and, suddenly, on one fine day I am juggling phone-calls - and grabbing bites in the infrequent intervals - like some Bollywood caricature of a busy tycoon. 

The Suresh-Ramesh sort of coincidence – meeting an old friend by accident – I have mentioned before. I walk down MG Road in Bangalore and, presto, my old school friend walks out of a coffee shop and literally bumps noses with me. What set the icing was that the same chap was standing outside the door of an acquaintance in Delhi and it turned out that the acquaintance was his brother-in-law. Meeting the same guy twice over by happenstance was, I think, a sufficiently astonishing coincidence. (By the way, how many other coincidences of this sort I had missed out because the others ducked out of sight the moment they espied me, I will never know. This chap was caught both times with no means of escape) 

The coincidence that set off this post happened recently. I, normally, visit Delhi around the May-June period enroute a trek in the Himalayas. This time, I had planned a meet with Zephyr. Akanksha Dureja had also fixed up a meet. (The friends who have met me put this enthusiasm to the fact that they had, hitherto not met me in person!). 

What happens? Zephyr shifts base out of Delhi to Mumbai. So, one meet out of the window. I console myself with the thought of serenading Akanksha despite her avowed dislike of music (Actually, that is OK since, when I sing, there are few who accept that what comes out is music). What next? Akanksha Dureja has to go to the UK. Bang go two meets. (Incidentally, I never knew people could go to these lengths to avoid meeting me) 

I am still coming to Delhi in June. Anyone in the National Capital Region hankering for a change of scene?

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Of Pride and Arrogance

“Don’t expect me to be rising up when the sun rises in the East” 

“The sun does not rise in the East. It is the Earth that rotates” 

From the tone of his voice, I felt for a moment that I had missed out on learning this valuable nugget of information at school. I delved into my mind and found, surprisingly, that this was one of those few bits of knowledge that was still clinging precariously on the slippery slopes of what passed for my brain. 

All of you, I am sure, must have met people like my acquaintance. People to whom every single bit of knowledge seems like a divine revelation exclusively granted to them which they bequeath to you with all the condescension that Moses could have felt in handing down the Ten Commandments. 

To feel proud of what you know is to acknowledge the fact that you are better than you were yesterday. If that pride needs to be bolstered by the assumption that others do not know what you know, then it veers off into arrogance. Arrogance, I have normally found, comes from out of a personality that is so lacking in self-respect that it has to look on the others as being inferior in order to feel worthy of existence. Pride, on the other hand, looks inward for self-respect. 

“I think that this word has been mistyped here” 

“You need to learn to properly spell words” 

When you prima facie presume that the other person knows what you know, you give him the benefit of the doubt and assume extenuating circumstances. This is particularly when you have no reason to know the capabilities of the other person yet. A person secure in his own accomplishments – a person with pride – does not feel the need to put down the other person. It is the arrogant that normally have to assume that the other person is necessarily at fault because it gives them that special glow of being better. In other words, a man of pride assumes the other person to be capable unless proved otherwise; the arrogant man assumes the other person to be incapable and would rather die than be convinced otherwise. 

“Look! We both had the same sort of education. Now I have twenty-four green marbles, sixty-seven yellow ones and even a large red one. What does he have? Two white marbles and a pair of tops” 

Change the numbers; put in cars, houses, stocks whatever for marbles and tops. That, in effect, is the arrogant man’s litany. It does not strike him at all that both of them may not have even been running the same race. 

That, probably, reminds most people of ‘Chatur’ of 3 idiots – the man with the car, bungalow and all and what had ‘Rancho’ achieved? Teaching A-B-C to kids! It does not strike the arrogant man that teaching was probably what the other man wanted to do anyway. And, yes, like Chatur, most arrogant people are weak – it takes a lot of lying to themselves about the inferiority of the others to keep their self-respect going. “Loser” is a word of contempt only in an arrogant man’s dictionary – a man of pride never feels the need to put down anyone else. 

Arrogance comes in many guises. It may show itself at the level of looking on other individuals as inferior. It may show itself as looking down on another gender, people of another community, color or nationality as inferior. The latter is even easier to do – since you can adopt received wisdom from others like you who came before and stick to it as true. 

Pride comes out of who you are and how you have grown as a person. Arrogance relies upon fables about what other people are and resolutely closes its eyes to any evidence to the contrary. 

When you feel a sense of accomplishment when you compare yourself today to what you were yesterday that is Pride and you should embrace it. When you get your self-respect out of comparing yourself to others to your advantage you are on the slippery slopes of arrogance. Keep away from me, please!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Monday, April 15, 2013

F?@K Knows - A Book Review

I went through that phase of devouring self-improvement books by the dozen when I was in my teens and still under the illusion that personalities could be quick-fixed by reading a few books. By the time I had hit my fiftieth book in the genre I had come to realize that they said nothing that I did not know already. If my knowing had not changed me for the better it is only because I was unwilling or unable to work at it and reading a few more pages of the same advice was in no way going to push me any further.

The blurb for Shailendra Singh's book 'F?@K Knows' gives the impression of a self-improvement book and the author seems to have himself recollected that intention every now and then in the course of writing the book. But for those desultory attempts I would have thought that the book was a collection of blog posts. In fact, the best review of the book is given in the book by the author himself. "In my opinion, ladies and gentlemen, what you have just read is the most inconsistent, contradictory, non-articulate piece of writing that I have ever read" is what he has to say at the end of the book.

I know that a self-deprecatory person is unlikely to be too pleased by an over-enthusiastic endorsement of his views - though I certainly do not agree that he is inarticulate. To be fair to myself, I had formed the opinion already and was pleasantly surprised to realize that the author had recognized the fact as well. When a book in one chapter says, "Don't let THEM dictate what you should do" and in another says, "Who is considered a success - a carter or a CEO" there is an automatic element of contradiction. After all, you cannot tout the benefits of following your gut without regard to Society and, simultaneously, sneer about losers - who generally are so defined by the mores of Society - without laying yourself open to the accusation of being contradictory.

As for creating any clarity in the minds of youth about how to conduct their futures, the book is truly speaking no use. It is all fine to say "Follow your gut and not what lies below" but also touting hot cars and hotter girl-friends is not really a plug for ignoring what lies beneath the gut. The problem with any human being is that he is a mass of multiple desires - the passion to go for some profession; the passion for material success and/or the fear of material lack; the passion for social recognition and the passion for that hot Girlfriend/Boyfriend. In fact, what the youth mistake for a passion for a profession has more to do with the passion for the perceived rewards from that profession. Does the book provide any clarity on how to walk your way through these maze of passions? Heck No - the author has only one answer 'F?@k Knows!'

The book is probably what the author claims it is - an honest expression of what is in his heart. It is a readable book, well-peppered with humor and with celebrity reminiscences. Will the readers have anything else to take away from the book?

F?@K Knows!

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Words and Meanings

I must have a few wires crossed in my brain (What do you mean – this is the first time you are hearing about my having a brain? I cannot be responsible for your ignorance). These crossed wires seem to mess up the meanings of quite a few words for me. They are especially active when it comes to the new age words.


There is this term ‘Go-getter’ used with great respect and awe. For some unknown reason, this term always evokes the image of a sniffing, pointy-nosed dog – retrievers, they call them I think – in my mind. You know that sort, don’t you? “Jimmy, Go get that ball” and off goes Jimmy racing after the ball, comes back with it triumphantly and sits on its haunches happily wagging its tail till you feed it that dog-biscuit or bone. Now, maybe, the wires are not all that crossed. I mean, from what I understand, a “Go-getter” is the chap to whom you say things like “Jimmy! Go get that sales order” and off he goes, gets it successfully and comes back slavering for his raise or promotion. At that, the dog has the better deal – he is surer of getting instant rewards in the form of bones or dog-biscuits.


When it comes to ‘Team-player’, however, you really cannot blame me. I mean, how am I to get the meaning if all of you will use it mainly in the negative sense. You say “He is not a team-player” more often and you say it when you mean “He does not spend the evening downing beer with the boys” to “He is rude enough to point out when the team is making a mistake” to “He does not laugh at our jokes”. Now, if I am to work out the meaning of ‘Team-player’ from that, am I to understand that a Team-player “gets passing-out drunk with the boys” or “makes all the mistakes we make and a couple more for originality” or “laughs so much at my every utterance that he makes me feel like Jim Carrey’?

To me, a “Team-player” is the chap who would rather hide his scintillating genius behind the team and not be singled out for the firing squad. An effective “Team Leader” is the chap who can let the team take the credit for any cock-ups while manfully shouldering the blame for a good job done.


I know that a heterosexual gets turned on by the members of the opposite sex and a homosexual gets turned on by members of the same sex. I even know of transsexuals who get turned on by the dress of the opposite sex. But, for the life of me, I cannot figure out what a ‘metro-sexual’ is? Gets turned on by the metro? Exits a metro train after an hour’s ride looking all dreamy-eyed, flushed and languorous? Is the increasing number of metro-sexuals the reason why there is such a clamor for a metro in every city?

If I am to go by ads – the only source of ‘authentic’ information I have – a metro-sexual man is someone who makes up for what he cannot do with girls by getting turned on by bikes, cars or clothing. If in the mood for S&M, he goes over and gets his chest and legs waxed. A metro-sexual woman has it even easier – she just gets turned on by male deodorants.


The problem with all these words is that their meanings are experiential. So, if your experience varies from mine that does not invalidate my definition. There are lots of other such words – most of which escape me now – and, as soon as I can lasso a few, I shall be back with samples from the rest of my dictionary.

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Presentations

A presentation is something that is neither blessed to give nor to receive. Maybe that is just me because I am the chap who misplaces his tongue and can only make gurgling noises every time I get up on stage and loses his consciousness every time I sit in front of it. Going by the popularity of Presentations I must be in a minority (of one, perhaps!)

Hey! Now! Wait a minute! What are you thinking of? This is not the twentieth ugly painting or the eighty-fifth bouquet that you get on the day of your wedding that I am talking about, you know – those are presents and anyone who mistakes this one for that one must really hate presents or, maybe again that is just me.

Things were not bad too far back when these abominations were being made on thin films of plastic – apparently you only got a shellacking for a botched job but you really did not have to redo it due to paucity of time. Bill Gates messed it up for all of us with his noseyparker ways – I mean, who was really begging him to go and create that abomination – Power point? Now PPTs are all the rage and if the combined curses of all those who actually had to work on it really took effect, there would be a new version of Hell created especially to cater to the just desserts of Mr. Gates.

Thankfully, I did not suffer the misfortune of having to work on it because of my handwriting. What had my hand-writing got to do with it? You see, I started corporate life in the era of the so-called transparencies and presentations were hand-written on them with marker pens. Now, blessed with a hand-writing which even God would have needed a Rosetta stone to decipher, I was the last choice for making those presentations. When Mr. Gates popped in with his Power point, it did not strike my bosses – unlike you – that my handwriting had been rendered irrelevant to the decision and, thus, I escaped unscathed.

That meant that I was in the wonderful position of neither having to make a Presentation nor to give it and could truly enjoy the process of a Presentation being reviewed and modified. Ah! For an observer, that is truly fun.

CEO: Let us get on with the review of the PPT of our Annual Budget.

My Boss: Yes, Sir!

(First slide with the mandatory Company logo, second slide proudly proclaiming “Annual Budget….” go by unscathed. Third slide on production performance shows up)

CTO : I don’t think that this pie-chart looks great. Why don’t you shift to a bar-graph.

My Boss: Sir! A bar graph shows up the decline in production in three of our five units.

CTO : Don’t argue on irrelevancies. I think this pie-chart looks ugly. A bar chart will give a more pleasing effect.

CFO : (trying to support his section) Maybe you should change those colors on the pie-chart. For example, that purple there can be changed to sky-blue and…

CEO: I think a bar-chart is best. (trying to keep the CFO happy) Yes! You can dispense with the purple and use a sky-blue. Also, change the font to Arial. Now next slide.

And on and on and on! For three hours, it is great fun to see grown-ups wrangling about shapes, colors and fonts of texts till you are completely convinced that the actual facts and figures presented in the slides are the least relevant things in the whole PPT. The only time I actually regret having made a premature exit from the corporate world is when I think of all the fun I could have had out of the background image selection from the vast resources of the Internet.

By now, you may possibly have got the erroneous impression that making a PPT is dead easy. All that you need to do is to think of your prospective audience as a group of children playing with crayons and it is a piece of cake? You know scant little about children and how fickle their likes are.

The next time you bring in the PPT for a review, the CTO finds that pie-charts look better after all, Orange has acquired appeal in excess of the sky-blue and Calibri is the font of the millennium. Back to the drawing board, guys, and drown your sorrows by inventing a new curse for Mr.Gates!

What do you mean that, as the audience, you are not a child playing with crayons? If not, why do you have your eyes glued on the corporate equivalent of the idiot box instead of paying attention to that inviting snacks tray in front of you?

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Back to Ad Agonies

The more I see ads the more I wonder at how much the world has changed. All the certitudes of my long gone youth have vanished into mist and the brave new world simply seems too brave and too new for me to recognize.

Just imagine the scientific advances in talcum powders. Once all that they could do was spread a fragrance that turned heads towards to smugly smiling user. The latest advances now enhance character. I mean it infuses the heroine with the determination to drag the reluctant hero along in eloping with her. I am sure that those people are working on the next enhancement that will ensure that the user has the courage to face up to the parents and marry with their knowledge if not their consent. Truly, Science is a wonderful thing.

I can imagine consuming a chocolate which will make you look as though you fell face down into muck after you do so. A chocolate that, if you take your attention off it for a few minutes, would make it look as though you scrabbled around elbow deep in slush to come up triumphantly with a chocolate wrapper. I can even imagine such a chocolate finding a market despite all this. But, never in all my dreams, had I ever conceived of the possibility that someone would believe that such a chocolate would find a market precisely because it does all this. And, apparently, it does find enthusiastic buyers! Ah! Me! Where is the nearest cemetery? I am too old to live!

The ad that really tested me, however, was a recent dish-wash liquid ad. There is this lady doctor coming home and her husband bids her Happy Anniversary with a sumptuous spread cooked by him. There you have this doubly miraculous man – he not only remembers anniversaries but also wants to make his wife happy by cooking a feast – and what does the wife say? Shed tears of joy and murmur sweet nothings? Reality Check: “Now my kitchen is bound to be a disaster area”!

Next – surprise, surprise – the husband has even cleaned up the kitchen (Note to married men: Kill this man where you find him! He has no right to set the bar so high!). At least now a happy wife? One overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of her husband? Reality Check 2: “What? With an ordinary dish-wash liquid, my dear expert? That leaves a lot of germs – etc. etc.” Quite the sort of health lecture the husband was thirsty to hear in appreciation of his efforts to make her happy on their wedding anniversary.

What I will never understand – and will be glad to have clarified – is how this expert wife had that ‘ordinary dish-wash liquid’ in her house in the first place? Or do we believe that the husband went out on purpose to get that liquid avoiding the proper liquid that the expert wife had so thoughtfully provided near the sink?

I always knew I was shy a few marbles upstairs. After this I feel that I do not even have two to rub together!

Disclaimer: Any perceived gender stereotyping is all to the credit of the ad, please! After all, when the woman says ‘My Kitchen will now be a disaster area’ and all, the natural presumption is that the kitchen duties in that household have normally been the responsibility of the lady – and I make no value judgments about that!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pre-placement Talks

It seems to me that premier educational institutions of the country form great grounds for fiction-writing, if nothing else (and most may say ‘but nothing else’ but we are not concerned with their prejudices here). I see no reason why they should not also contribute to some smiles every now and then.

Having revealed – and reveled – in the revelation (Ah! I knew I would get a hang of alliteration some day) that I graced the portals of IIM-Bangalore (a fact that IIMB would have been happy to bury in the depths of Tartarus if it could have had its way), I must present one of the most entertaining episodes that I ever enjoyed there – the Pre-placement talks. For those who are happily ignorant of what these are, I must dispel their happiness now – these are the talks that companies give to interested prospective employees from that institution to interest them in applying for jobs with them.

Depending upon the state of mind with which the companies approach the prospective candidates, they may be classified into four broad types – each of which have a specific approach to what they say in the pre-placement talk.

The You-are-lucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are looking for confident and articulate people

(That needed saying since IIMs specialize in selecting nervous, silent shy violets)

with a good grasp of the fundamentals of their area

(Of course normally companies prefer people whose knowledge of fundamentals is slippery as an eel, so they needed to mention that they were more demanding)

willing to put in the necessary effort and take up responsibility proactively

(Yes! Yes! Get on with it guys! I am sure that you are not alone in not liking lazy and irresponsible people like me)

We are looking for go-getters and people who make things happen.

(Hmm! Go get what? Make what things happen? Would making a fire happen in the canteen or making the water-cooler go kaput count?)

For the right candidate with the right attitude the sky is the limit

(Does it mean “We have a nice suite of offices in a High rise building conveniently located close to the terrace(and the sky, of course) from where you can take a swan-dive into eternity when the latest derivatives product you engineered brings down half the world’s economy”?)

The underlying message here is, “We are not here to market ourselves. You guys need to market yourselves to us failing which we will go over to Harvard or Stanford and let the students there peddle their wares to us”.

The We-are-both-lucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are sure our company needs no introduction to you. We are the leading blah-blah-blah

(The second lot, of course! The first lot is so sure that they do not even bother to talk about their company)

We are looking for competent people who can fit in with our organizational culture

(Now what is organizational culture? Folk dances on Founder’s day and Rangoli in the reception? Not exactly! All it means is that they prefer people not to rock the boat)

We are a strongly process-driven company with compensations ranking with the best in the business

(Ah! So no brash young MBA getting catapulted to Vice-President overnight – Dick Whittingtonish ambitions to be whittled down? And no eye-popping headline-making pay packages)

We try to maximize job satisfaction for all our employees. We are sure that those of you lucky enough to join us will enjoy your tenure with us.

(Maximize job satisfaction to all employees? Sort of sounds like the father-son-donkey conundrum – trying to satisfy everyone!)

The underlying message here is “If you want a decent job with prospects and if you suit us, we will have you. You may find other suitable jobs but so can we find other suitable candidates”

The We-are-lucky-that-you-are-here type:

“We are a company that offers great prospects for stellar growth for the right candidate.

(Hmm! Long on prospects! Short on cash! More stock options than cash-in-hand)

We need people who have the ability to take risks, are decisive and can grow into leadership positions soon.

(Well! If someone does join them, they need to be risk-takers so that is one criterion taken care of! And if you cannot pay enough to hire leaders from outside, what choice do you have anyway but to grow your hothouse plants fast?)

The right candidate will find an exciting career with a spectacular rise in career unmatched by any other company.

(Of course! Living on the edge of disaster can be very exciting. If the company succeeds, then the rise will indeed be spectacular and the chap can boast about taking calculated risks. If it fails and the chap stays on too long, others will talk of him on the lines of ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’)

The underlying message here is, “Wow! There are actually a few people here to listen to us! Maybe we will find a competent guy or two with enough risk-taking ability to take a chance with a newbie company but not enough to start one of his own”

The We-are-both-unlucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are a 50-year old company manufacturing blah-blah-blah

(Hmm! So ‘we got along very well without you MBAs for this long. God (alias the new broom CMD) knows why we are here and only you guys know why you are here)

Our payscales and allowances are comparable to the industry standards

(That means not equal to but a measurable fraction of the industry standards!)

We have 10 vacancies in finance and six in marketing

(If ten of your finance guys and six of your marketing guys apply, we shall perforce have to select them. God help their bosses! They will have to put up with all your nonsense of ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ and all such new-fangled notions which we have gotten along fine without for this long)

We have a standard policy for promotions though we do have a special fast-track for deserving candidates

(You will be promoted only when it is due and there is a vacancy. We shall fast-track all means to ensure that there are no deserving candidates)

The underlying message here is, “We rue the day that this new CMD took over and pushed all sorts of new-fangled notions. If you choose to join us it will be you who will be ruing this day for as long as you are with us”

That, I think, should have been illuminating enough for you to read the company from their pre-placement talks. After all, all of you are confident, articulate people with a good grasp of the fundamentals of your area and are go-getters who can make things happen!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.