Thursday, February 6, 2014

Labels

In the very early days of schooling, I also had the illusion that I was a budding Raphael. As a mere start to higher achievements in Art, I showed my drawing to my school teacher and proudly awaited her gape-mouthed admiration.

"That is a very nice..mmm.. crow?", she said doubtfully.

"THAT was a cow, miss" I said indignantly. (Those were the days when the teacher was a miss no matter whether she was a Mrs or a Ms in real life)

"If only you had labeled it, I could have recognized it."

Later in life, I realized that this problem of labels is more acute when it comes to human beings. I mean, you cannot just look at a guy and identify if he is a banker, a lawyer, a doctor or a vagabond. (I certainly do not intend wandering into esoteric areas like his honesty, his courage, his capacity for affection and the like) Well, you could not but for the fact that we have invented labels for them so that we can conveniently identify the lot.

Pin-striped suits, ties and coats even in sweltering heat? Banker or top corporate honcho! White coat and stethoscope - doctor! A shapeless black gown - lawyer! Scruffy looks and oddly assorted clothes - Me..err...vagabond! Labels are so handy. Without them it would be tough to know who is who and behave accordingly.

The problem, though, is that people fail to use the appropriate labels, especially in social circumstances rendering things as difficult as for my school teacher. Doctors prefer prodding around well-cooked flesh of chicken with their forks instead of prodding around diseased human flesh when they come to parties. (Particularly when they cannot bill the owner of that flesh? I did not say that!) A white coat would so occupy them with the latter that the former would become impossible. A black gown would probably have a lawyer stranded in lonely splendor, maybe because people are too afraid of being sued for slander the next day for bibulous mutterings. So, everyone and his uncle dresses up like a corporate honcho/Banker (except the vagabond, who cannot afford to, but then the vagabond is unlikely to be invited to such jamborees anyway) making it difficult to identify them.

It is here that the world has simplified things these days. Instead of working your way through the mazes of professions, it has made it simple by merely seeking that you identify and appropriately kowtow to relative success. SO, the more expensive the dress, the accessories, the car and the conversation ('When I was in Zurich last night' instead of  'When I was in Forum Mall last night') the more respect is due to the person. Finis!

The entire corporate world is, therefore, geared to getting its products recognized as the appropriate label for the person! All you have to do is to get your product recognized as THE label to identify a class of person and you have achieved Marketing Nirvana.

See - the world RUNS on labels! So, I cannot fault my school teacher for bemoaning the lack of one.

40 comments:

  1. Hehehehe very true! and why corporate world, the best example I have come across offlate is Mr. RaGa. If anything, this man was labeled as a suave sophisticated "leader" and frankly his persona gave that impression as well... all this until he appeared in the now infamous interview with Mr. ArGa :P

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    1. I meant it sui generis for Society at large Seeta! So, the post should also cover RaGas and ArGas with equal ease :)

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  2. hehe Yes, I can empathize with your teacher. I have the exact same expression when my children (who are very bad at art) show me the drawing. Label toh daala hota :). Not only dress but how one looks also labels people. So women in plaits and saris are homely housewives. Those who take kids to park are boring, simpletons and most often than not not working professionally. Those in Western attire are progressive! On and on it goes.

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    1. It is so easy to make snap impressions and far more difficult to understand a person! Labels zindabad! :)

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  3. These labels are infinitely confounding; some are pre-conceived and some decided after speaking to individuals. Somehow some labels stick thru' for life the kanjoos chap in school who never shared chocolates continues to be so in adulthood without sharing his money and good fortune. Alternatively, the motu in school has grown onto become a sleek and fit six-packed hulk of muscle. And for me - I have never graduated from Brooke Bond Red Label to Black Label :)

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    1. Hmm - When did you graduate from Bournvita to Brooke Bond Red Label? :)

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    2. Actually in class XII during study-holidays to mug up theorems and formulae :)

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    3. So the time can come for Black Label as well :)

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  4. An old but relevant post of mine on a related topic - http://mahabore.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/looks-dont-matter/

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  5. Cow, Crow; spelling wise you were very very close :P

    I don't like labels, specially the ones manifesting lower status.

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    1. I must take solace in the similarity of spellings Saru :)

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  6. Hehehe... Seems the cow-crow episode left an impact on your mind :) . Loved your take on the labels. Indeed it's all about brands and phoren location.

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    1. Brands also brand the people who use them :)

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  7. Labels - We are quick with them, are'nt we..but then we just can't help it and till we have properly bucketed the person to our satisfaction, we are clueless on how to deal with somebody.The problem is of course, when someone doesnt live upto his/her label :)

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    1. Yes - and when we use their possessions to bucket the people it invariably quite often to mislabeling :)

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  8. I agree! Sureshji, I am planning to write a Post on the way people judge- like you said 'Zurich' vs. 'Forum Mall'!! Yes, labels are important in this showy world! :P

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    1. Nowadays the label IS the person for most people :P

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  9. Loved the post, as always! :) Lables are so much a part of daily life that it is tough imagining life without them. After-all they give us an insight to a person without actually having a detailed conversation :P

    Good or bad, they are everywhere and I guess the world would be a mess without them :P

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  10. That is intelligent writing. Glad you are not in Gurgaon. We eat, drink and sleep labels.

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    1. Heard of IFFCO Chowk in Gurgaon, Alka? :) I worked for IFFCO and was in Delhi for aeons :)

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  11. Well,well,got to be more careful about my labels now,any coach you know of?

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    1. There used to be what they called Finishing Schools, Indu! Maybe you shouls try one of them :)

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  12. Labeling is the only proper way to recognize people these days. And it is quite sad!!!
    Even in our profession, we are running behind people under the label "MONEY MONEY MONEY" :P

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    1. Everyone everywhere is running to identify who has the money :) If you do not have it you are not successful and who wants to know a 'loser' :)

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  13. The conversations at any gathering proceeds totally depending upon these labels -those already conferred and those yet to be. Btw speaking of drawings my tenth class biology teacher thought that my frog looked like a lizard hi hi

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  14. The world runs on labels..absolutely..
    Heard that Hindi proverb.." pehle darshadhari , pichhe gunbichaari "..or ' the first impression is the best impression "..all these are saying about labels I suppose.. designer clothes , branded accessories , Zurich tours ..etc..

    And cow---> crow..just a 'r' ..forget it.. :-P

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    1. Hmm - I console myself with that 'only an r' too :)

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  15. True, Suresh. But that is how the world is. It is all perceptions.

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    1. Thankfully for me I do not need to deal with the world. I pick and choose the people I deal with on the basis of whether they go by labels or by the person - choosing the latter, of course! I'd rather converse with someone who talks to me and not with someone who talks to my tie :)

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  16. Ha! The urge and scourge of labels! While I am sure we are all flagged in some way or other by the hoi polloi, I have remained non-plussed about it all right since my childhood days. A great piece, as ever.

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    1. I take great pleasure in nonplussing people who seek to know what label to identify me by :) When they ask me what I do, all I have to do is claim, "I am a consultant" - as I indeed was for three years - and they would be comfortable treating me with respect :) I choose to say I do nothing and they are nonplussed about where to slot me :)

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  17. Good one and lack of proper labeling lead to major goof ups in life. As a child and an innocent teenager, I admit that I was assuming a lot on the dude wearing a suit or carrying a brief case on the way to work. I do become conscious when I wear a pair of jeans when I go to work...:)

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  18. I have come to realize, labeling is more a Desi preoccupation. In Videsh, people don't really care for what you do, they are more interested in who you are.

    You were born in the wrong country, Suresh.

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    1. Looks like it Purba! In my attitude to punctuality and in this I seem to have all sorts of wrong ideas that do not suit this country :)

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  19. Ah yes, Suresh. Have I mentioned when I spent the summer in New York last year, blah, blah. Oh wait, I guess I can't impress anyone because I spend all my time in New York, it's where I live! So much for getting myself an upitty label. And everyone assumes I mean New York City and not a rural town way upstate. Maybe I can get an impressive label because I hang out with chickens. Of course, the chickens have no choice.

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    1. Hmm ! Mary! Why did you let that out - that you lived in NY? :) You could have labeled yourself as the uppitiest of the lot :)

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