Thursday, December 15, 2005

Anywhere Else in Kolkata

A night to remember. My brother, his wife (SIL) and yours truly trooped off one fine October evening to paint the town vermillion. The first stop was at the imaginatively named Big Ben at the Kenilworth. It was the weekend. It was nine. We were alone. Not entirely true. Half a dozen liveried gents pushing all kinds of nuts were there to keep us company. And, of course, our own personal DJ.

When we left, which was about one small rum and coke and two draughts later, no one had disturbed us. Except, of course, the above-mentioned world musician. Who played for us every kind of mix he could concoct. All this while the lights over the empty dance floor discoed. A polite request for the Beatles, who we assured him, had seen more of the Big Ben than DJ Suketu was met with a bhangra rap that sounded like, if you can only imagine, Bishen Singh Bedi singing along to Brett Lee. My brother, who had picked the joint (and I suspect that decison had something to do with his seven odd years of wandering in Bolton), was getting very belligerent. We decided to give peace a chance and left.

We exhaled and directed our man for the evening to make haste to the Park. We stepped on to the lobby and like rats followed our ears to the bars of Wish You Were Here wafting out of Someplace Else. Why we even bother to experiment in Calcutta I don’t know. A totally unknown group held us enthralled through a baker’s dozen of Pink Floyd’s best. A performance I am sure even Roger and David may have nodded at.

My SIL, who has converted my brother from a Jimi Hendrix worshipper into a rabid Bong music freak (he buys modern bong group music and distributes to his pals), had had enough. So we experimented more. Landed up at Sheesha Bar. Seemed like a place out of Mumbai or Delhi. I was comfortable amongst the miniskirts, long bar, and continuous jostling.

This is where I proceeded to make a total fool of myself. I asked my SIL if she had tried a hookah before. No one had. We bravely ordered a double apple (or was it a tangerine twist) hookah, which arrived some two rums later. After taking care to meet my brother (the doc)’s hygiene standards of having fresh “suckers” (what on earth are they called), we proceeded to smoke.

After lots of bubbling water and strained lungs, smoke filled our mouth. Joy on our faces. SIL and mine ie. We puffed and huffed for 30 minutes. Then my SIL, decided to understand the technology and asked the bartender, where the stuff was stuffed. Aghast the man replied, “Madam, this is entirely tobacco free”.

We had been sucking on charcoal smoke.

Time had come to go home and start some serious drinking.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Uncomfortably Numb

I missed my blog deadline again. It's not that I am that busy. Or lazy. Unfortunately, I havent been able to think of a single interesting lead-in or a witty title. My blog is, as most blogs, observations I make as I meander though life.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty unspectacular. The only thing in my life is work - targets, new business, outstanding payments, year end budgets, meaningless meetings. A numbing procession of menial tasks that make me wonder at the wonder of the advertising world. I may as well have been wearing pinstripe suits and signing vouchers in a bank. Atleast I would have had my dream BMW by now.

But like a creature in a out of home sitaution, I stray. But what the hell this is my blog. Did you know that out-of -home is now the fancy name of the hoarding business. I tell you. We advertising people are amazingly good at justifying our existence.In the beginning it was pretty simple: if business had a problem to solve or an opportunity to take advantage of, advertising was about creating communication to help business do that. Now suddenly you have above the line, below the line, through the line, around the line, integrated, interactive..and if this wasn't enough we have gone and put India's hottest male star in a bath tub with rose petals.

I am numb.

Someone launch another Beatle campaign and save my life.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Hazy Insights

The foundation of the advertising business, it’s claimed by some, is to know the pulse of the masses. And bars, for me, have been an important (the less charitable amongst my friends would say only) source of insights. I visit all types and denominations of bars (to ensure that I am covering all segments of the target audience, of course)

To give you a perspective - Rs 500 for four: at Goks it means you are drunk, at Mondy’s you have been to the loo three times, at Zensi you have got a veg starter (3 aloos and lots of leaves), at Jazz you owe the doorman Rs 300 as entry fee, at the Shack you have already heard Dancing Queen thrice, at Toto’s heads have started banging, at the Lobby Bar you are still negotiating at the entrance.

You get the picture.

What follows are 3 of my not-so-deeply guarded trade secrets gathered through years of slightly out of focus research:

3. No one actually likes Vodka and Red Bull

2. 40% of all Biharis wear trousers and are all in Mumbai. 40%, according to the pants, are having a ball in Bihar (they don't have time to put on trousers). The balance, according to advertising folklore, is in the IAS.

1. M/F, SEC AB, Age 12-21, residing in Bandra (the only civilized place in Mumbai) don’t require sleep at night. Initial research says it’s something to do with reclamation and Mount Mary.

It's Friday evening. Time to go to work.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cross Roads

It's another day of being deluged with stories of flooding. Panic has striken and once again it's decision time. To go or not to get submerged is the question. HR has given us the freedom to leave but people are still dawdling. Caught in a dilemma. Stay in town and get drunk or take a chance and get drowned.

I am reminded of a friend who wanted to see "Mumbai chicks". He had just arrived for his first job. (yes, from Kolkata via Kharagpur) We informed him of the famed Marine Drive and soon found him purposefully striding away from us. We caught up with him near Jazz By the Way (yeah, it was still that then) staring wistfully across the road.

What happened? We enquired. Do I have to cross these roads? Well, if you wanna get close to the birds, you do. Then it's fine. He made a U-turn and we were soon heading towards Malad via Churchgate.

Cross Roads? Never. do we head for the water? Wait for the birds to come home?

Or just order some rum.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Face Aids

A doctor from Pune, the director of My Brother Nikhil, A Man, A Woman, Another Woman, Star One film maker. In our face.

3 hours of intensity that I haven't experienced before. The doctor told us of the times when patients files were kept in the sun to kill the germs, how he faces his religion's stance on condoms, the ignorance of doctors. The director told of us how his film evolved and how audiences walked out 15 minutes into the movie saying "he's gay".

The Man. A king amongst us. Has been living with the virus for over six years. His waiting for the results (it takes four days to know). His writing down on two sides of a notebook-what he will do if has and if he hasn't. How the "hasn't " page filled up in no time. How he couldn't find a thing to write on the other page.

The Woman. A social worker who lives for the people. How she came to know the Man. How she married him. A marriage attended by both sets of parents. How she still procrastinates over her six-monthly test (a promise she made to the Man).

Another Woman. The joy of her newborn destroyed by her learning that her husband has tested positive. Discovering that she is now a carrier. And thankfully, her child isn't. Her husband discovering she has it and dying in a matter of weeks.Going out and getting a job and bringing up her kid. Maintaining a diary of events to give to her son when he passes his Class X so he knows the truth about his father.

The Filmmaker from Chandigarh. Young , restless, callous, cynical, ambitious. 10 episodes on AIDS for the BBC later, a heartless bitch. Telling her anchor the questions to get the best responses. Then her house mate, childhood friend tests positive. The fruits of promiscuity. The rejection of friends. The reality of ignorance and the fears.

I was numb at the end of it. Words were silent. A whisper..what can we do. The answer..just tell 10 people. Make them face.

I did. Your turn.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Kolkata Kalling

Another paid trip to the heartland. I just love this part of my job. Ostensibly, I will be working. All I am thinking of is Mom's sorse ilish bhaapa (baked mustard hilsa..hmm..doesnt come close to capture the magic).

Am going for a new business pitch. I love my considerate bong brethren. How nice of them to fix the presentation on Friday. Weekend at home. Tea in bed. Breakfast options. Lunch Spread. Evening snacks. Night Banquet.

There is, however, a problem of going to Cal. (Kol, doesnt quite cut it) I have only a few thousand close friends. All connected to each other by the most sphisticated optic ether wiring you will find. All I need to do is call one. Viruses blush at the speed of news in my gangland. And if I do not meet all of them, one will hear no end of it till kingdom come.

Apart from that one hazard, Cal beckons. Want to have the chelo kabab in Peter Cat this time. Time and friends permitting. Or the steak at Mocambo. Maybe both.

I need to go now. The water from my mouth is soiling my shirtfront.

Enjoy your rotis.

Till next week.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Green, White, Orange

That's the colour of the office today and will be for India till the 15th. It's a nice set of colours you realise. Very bright and pleasent. Everyone is wearing some shade of the three. A bit overwhelming. But one can live with it for a few days. Especially since it means Monday is a holiday!

Mangal Pandey was timed beautifully. One can visualise a lot of tricolours being waved in the aisles during the weekend. Me have a laptop load of work. Atleast that's what i am telling myself at this point of time.

The premiership starts this weekend. Thank God! Am so bored on weekends. How many books can a soul absorb or for that matter how many beers. The great Strand Book Sale is on also. I love it. One morning taken care off.

Well, have to go now. Need to buy some jeans. Hopefully they will have colours other than orange, white, green..

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bombay Ducks

"Are you going to work? No man, its raining a bit. Don't want to take a chance."

One would have never thought you would have heard that from a Mumbaite. What the blasts couldn't do to Mumbai, the rain gods did. With a lot of help from the administration. Even today, a full 10 days from Tuesday Trauma, one glances out of the window a little fearfully.

Personally, I spent just seven hours in a car stuck in a totally avoidable traffic snarl in Mahim. There was no water. Neither was there a cop in sight. Basic survival instincts had taken over and everyone was breaking every rule to get home. And so no one did.

We are all limping back to normal. Hopefully, we have seen the last of the rains. Hopefully, we will see some good come out of all this for the city.

But for a while, Mumbaites will do one thing when they hear a thunderclap.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Soul Cleansing

Mumbai rains are awesome or awful depending on whether you travel by car or train to work.

For the carpeople, esp with drivers, its a wonderful 45 minutes to an hour to work and back. What's more beautiful than watching a sheet of rain on marine drive and the sloshing of waves aginst the concrete. The continuous splatter of rain on sheet metal and the wave after wave aginst your window pane. The airconditioner works so well!

For the muggles on trains, its not a pleasent time. Jumping out of a shared cab and making a dash for the protection of the station is a never-winning race. You will always hit the last puddle before u get 2 the safety of the concrete roof.

I enjoy Sundays the most. Wake up in the morning. Open the sliding windows. With a warm cup of tea in my hand, watch the earth getting washed. It's a cleansing feeling. That's a real nice feeling.

And Sunday is just a day away. Time for soul freshening.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blogged Down

To all my regular readers who hang on to each word that I craft, my apologies for my disappearance. Blame it on work. Work is really irritating. It stops one from pursuing the really important activities that go on to make a healthy life. Like playing computer games. Like catching the matinee show of Sarkar. Like writing my blog.

I work in advertising. My job is to get business. My team's job is to manage them. It looks like I am getting a little to good at my job. And my team is wilting under the onslaught. Over the last few weeks, no one in office has played a round of Doom. Or raced around a track.

So i decided to help the poor souls out I have been, as they say, getting my hands dirty. Meeting clients and all. Been some time I did that. Actually wrote a brief. It's like revisiting childhood. But it's been fun.

Hey, sorry but looks like I have to run. Another client is calling his slaves.

See you soon. Be good.

Friday, June 03, 2005

With apologies to Alice and all the fish

Missed out on the Alumni. Got the days wrong. Dont think I missed much. The week has been a kind of rollercoaster. Work rolling in and me coasting along.

Had a farewell party midweek at home. Everyone had a real blast. All the booze got over. All the food got wasted. Dumb Charades was in season.

The weekend looks a goner. With pitches coming out of the woodwork. Lots of powerpoint happening i see.

Looking forward to the next week though. Will be in Kolkata. Home. Sweet home. Fish, fish and more fish. And some special friends.

Well. Thats about it. Will bring you all rosogollahs.

Till then.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Who the hell is Alice?

Another college reunion is in the cards. The hordes have started pinging each other. Been out of campus for over 14 years. And every year it gets scarier and scarier. Dreading the year the registration desk-person will address me as "Uncle". But one can no longer run away from the fact that the year is approaching soon.

The last reunion I went to..two years back.. convinced me that I am out of it. One of the oft-played songs on campus was "Living next door to Alice" and I heard the new version of it playing and kids yelling at the right moment enquiring politely who Alice is. Broke my heart.

Will go back later

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday evenings in advertising

It's strange how invariably every client that I know remembers that important brief just after lunchtime on a Friday. I wonder if its linked to the 2 hour lunch he has just finished at Trishna. Does he rememeber the agency when he's pushing the third vodka tonic (or red bull, depending on his era) to the side or is it when he is sucking on that juicy crab leg. Wonder if its love or is it just love.

Whatever the reason, the phone starts ringing past four with jobs that HAVE to be shown on Monday first thing. Being the person where the buck stops, one has to find really imaginative ways of pushing it down the ladder..the buck ie. The collective protest levels in the advertising world on a Friday evening if harnesed could easily light up the currently unlit hoardings in Mumbai.

Today is a special Friday. Monday is a holiday. Goa is in the air. If not, at least Matheran. And a lot of packed suitcases will see no sand. I am not a popular man right now. I am hiding in my cubicle after effectively destroying a lot of people's love and lust life for ever.

Why does this happen? Are clients just bad planners or are they just sadastic. Or is it just that they need to free up room space in Goa.

Anyone has any answers?