About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

October 30, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

Many funny terms & jargon's emanated after the grand bust of 2008 and amongst them ‘Cash for clunkers’ best reflected the euphemism that Americans invented to deal with the aftermath of the excesses. So here was a state funded dole out that encouraged Americans to let go off their gas-thirsty vehicles off of the roads. But whats that go to do with their economy going belly up you might say. Pure economics was the main consideration though to an undiscerning eye it meant that Americans got new, efficient vehicles on their roads where gas-hogs once existed. And I guess there were plenty of takers for the $4,500 vouchers toward new vehicles, it was said that Auto Dealers everywhere in US ended up seeing more clunkers than they ever thought possible. Its another matter that they will make money out of these by recycling it to some poor 3rd world market.

The economics behind ‘cash for clunkers’ was revealing, it actually busted the American ‘free market’ hyperbole that is ‘Tom Tom’ed around the world. The big 3 US Automakers (GM,Ford & Chrysler), much like the motifs of dead towering presidents on Mount Rushmore were destined to be engraved on Automotive history for posterity . That was ideally what the market forces operating in a free market would have wanted to. But no, the stakes were too high for the Govt to sacrifice, closing the Big three would mean loss of 240,000 very highly-paid jobs, a loss of 980,000 highly-paid jobs at the suppliers and local dealers, plus the loss of 1.7 million additional jobs throughout the economy—a total loss of 3 million jobs. Never mind they churned out large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks that made customers turn away from the counters. It also dint matter that Darwinian market evolution missed them completely, these US automakers became increasingly uncompetitive suffered from considerably higher labor costs than their non-unionized counterparts from Japan & Europe, including salaries, benefits, healthcare, and pensions. In return for labor peace, management granted concessions to its unions that resulted in uncompetitive cost structures and significant legacy costs. And the damning message came as early as in 2006, Consumer Reports reported that all 10 of the cars that it considered to be the 10 best were built by Japanese companies.So the bust came as a blessing in disguise for the Govt to bail them out, even though only 41% of Americans approved of the actions (as per Washington Post poll finding).

If you missed the humor in all this here it goes; The message from the US bailout was clear ‘If you are poor & loose $100 the Govt would do nothing to you , but if you are rich & loose the $100 billion, the Govt would bail you out’ . Bizzare but true.

October 19, 2009

A case of exploding mangoes

The scene is set among the final days of General Zia and his set of cronies protecting him from what they believe are a bunch of his own aging military generals waiting in the wings out to get him. He comes across vividly as a guy in some sort of dementia (what the author describes as a man self marinating in paranoia). Gen Zia believes he has become a prisoner in own Army house, a 5 mile security cover surrounding him is not enough, there is a fear that someone might be digging a tunnel underground to reach him! And even the itching in his back, which the doctor ascribes to intestinal worms tunneling out reminds him of his forlorn fate. Zia’s portrait as a shrewd but bumbling character is captured vividly and makes for interesting read but that appears only in alternate chapters, in the rest the author meanders listlessly among other unrelated topics (Blind Zainab, Underground cell in Lahore fort, American jaunts in Pak etc).

Characters like General Akthar, Chief of staff Beg, Major Kiyani ( i thought it was the current chief of Army but this guy goes down with the plane), Brigadier TM all appear to be some characters straight out of a typical Pakistan bashing Hindi movie that we are familiar with (the ones Ajay Devgan or Sunny Deol have wrestled with). There is no dearth of similar perception of India/Indians there....Land of Lentil eaters where Gandhi is described as banya while Nehru is a Fornicator, even Lata & Asha are not spared (fat ugly Indian sisters who sing like sex kitten); its all quid-pro-quo feeling across the border reflecting in the book.

Zia-ul-haq is the central theme of the book & he doesn’t disappoint, sample this ..
Without his uniform & presidential paraphernalia General Zia seemed to have shrunk. His moustache always waxed & twirled, drooped over his upper lip . His hair always oiled & parred down the middle was in a state of disarray, like a paraded squad on tea break.

General Zia’s eyes normally crossed, the right one looking in one direction while the left one wandered away to take in something else were for once focused in the same direction on the same objects (the chest of foreign correspondent Joanne herring). The angle of his stare was so obvious that if she drew two lines with a pencil, they would connect the iris of his eye straight to the two white spheres pushed up & pulled together.

He had almost made up his mind to reverse the crescent on the national flag after an Islamic scholar pointed out that it was a descending moon and not an ascending one, but then his advisers reminded him that the flag had been around for 40 years & since nobody actually had any problem with the direction of the crescent, it was better to leave the flag alone.

Mohammed Hanif’s novel exposes the bigotry & intrigue within Pak’s most powerful establishment with his heavily influenced westernized English language .

October 17, 2009

Pin it up...

A few months back I was taking my regular haircut at my favourite barber shop on Brigade Road. I usually prefer the staid & elderly Mr.Dasappa whom I call ‘Headmaster’ among the bunch of croppers there , even it means waiting for abt an hour for my turn. He carries out the task as some master Gardner , carefully picking up small clumps of hair and cropping them with finesse. Usually hair cutting becomes a byproduct under his tutelage, its the nice & soothing experience that one gets that brings me to him.

So the last time around I had a big & burly gentleman sitting next to me and during the course of our hair cut session we got into a conversation. It turned out that he was a Major in the Army and had just returned from a posting in the North. He spoke of the heroism of our men in Uniform & how they operated in trying circumstances. He said “You know we are fighting a ‘faceless enemy ’ (one amongst the crowd) and usually when we (the army) retaliate we face the flak for violating Human rights or being cruel to the public. Collateral damages are a part of the exercise but nobody understands this , we are the aggressors because we are in Uniform . They get all the sympathy because they are civilians. It dosent matter who started this mess” he quipped with a sigh.

These thoughts echoed in me as I went through a similar experience in the Apartment where I stay recently. The only difference being that there was no insurgency here but the watchman who was supposed to be the guardian ended up being a culprit in an incident where my Car was damaged . I don’t know what the motives were , but this guy tried to force open the petrol tank lid with pieces of stick & plastic when I was out of town for about a week. Circumstantial evidence, a bit of inquiring around & finally the confession of his fellow partner watchman helped me identify this culprit over the next 10 days. Initially I tried talking him out to get the confession (reason) & see whether he was repentant but he chose to remain adamant & in denial mode. Finally after about 2 weeks of warning I decided that this was a matter best left to the Police to decide. This guy continued to work in the appt & I dint want to risk any further incident. At the beginning of this month, returning from work one evening I saw this guy on ‘duty’ in the apartment. I went to him, gently held his hand & asked him to sit in the car saying that I was taking him to the police station. The fellow pretended to oblige initially, after coming towards the car he made a U turn and dashed in dramatic fashion to a flat on the first floor screaming as if a violent mob was behind his back. The heat of the moment took over me and I chased to grab him by the scruff of his neck & drag him to the police station as I had decided to. In the ensuing melee, this guy's shirt got torn as he clung to a door handle & I tried to drag him.

This incident left me as the aggressor and more sinned than the sinner. Worse, the guy who patronized this watchman and under whose cover he wanted to hide took up a strident position subsequently. He started writing lengthy mails questioning the incident , addressing all the association members and taking some moral high ground of being ‘just & humane’ . When I wrote back to cut the crap & bring the guy to the station which I reckoned as an appropriate forum, this vigilante member backed off meekly with the tail behind his legs.

He nonetheless made an effort to pin it up . Whether he got a medal on his chest or a kick on his back dint matter in the end.

October 4, 2009

Ads that add

Stopping at a traffic junction near the ASC centre near MG road, this ad caught my attention. Its novelty was quite evident, a picture of an attractive lady with full flowing hair preening back from what appeared to be the rear window of the autorickshaw and promoting a brand of local shampoo.

What I liked about this advt: This ‘in your face’ ad has been done with quite a bit of creative flair and contrarian approach, the picture gives a kind of holographic effect of a lady in an auto. The message is simple and bereft of any fancy slogan. It is unexpectedly different to the prevailing approach in outdoor advertising. 

Consider this, most outdoor advt vans have display boards that provide perpendicular view i.e, you’ll have to see them from the sides and not from the rear. Chances are that you don’t often see such ads on the roads. This one is however a clear winner in catching that attention span , not only while driving but at stationery Traffic junctions.

OOH (out-of-home) Ads like these are adding to improving the livelihoods of autodrivers and rickshaw pullers. Consider this, Patna based SammaaN foundation is getting various prime advertisers to emblazon their ads on the sides and rear of rickshaws. The rickshaw pullers get a fee for the ads & 1/3rd of the margins made by SammaaN on products sold ( one gets a choice of Newspaper, Water bottle, Juice, Biscuits when you board this rickshaw)

What may mar this advt: May be the product placement (i.e, shampoo which is generally considered a higher end FMCG product) may dilute its brand equity . Dust and grime, quite common in Indian cities will easily settle on the tarpaulin and  spoils visual clarity and presentation.

My Verdict: Simple, witty and superb placement. This one is more palatable than those snazzy but silly cola drinks that try to make you believe a 10 rupee sugary carbonated water will bring optimism & happiness even during these tough economic times ( referring to Coco Colas ‘ Open Happiness’ or Pepsi’s ‘Refresh everything ,campaigns)

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