Friday, October 15, 2010

Common Wealth Games - Power of Media
The CWG juggernaut has come to a halt. The ‘Global Media’ can’t stop singing praises of how India pulled a rabbit out of its hat.

Before the games, all media, Indian and Global, were tearing the games organization to bits. Suresh Kalmadi was a traitor, Sheila Deikshit a witch, Manmohan Singh an impotent Sikh and India a third world nation. Most people in the nation went by what the media said in the papers and showed in the TV. BLINDLY. Am sure none of us took the trouble of catching a train to Delhi to check if all that the media said was true. Fears of security, ceiling collapses, shoddy infrastructure, dengue fever, snake bites, monkey attacks and God knows what else were floating around.

Cut to post games. The opening and closing ceremonies were grand hits and the Indian Athletes’ performance on the field added to the button-bursting pride swelling in every Indian’s chest.

But somehow I can’t help but wonder if there is a deeper conspiracy to the whole set-up. Were the media paid off to look the other side and/or generate positive press about the events? Were the CWG’s central council/committee paid off to keep quiet and not raise an issue. Were the Athletes of other countries brought off to perform below par? I mean there was a few billion dollars as budget to play with. You can buy a whole lot with that kind of money. No?

How come suddenly the Athlete’s village was spick and span? There was not one article post October 3rd of anyone complaining. I mean, beds were breaking, ceilings collapsing. There was no proper infrastructure. It was a shambles. How come suddenly snakes stopped slithering, monkey’s stopped attacking? It’s as if these creatures knew the country’s reputation was at stake.

The media did a complete turnaround. The likes of which I haven’t witnessed! Suddenly everyone is talking of the world-class facilities in the stadium, the fireworks display, the 8000 odd performers who did a perfect synchrony during the opening ceremony. Suddenly A.R.Rahman’s song which sounded like a wail of a widow, sounds like a heavenly hymn.

Now if it was only the world press which was creating negative publicity for CWG, I can put that down to envy and borderline racism. But our Indian media was also like a pack of starved wolves; waiting for a glimpse of the next red-riding hood. They tore into the CWG. And how!

Everyone was goading the media to go for the kill. Me included. Everyone was baying for blood. Suresh Kalmadi’s blood, Sheila Dikshit’s blood. And the blood of the entire organizing committee who had purportedly ‘eaten’ a vulgar amount of money in the name of organizing the CWG.

Like the mutiny of 1857 that sparked a nation-wide movement to secure India’s independence, modern India is a nation of people awaiting an awakening. We thought the awakening had come from our ‘responsible’ media.

What we got in return, was a cock-tease of epic proportions.

And just when we thought we will finally see some justice, there is another ‘investigation committee’ set-up to ‘investigate’ the anomalies. We are all well aware what happens next. Don’t we?

And while the whole world celebrates India’s ‘arrival’ on the world stage and dreams of holding the Olympics are formed, I wonder whom the Indian and World media are targeting next...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My first pedicure
Ok I know what you are thinking of me, right this very moment after reading the heading. I am NOT gay. I am happily married with a wonderful woman. I am NOT a metrosexual either (I don’t use cosmetics or creams). I am just a normal heterosexual guy who happened to have badly cracked heels. So bad that it started resembling the terrain of the Kalahari. And the pain forced me to take this extreme step. Pedicure.

So I went to my barber shop ( I don’t like to call it hair styling salon) who also happened to give a manicure and pedicure amongst many other things. I choose to go to this joint, not because it has a fancy name; ‘Wild West’, there’s nothing wild or western about it; but because it is run by a Srilankan Tamizh (not LTTE) and the barbers (hair stylists) speak fluent Tamizh (popularly spelt ‘Tamil’), my mother tongue, albeit with a singsong Srilankan accent. In addition they also run good Tamizh programmes on TV, which I hardly get to see at home since my wife is a Sindhi.

So I walk in to the tune of Tamizh songs in the background, and tell him ‘usual’. Half way into the hair slaughter, I tell him in a low desperately-trying-to-sound-nonchalant tone that I want a pedicure, hoping he won’t notice my embarassment. He said “Saar you want manicure also?”, loud enough for the entire shop to hear. Talk about being discreet. I said ‘No’. “Saar, but you have dead skin on your fingers also”. I looked at him pleadingly and said “No only pedicure. That will do”.

He finished with the haircut and said “Saar, go upstairs. James will do the pedicure”. I asked who he is. He said, “Saar, new fellow. Filipino.” I nodded and went upstairs, hoping the 50 minute session turns out fine.

I go up and what do I find? A half man, half woman, called James who had small tits, long straight hair and a womanish lilt to his walk. “Welcome my Priend (friend), what do you want me to do today?”. I simply said “Pedicure”, not wanting him to recognise the first thought that came to my mind on his question.

He quickly got a bucket of hot water running and directed me to a seat, which looked dangerously similar to a Dentist’s chair. I took my seat diffidently and made a feeble effort to look comfortable. He said “put your leg up on my lap my priend. Let me seeeeee.”. I put it up for examination; not so different from when you open your mouth wide open to a dentist. He tut tutted and threw a mock accusing glance at me and said “When was the last time you took a pedicure?”.

Suddenly, I was too ashamed to say ‘never’. So I lied through my teeth hoping he won’t see through it. “Ah, maybe 6 months or 7 months. Have been very busy at work. Just didn’t find time. I heard you do a good job.” That last piece of appreciation must have hit a nerve, because he got all excited and had a wide grin on his face. I was half afraid that he was going to kiss and molest me and cursed myself for what I said. But nothing happened.

He drowned my hairy feet in hotter-than-expected water and generously doused a solution of methyl alcohol (I think) which I was hoping he won’t set fire to later. After about 10-15 minutes of soaking up the legs, he asked me to place one leg on the stool in front of him. By this time, he had neatly arranged all his pedicure equipment (which by the way would give a surgeon a complex), which closely resembled torture equipments which I had seen in one of the recent war movies.

He pushed up my tracks a little, which further exposed my hairy legs and half expected him to suggest a waxing. Thankfully that suggestion never came.

He first took a rough scrubber (that’s what I call it) and scrubbed the ‘dead skin’ off my heel. A steady rythmic scrub with minimal pain. And then he started working his way up to my toes. And that’s where the tickle started. I couldn’t stop myself from jerking my feet. He sensed my ticklishness and said “Ah you have sensitive feet huh priend? Shall I tickle some more?”. I was thinking “Thank God, my wife is not here. She would have accused me of having an extra marital affair”.

After about 10 minutes, he probably sensed the scrubber was doing no good and clogged with too much skin, so he switched equipment. This one looked like a carrot grater. Just smaller in size. And he went about grating my skin and smoothing out the rough edges; occassionaly giving my leg a tickle hoping to elicit a response from me. I maintained my stony expression. I will be damned if my first extra marital affair turns out to be with a eunuch.

Once he was done with the scrubbing and grating, he switched attention to the nails. I had thankfully trimmed my nails just a week back, so it wasn’t really wild. He clipped, filed and plucked my nail and skin on all toes with weird looking equipment, that like I said, reminded me of chinese torture procedures. After about 30 minutes he said “ok priend, we are done with this leg, now show me the other”. The same procedure was repeated with the other. Complete with the tickling and coy looks.

After about approx. 1 hour, just when I was starting to lose sensation in my legs, he said the golden words “We are done my priend… hope you like it. Feel your leg. Touch. Touch and see. It’s just like a baby’s bottom.” I felt it and immediately felt like a pedophile. You don’t compare a freshly pedicured pair of feet to a Baby’s bottom! Especially when you are going to run your hands on it and seek pleasure out of it.

Nevertheless. I finally had my first pedicure. And if you haven’t had one till now, maybe you should consider. It does feel soft as a baby’s bottom!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Sitting on chairs puts on flab: One more reason to hate your 9-6 job. According to a new research, it seems there is no effect of a 1-2 hour daily work out, if you have a desk job that arrests you to a chair continuously for 8-10 hours. Seems all the calories you burn in a 1 hour gym session is gained right back just by sitting 8 hours on a chair.

Talk about vicious cycle! Go to Gym-Lose calories-feel happy-go to office sit for 8 hours-gain calories-feel sad. Repeat next day… day after, week after week. Feeling depressed? Don’t. Research proves depression and weight gain co-occur. I hate research. Wanna make a million? Who doesn’t? The site belongs to a Srilankan who is on a race to make a million by Jan 2011. And while he is at it, he is gonna help others make a million too, if they are interested. I have been in this race, seriously, since 2005 and I have just about achieved 1/10th of it. Seems a one legged beggar in Mumbai is doing better than me.

Piqued I visited his site. And the bloke is actually doling out advice on avenues to make money. Quite generic stuff actually (not anything you wouldn’t have thought of), but his intentions are genuine. More importantly his desire, passion and his thirst for making it big, is nothing short of a dying man’s thirst for water in a parched desert. Its addictive. In a day and age where everyone wants to make a quick buck with utter or no consideration for fellow humans, here is a person who wants to make a quick buck but in the process also wants to help others make it. Noble? Time will tell.

Unique identity symbol for the Indian Rupee: I say high time! We are the world’s fourth largest economy and we still represent our currency as INR. I wonder how they would go about creating a symbol? Hopefully it will not be left to the babus in the cabinet ministry, who might just take their grandchildren’s infantile scribble and make it the nation’s currency symbol.
Hire an advertising agency perhaps? If they do, I pray fervently the agency selected understands its significance and importance and doesn’t end up coming up with artsy stuff fit only for Cannes and not the common man!

Sania Mirza crashed out in first round: Recently Sania Mirza crashed out of the Dubai tennis tournament in the first round and blamed it on a swollen wrist. Poor thing is under the impression that, that is the only thing swollen in her body. Media? Care to enlighten her? Oh sorry I forgot. She is your creation. She reminds me so much of a famous quote by Shakespeare “Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them”. She probably falls in the third category. Thank you media.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Save our tigers – While I am all for protecting the national animal, I wonder how, many of these farcical buggers would react with empathy when face to face with a Bengal Tiger? 1411 will quickly reduce to 1410 esp. if that person has a 12 bow shotgun in hand.

My name is Khan: I think Shiv Sena has a problem with the name of the movie rather than the fact that SRK wanted Paki players to play in the IPL. I would suggest SRK change the name of the movie to My name is Khanna instead. I mean we are in Hindustan for crying out loud… the least you can do is keep a Hindu name. Do I qualify to join the Sena? Come to think of it, ‘Khanna’ might just be numerologically lucky too! Who knows…

Rahul Dulhaniya le Jayega: A man with a dark past. Wife beater. Son of a politician (almost sounds like an abuse, doesn’t it?), Rahul Mahajan is having his swayamvar or is it swayamvadhu on national television. The guy laughs like Elmer Fudd, is bent like a Neanderthal and generally looks like an overgrown spastic baby. The brides-to-be? The less said the better. Is it better than Rakhi’s Swayamwar? Well let’s just say, they are 2 sides of a fake coin.

T for Toyota or Trouble? – Seems of late, a lot of Toyota’s vehicles have been called back because of unintended accelerations. Don’t u wish the same would be true for the world economy? ‘Unintended acceleration’. I like the term!

What an idea Sirjee: The other day me and my friend Al after a particularly stressful day at work, were discussing as usual about how to get out of this 9-6 rut we had gotten ourselves into. And we thought if we werent lucky enough to get a job we love, we arent going to be lucky enough to win the Mashreq millionniare either. So therefore the alternative is the extreme. Invent a new product, patent it and sell the idea to a big company. As simple as that.

With this in mind, we started brainstorming. And voila! Al had an idea. We men always forget to put the toilet seat up once we are done crapping. This apparently (I didn’t know) irritates the womenfolk no end. The answer? An automatic toilet seat lifter!

Al worked out the mechanics of how it would work. A spring loaded system which recognises the weight of a person when he sits on the toilet seat. And as soon as he is done shitting and gets up, it recognises that the weight is off and therefore pulls itself up. Sounds good doesn’t it? Guess what? A similar system already exists!! I cant believe there are others who didn’t even leave the toilet seats alone… Now we have to start all over again…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sach ka Samna / Moment of truth
While I was flipping channels yesterday I came across an interesting program. Sach ka Samana aka Moment of truth.

A game show where one has to face 21 questions about their life; I should add, uncomfortable, disturbing, revealing and rather personal questions, at the end of which they would stand to win Rs.1cr (Rs.10 million). Quite a sum of money.

Basically before one qualifies to sit on the ‘hot seat’, he is put through a polygraphic machine (lie detecting machine), the one which Robert De Niro subjects Ben Stiller to in ‘Meet the Parents’; and are administered 50 questions that are quite personal.

While I tuned in, there was this fat north Indian guy, typical Mumbai middle class businessmen type, gold chain on wrist, double chin, paan stained red teeth, overflowing stomach flab, sitting on the ‘hot seat’, a thin bead of sweat on his brow, answering questions like:

1. Do you have a secret in your life, which could potentially break your marriage?
2. Have you ever suspected your wife of adultery?
3. Have you been unfaithful to your wife?

Well if you are wondering what the answers to the above were, then I should say at this point that you have a Voyeur hiding inside you (though you would never admit it). Let me relieve you of your curiosity. The answers, were YES, YES and YES. And the answers were all TRUE.

If it brings you any relief, I will accept I am a voyeur too, because I continued watching the show and derived pleasure out of it too. Not the kind of sadistic pleasure you derive out of torturing people you hate, but the kind of curious pleasure you derive, when you see a horrific road accident but just ‘tut tut’ your way as you pass by the hapless victims and the blue and red sirens of the police cars and hospital vans and then shamelessly brag to your friends later that you passed by that accident, while they have just heard of it on the radio.

Then I came to know that this show was popularized in the US (Moment of Truth), though roots were in Colombia. It’s got very good TRPs by the way. Now, why am I not surprised?

And guess what, the guy in the hot seat has to answer all the questions in front of his family and friends, who are given a front row seat to see the tamasha.

While I was watching the show I was wondering is this all really worth it? I mean I wouldn’t reveal the dark secrets of my life for Rs.1cr (probably Rs.10cr might convince me otherwise). Imagine you win Rs.1cr, but you are mentally scarred for the rest of your life. Your friends, your family, your neighbours, the whole frigging country knows everything about your life! Is it really worth it? I guess that question would be best answered by the contestants.

And you know why I think this show will succeed? Because inside each and every one of us, there is a voyeur hiding. An innate quality we are all born with. And one which the media guys have scented, salivated on the thought and capitalized on.

After the show my wife asked me “Sweetie, would you ever participate in this show?” I said “Would you?” Both of us didn’t answer the question. We just gave that smile to each other. After all, life isn’t worth spoiling with 21 truths.

What about you? Would you?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Product or Brand? I think Product.

I was sent this wonderful article written by Al Ries a few days back. It makes great reading. Read the rest of my blog, after reading that article.

You know why Sachin Tendulkar, Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Roger Federer or Maradona are legends in their respective sport? Before they became icons, before they became brands, before they became legends, they were and continue to be THE BEST in their respective game. Period.

When competition came, when competition sometimes got better, these sportsmen always made a comeback because their foundation was excellent. They dug deep, corrected their flaws, bettered their technique and came back hard on their competition.

Everything else followed. Money, fame, them becoming brand icons in their sport. Everything. They became great brands, because fundamentally they were great products.

You can have the best marketing team in place, you can have the best advertising agency doing your ads, but in the end if you don’t have a good product, then it will all fall flat.

GM does not have good cars. Period. Their cars are not fuel efficient, neither are they stylish and nor are they as reliable as their European counterparts. And this is not perception. Its simple hard hitting reality. Their competition is better in at least 2 of the 3 above mentioned parameters.

Marketing is not going to help and neither is advertising. First build a reliable product which can stand up to competition. Once a good product is in place, everything else will follow. Their story, the brand, the marketing, the advertising et all…

The best brands are the best, because they have fantastic products to begin with. The brand, the perception about it, the advertising etc helped build it into the giants that they are today.

So I grudgingly disagree with Al Ries on only one count. To me the focus on product should be more important than focus on the Brand. People might buy brands, but if the brand does not live up to its promise or their expectation from the product then they will switch loyalties to a brand with a better product. (Note that I acknowledge that they will buy a brand and not a product).

It might sound like I have gone back 50 years in my thinking, but come to think of it, sometimes going back to the roots is probably for the better.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

First impressions

A few days back I attended a seminar on Islamic Banking. Well for the uninitiated, let me clear doubts right away. It's got nothing to do with funding terrorism. Islamic banking is all about following the Sharia' laws, which of course finds its roots in Islam and the Quran. The seminar was about Islamic banking and how it is better than conventional banking.

Well I digress. I am here to write on first impressions. So Samir (my client servicing director), Trevor (Group Account Director) and I decided to attend this seminar, which was supposed to last 2 hours. Well at 6:00pm, it's not the most exciting way to spend your evening. But hey, I handle HSBC, and therefore I am compelled to attend. Whether I like it or not. Its times of recession and I better show extra interest and enthusiasm towards my work.

So we head out to knowledge village, aptly named because of the number of universities that are bunched together here. Frankly I wasn’t expecting many people to attend. I mean how many people would be interested on a talk about Islamic Banking? I was imagining myself, Samir and Trevor in a room full of empty chairs and the speaker talking to us. And if he turned out to be one of those chirpy, interactive ones, he just might point out at me and ask me questions on what he just spoke.

We near the registration desk and my fears seemed to be true. I take a peek into the seminar room and the bloody room is empty. We were the first ones. I feared we would be the last too. I just resigned myself to my fate, filled my details in the registration form and took my seat in the hall. Sam and Trev, dutifully sat on the 2nd row. Damn.

I took the seat next to Trev.

The time was 5:55pm. I was expecting a few more atleast. But the next 10 minutes completely took me by surprise. There were already around 40 in the room! And a good mix. Indians, Westerners, Arabs, Africans. I thought to myself "Well…."

I saw a person who I thought was the speaker. He was speaking to a guy in a uniform who looked like the technical guy who sets up projectors and laptops before a seminar. And he was selecting white board markers. He was in casual gabardines, linen shirt and looked like one of those cool professors I never had. I looked around the room and took in the profile of people attending. Mostly suits, a few kandooras, a couple of ladies in abaya and a man in a pathan suit, with a big beard, looking like one of those radical mullahs of a madrasa, that you see from time to time on CNN or BBC, yelling at other similar bearded men demanding them to wipe out the infidels.

I thought to myself "Quite a crowd". "I hope I don’t doze off". Would have been quite a crime considering I was on the 2nd row. For the record, there was not a single person who took the first row. So we were literally the first row.

It was 6:15pm. The guy in the khaki gabardines was standing on the dais, pacing slowly. Allowing everyone to settle. Then he walked off solemnly to the back of the room.

A person in a suit walks up to the mike. Clears his throat and delivers the opening speech. "Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for your presence today. We have amongst us a great personality today. Mr. Atif Khan. He brings to us his rich experience on banking. His conventional finance experience includes investment banking at Morgan Stanley in New York and London, executing mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance transactions, and Chief Financial Officer of Iprox Limited in London. Atif earned a Bachelor’s summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Master’s from Harvard University. Before becoming MD of, he has worked closely with Islamic financial institutions on product development, Atif studied the Shariah sciences for five years in Pakistan, the last years of which were spent one-on-one with some of the world’s leading Islamic finance scholars. Today he will speak about Islamic banking. So without much ado, I present to you, Mr. Atif. Atif the stage is yours. Thank you".

I hear faint footsteps. And lo and behold, who do I see taking the stage!

The young bearded radical mullah! I was shocked.

I suddenly hear a perfect American accent wafting from his direction. I was confused. Here was a man, who had a long flowing beard, he was in a Pathan suit, with a black sleeveless cashmere coat on top of it, wearing sandals. And he has an American accent. Perfect English. He had my complete attention. And how!

After speaking for about 10 minutes he clears his throat. Cracks a joke about how he just delivered a 2 hour speech before this. And that his throat is sore. Asks for a glass of water from a person sitting at the back. And who walks up with a glass of water?

The cool looking professor in gabardines. Ah! How wrong I was.

He went on to deliver one of the better seminars I have attended. He explained in very simple terms what Islamic banking was and what it is based on, its foundations. And his delivery was perfect, his humour; self deprecating, casual. He in fact even cracked a couple of contextual jokes on Muslims and how the world looks at all of them as terrorists! I mean how many of them would do that? Not sure how the muslims in the room took it though. Because I thought I heard a few uncomfortable laughs.

I was quite amazed at the end of it all. He almost convinced me that Islamic banking is better than conventional banking. But like most things in my life, all my brilliant queries and doubts on any topic comes a good 2 days after I have had the discussion / attended a seminar. Anyway, I answered my own queries and decided I will stick to conventional banking.

But coming to the point. First impressions can be deceptive. I had made up my mind about quite a few things that day. My first impression about a topic like Islamic banking that no one would be there to attend it. My first impression about the guy in the gabardines. My first impression of Atif.

I thought of this guy as a radical Islamic mullah of a madrasa, who goaded blood thirsty Jihadis to their deaths. But he turned out to be someone completely different from what I had assumed. Like the saying goes "Don’t judge a book by its cover".

I hope I never fall prey to first impressions again.