Thursday, 29 April 2010

Love between the covers

Finished reading a series recently (or rather a section of a series spread over 3 books) - the Change Series by S.M. Stirling - and was hit by the extent to which the death of one of the principle characters affected me.

(Plot spoiler alert! Don't read the next para if you intend to read the series!)
I'd been reading the series for a while at the time, almost a month through the three books and Mike Havel emerged as a strong and charismatic character right in the first book. And so when in the third book  Mike Havel dies a heroic death, I could have easily been one of the mourners in his funeral procession who felt his loss completely. It didn't matter that I had flipped to the end of the book as I started it and I knew he was going to die before I began the book. My reaction was just as intense.

As I read, I become intensely involved with everything about some of the characters and I can usually come up with both a history and a future for them beyond the pages of the book. In much the same way that we find out about the new people that we meet, I flip through the pages of a book, greedily looking for information about the people I like, the people I wish I'd meet on the street someday. The impact is even more intense with series' than with single books and with books I've read multiple times versus books I've read only once. A simple function, I think, of the amount of time one spends with the characters and the deeper understanding that one develops about them. And even when the plot or storytelling deteriorates in quality, I read on simply to stay involved with the people I've fallen in love with. They become a part of what I know about the world I live in and I react to them in my imagination in much the same way as I would to real people in the real world. And as in real life, while the curiosity about those around us diminishes with time and the attachment does not, so it is with people who inhabit the pages of a book.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Love and anger

Read something recently that struck a chord:
It is an intelligent woman indeed who can distinguish between anger and love. 

It is possible to be angry with someone and still love them. To not condone their mistakes and still be there.

PS: I am being prolific today... it is just one of those days.

Chocolate vs. Men

Chocolates ... I know very few women who don't like them. And for good reason are there so few who do not like chocolates. Chocolates score over men in almost everything given that they produce the same hormonal effect. Here's a shortlist:

  1. They do not have issues - commitment issues, independence issues, alcohol issues and many others.
  2. Easy decision tree. They just want to be eaten.
  3. The only "space" they need is in your mouth and stomach!
  4. They smell nicer and definitely not of sweat.
  5. They don't argue about growing beards and mustaches that poke.
  6. They taste infinitely better
  7. They are low maintenance.
There you go. A reason for each day of the week to like chocolates.

This post is dedicated to women like Curry who absolutely love chocolate :D

Cultural Apathy

I see in people all around me a lack of appreciation for those whose way of life is different from our. It is most obvious in reactions to food. So of course Indian Chinese is better than Chinese Chinese never mind the fact that the Chinese were the ones who came up with Chinese food.

What is even more disconcerting for me is the fact that this cultural apathy often gets tied in with some sort of jingoism where by everything done the Indian (in this case) way is right and every other way in the world is just a compromise or a second best or the actions of an ignorant mind.

To me the only solution to this apathy like in gearing our education system to expose people to different cultures and create in them an appreciation of varied ways of life. At an age when we are free of prejudice, if we are not fed with propaganda, we may be a world of more tolerant and sensitive people. We may be people whose understanding of others living in myriad parts of the world goes just beyond their nationality; we may find more joy in exploring the unknown and letting it flow through us instead of judging it in a fit of  jingoistic superiority.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Behind the glass walls

Was browsing through some photos from last year's trip to the San Diego Zoo and was suddenly struck by the whole mockery of having Polar Bears in the temperate zone. "Not so polar!" as a friend commented on the photo. This year, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I saw some Penguins pattering around in a temperature controlled enclosure. In one way it was really great. I saw animals I'd probably not have the chance to see otherwise and some of these places are doing a really great job at breeding species that are otherwise declining rapidly due to the destruction of their natural habitats due to one or the other reasons.

But as I browsed through those photos of Polar Bears and Gorillas in these mammoth glass enclosures that are cages nevertheless I ended up thinking how sad it is that the only places that we can see some of these animals is in cages because there are so few of them in the wild. Also, somehow, the experiences just do not seem to compare. I end up feeling much more awed watching a National Geographic or David Attenborough documentary on Gorillas than to see one doing exactly the same thing (which is to be chomping on some twigs) behind a glass wall.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The triumvirate of advertising

I was sitting in a presentation yesterday when a thought that often strikes me made its appearance once again - that advertising agencies develop a point of view on the most profitable segment of the population and translate that consumer profile across business, products and brands.

Okay, now let me try and explain that in plainer English. In the nearly two years that I've worked in an ad agency, I've seen, in pitch after pitch, consumer profile after consumer profile, certain commonalities. And my take is that each agency, by virtue of the kind of place it is and the kind of people who work there, comes to evolve a certain kind of consumer they are comfortable talking to irrespective of the product category they are working on. The reason I think this happens is that there is a match between the value systems of the agency and of this "consumer profile". The work also tends to talk far more effectively to this audience and the clients we end up working with are also in the same space.

My point really is this: it isn't just about the brand and the consumer. The choice of consumer and brand is as much about the agency as well and creative work reflects the character of an agency and its people as much as the character of the brand.

PS: I really started thinking about this because of a tweet sent to me by Rehab! So well yes, here's my first post on advertising!

Thursday, 15 April 2010


There's a piece of recitation I remember from my school days. It was titled The Indispensable Man. It went somewhat like this (I am not quoting exactly):
Whenever you are feeling important, take this simple test: Fill a bucket half full with water. Dip your hand in it, up to the wrist. You may splash about and shake the water. The hole that is left when you take your hand out is the measure of your indispensability.

Am sure you've figured the point that the piece above is trying to make. There was a point of time, I'll confess, when I believed the above to be largely true. I still believe it to be mostly true in the context of organisations and workplaces. After a brief period of adjustment, everyone WILL get on with things, and your office will continue to function without you. And no one will be happy or sad for all eternity.

On the personal front however, it is a much grey-er area. On the one hand yes, life does not stop and we learn to be happy and move on. So if it is about mere functionality, then yes, no one is indispensable. But then people are not about mere functionality (that's the domain of machines). When one does look a little deeper than mere functionality people do become indispensable. They are capable of causing lasting happiness or sadness to those they come in contact with. There is a warmth and comfort and sense of security that they do provide. And while someone else can provide some of that, no person is completely replaceable. There will always be something missing, a little void that only that person can fill. There will also be the happiness that only a person can provide.