Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Rakhi Vhar Crackter are you?

1. At a party with Rakhi, How are you most likely to behave?
a) Kiss her
b) Try and hog the camera
c) Look at her disapprovingly

2. At a romantic tete-a-tete with Rakhi, How are you most likely to behave?
a) Kiss her
b) Throw petals and try and hog the camera
c) Look at her disapprovingly and ask her about her past affairs

3. How do you like Rakhi dressed?
a) Anything as long as her forehead is free and kissable
b) Ghoongat and bare midriff
c) Burkha

4. What movie song would you like played every-time you come on screen?
a) Chumma chumma de de
b) Seedi Jalaile
c) Parde mein rehne do

5. What is the gift your mother, Rakhi’s sasuma is most likely to give Rakhi?
a) Hygiene Wipes
b) Gangajal and Sindoor
c) Chastity Belt

6. What flowers would you buy for Rakhi?
a) tuLIPS
b) Marigold
c) Gobi ka phool

7. What is your favourite game?
a) Spin the bottle
b) Snakes and ladders
c) Killer

8. What would be your personal ad tagline to woo Rakhi?
a) Mika Pheeka, Lav Khush
b) Baja Moneymohan
c) Girl Grill Giri

Your score?
Mostly (a)’s: You are the Kisser Crackter.
Mostly (b)‘s: You are the Ladderer. Crackter.
Mostly (c)‘s: You are the Clearer Crackter:

A CynaMon Quiz

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Lagi Hai

I read this book by Michael Palmer the other day. A decent enough book I suppose - the usual pot-boiler of good, evil, beautiful woman and Robin Cook meets Tess Geritsen meets countless other formulaic train reading.

But as I was reaching the close and climax of the book, I realized something which I found rather interesting about some authors in this genre. The book started out with reasonably etched out, well-rounded characters. There was the slightly do-gooder protagonist (the type who helps elderly ladies cross the street) and the slightly non-do-gooder anti-protagonist (the type who ignore their wives and philander a bit.).

As the book progressed, it seemed like the author, in the quest to heighten the differences between the two started emphasizing only that facet and consequently propelled the book from a decently layered, gray characters and situations to stark black and white, one-dimensional caricatures. (The philander blandly contemplating everything from mass embezzlement to murder, while the do-gooder appeared almost sanctimonious with his general benevolence.)

It was disappointing – as if one started watching say, a Clint Eastwood directorial venture, and somewhere in the middle of the movie, Ekta Kapoor took over.

This is a phenomenon which I have seen with a few authors of that particular genre though – and I wonder why it happens. I assume it is difficult to maintain consistency of characters through the plot, but somewhere in books like this, it’s as if the characters get subsumed by the frenetic pace the author is trying to create towards the climax of the plot.

Which raises an interesting point. If we divide the universe of books, and call them for the sake of simplicity, classics and pop fiction. The classics being the ones which one reads again and again, and store versus the one-read, use-and-throw pop fiction. The classics, by and large have such strongly etched out, layered, multi-dimensional characters which carry the tale on their shoulders, whereas the pop-fiction seem to depend on the convolutions and contortions of the plot. Almost as if the latter wants to keep predictable characters which do not allow the reader any margin for interpretation and thereby, the books become static and one-read-only.

That brings me to another point – something which has always bothered me about what I call the magnum-opus books which span a large time frame – whether it’s multi-generational books or books which cover the entire lifetime of the protagonist.

Why is it that such books, seem to have a very elaborate, very detailed very vivid descriptions of the first few years – which sometimes takes over the first half of the book. And suddenly, you find that the forty-fifty years get squashed in haphazardly into a few pages? As if the author ran out of steam or inclination and just wanted to wind up the book and go away? Whether it is something like Thornbirds, or Alex Haley’s Roots or even books like Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy

I know it is important to set the context and boundaries – but then it’s such a drastic change of pace for the reader, that it leaves one feeling disoriented and cheated at the anti-climax. As if the book got suddenly truncated in the middle ( except for Suitable Boy. After 1500 pages, I was hoping the damn book WOULD end somewhere).

I just shared this post with a friend of mine, and she came back with a theory that most author's would be in their thirties and forties and perhaps they don't have the life experiences to detail out the late middle and old age. I am not sure I completely agree with that - most fiction is stuff which presumably the author has NOT experienced - so how does one explain that?

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Rakhi phenomena

So I have been watching some of Rakhi aunty's Swayamwar episodes these days.

My whole attitude to the show (as I am sure has been many others) has been 'Bring it on'- I am more than willing to be entertained and amused. Get as tacky, as flamboyant, as unbelievably low-brow as you can and I will watch it. The same abstract fascination I would have if aliens were to invade the world perhaps.

And the reason for this of course, has been Rakhi herself - the queen of controversy, who by hook or crook has managed to keep herself at the forefront of the audience consciousness - you can love her or hate her, but you certainly cannot ignore her.

But, as I have watched a few episodes, I have come to sneakingly respect her astuteness – which I think is much higher than people actually give her credit for.

If we have to borrow from marketing parlance, she has understood her brand image and the consumer pulse very well – and some forays into understanding her brand equity would have thrown up a few insights.

a) That she is a fast coming to the end of her shelf life - a young controversial item girl - will be talked about, discussed, maybe lusted after, and tolerated - the same cannot be said for an ageing one - who will have to live out the rest of her life as a caricature, on the fringes of tinsel-world – viz. low market growth opportunity

b)Whatever she does, there is very little chance of it actually remaining private- given the stage-and-tele persona she has cultivated over time. Viz. A relatively high market awareness, knowledge, salience.

So we take these two coordinates – high salience and TOM and a low growth rate, she needs to capitalize on the former before the latter becomes a de-growth. In other words, take whatever momentum she has, build it up to a crescendo and leave with a big bang – precisely what she is doing with the Swayamvar.

Having said that, she has got her positioning perfectly. She knows that to the tele and cine intelligentsia, she will always be the tawdry item girl – loud, flamboyant, not someone to be taken seriously as an actor or any repute. She will become the one-night-stand girl, or the temporary girlfriend – but I seriously don’t see say a Ranbir Kapoor or any other upcoming star seriously thinking of marriage with her. For whatever reasons, maybe her more desi-origins or what have you, she will probably not even take the path Mallika Sherawat did - who seems to have managed to garner SOME roles and played down on that item-girl image she started out with. So instead of running away from this image, she is capitalizing on it in the best way she possibly can. Can you think of any other star or starlet pulling off a swayamvar?

My mother’s hypothesis, which I think is probably true – is that she will marry the Canadian guy and go out with a blaze rather than fading into obscurity as the wife of one of the others in India. Personally, I would have liked to put my money on that Manmohan fellow – I think his dramatic sensibilities are on par with her’s.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Designing the Designation

So I am in manically active job hunt mode right now.

I am pretty much always on the verge of quitting – but there is usually a continuum of urgency in the job search mode.

There is what I call the passively looking mode which pretty much starts on the second day of a new job – where the resume is updated and lovingly polished, where the head hunters are called and you do some whining ( and dining), and when you generally let the world know that you are quite available in the market.

The active job hunt starts immediately after the first contretemps at the work place – could be week two, or if you are lucky, a few months. That’s when you start actively wtf-ing the place and the people, and calling up placement agencies often enough to recognize the security fellow’s voices.

And there is the manic active job mode. Where you more or less lose all sense of perspective (also discretion) and distribute your resumes out in a manner which can only be described as cavalier (or if you want to be crasser – whoring). You give resumes to neighbours and their dogs, you give them, you distribute it to the milkman, your emails carry your entire CV instead of the signature and by this time the placement agents are cowering under their desks, you know the listings by heart and you even contemplate all sites which promise fortunes sitting ‘in the comfort of your own home filling online forms at five rupees a form. (As you can see, a fair amount of time has been spent on this phase)

One of the things one DOES in the course of this manic hunt mode is frequent sites like This is what I have been doing as well. Of all social media thingummies - I think I find LinkedIn the most fascinating (and also the most useful. Colleagues remain that. Colleagues. They don’t throw online shoes or whatever it is they are throwing these days or poke you or pop up on the chat to chirpily ask “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii wat r u doing?. Okay rant over.)

Anyways, besides looking for jobs there, one also looks at the job titles and profiles of a number of people. Yes, I know it’s fairly common practise to pad your resume – but some of it is embellished so much, that its pure, unadulterated fiction.

There is this girl, with a year’s ex or so who has just joined my team. She sent me an invite recently. Her job title reads something like Market Intelligence Analyst. She er, reports into me, so I do happen to know exactly what she does. Viz. Market study of the cafeteria. Analyzes the contents of chick-literature and Archies. AND intelligently flirts with my boss every time he is within a five mile radius.To his credit, he sees through this little playacting, and will watch these attempts with a very sardonic gleam in his eyes. (One of these days I shall give into the temptation of making fun of him and will get sacked for my pains. But he more or less sacks me three times a week so it’s okay. I do need to stop cheeking the boss come to think of it. If I do get another job, it might not be the best policy hmmm). Anyways, I digress, I do happen to know that this female's designation is Executive -Marketing or something to that effect.

Then someone else, who is taking classes in a coaching centre – has a title called independent education architect. Somehow, when someone says education architect, the picture that comes to mind is that of a VC of a university, who is formulating policies for the country’s education system.

I suppose I can’t blame my friend the Market Intelligence Analyst. My company has about 23 Vice Presidents, 12 Presidents, CTO, CIO, CXO; (I am sure one day they will have CA-ZO’s: Chief Admin Off, Chief Bullshit Officer, Chief Copying Officer....Chief Hospitality Officer – we already have a Head of hospitality and travel – the most clueless chick in existence who always books the tickets on the wrong days) .There are VPS and MD’ and Heads and all combinations of the above – and believe me trying to figure out which one takes precedence is a diplomatic minefield - every time I have to mark mails to half a dozen of these fellows, I go and ask HR for the pecking order so that I don’t inadvertently trample on some sensitive egos. Mind you, 3/4th of these have no tails or body. So we have loads of strategic talks and ideation and other very high-falutin things, but absolutely no implementation.

I think I need to change my designation as well. Cynic, Chief Writing Officer and Chief Moderating Officer, Wonderland. How’s that for a start?

This post was written sometime back, and I had completely forgotten about its existence – was just reading the Peter Principle ( I have a half written post on that), when I recalled this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dress rehearsal

We were watching TV the other day and caught that super annoying Appy-Grappy Fizz ad. S, after taking another look at them – the four boys, the girls and the bottles, had a minor meltdown about the unfairness of the genders expectations and roles – especially in the teens.

He claimed that the gaggle of giggly girls weren’t expected to do anything, but just sit around and blush and giggle while the boys posed, postured and tried to outdo each other in wit in some weird mating ritual to attract them. (I smell a story here; I should rummage a little bit in that closet!)

True enough I suppose, but I added a caveat. Told him, that this rule of just turning up and giggling was applicable to pretty, feminine girls. The not so pretty ones, the not so slim ones, the not so girly ones, had to resort to wit as well.

And as such conversations will, it degenerated to him turning to ask me “Well, were you pretty or were you funny?” (Sigh)

So I wryly thought back to my teen years – through late school, and early college, and suddenly realized how many people I know from that era funny ( many of them have subsequently acquired prettiness or handsomeness, and forgotten that funniness).

When I looked back of acquaintances from that era, I remember some with good features, other’s with reasonably good figures – but I can’t for the life of me remember anyone who jaw-dropping, traffic stopping hot. That itself is rather intriguing. Yes, one goes through that gauche, gangly, acned teenage phase – but not for a decade. Probabilistically speaking, I ought to have acquired at least one hot acquaintance during that time, no?

And I had an epiphany – the clothes!

I grew up in a generation with fashion dyslexia. That's the kindest way to describe it.

I think back to the school and college years and what stands out is the terrible fashion sense, and well I suffered from it too. When I recall that hideous magenta skirt set, or that crushed crepe thingummy, I want to put my head through a wall (and this is coming from a fashion agnostic)

Many of memories of people are inextricably linked up with what they wore. If someone mentions a Mr. Sharma, to me, the first image that comes to mind is a vermillion shirt with big fat white polka dots. Or the Ms. Singh (who later became an international airline airhostess), is always associated with that bilious green sack-like, sack-material-like dress. Or even the more recent Mr. A with his brick orange shirt, with the er, brick pattern on it. Mr. A, I know for a fact has become quite trendy and has so many young girls buzzing around him, that we are planning to auction him off as a gigolo.

And it wasn’t only the designs – it was the material, the cut, the fitting, everything. I had a salwar suit in various shades of blue (which for some reason I thought was my lucky dress) which could easily have doubled up as a raincoat.

In undergrad, all the girls took to rather voluminous dresses (a couple of sizes too large- usually picked up from Fashion Street). Perhaps this was to cloak burgeoning figures, perhaps this was the modern avatar of half saris – but whatever it was, they looked terrible. I know I had this one white shirt, which reached halfway to my knees and could have easily be worn as a lab-coat. Or that other tee-shirt which was so huge, I could have worn it as a dress (this particular one was subsequently passed it off to my male cousin who is roughly twice my height and girth). Or those oh-so-ghastly checked umbrella cut skirts in towel-like materials which ended as dead-weights after a bout with the mumbai monsoons.

The best that could be said of most people’s fashion sense was that it was consistent. People stuck to their types – my friend S had a wardrobe which consisted exclusively of south cottons in shades of dark green, dark maroon, and dark rust in college. My other friend B had a penchant for knitted tops. Other classmate BP had a couple of these bandhni red shirts which were a particular favourite of his.

It took a few years of working before most of us started dressing up normally and discovering that it is okay to buy clothes from shops rather than from footpath. That clothes need to be approximately the same size as the individual wearing them. That accessories and shoes exist. That brands are brands for a reason.

I look at all the college kids today and am amazed at how well turned out they are – rebonded hair, hip, designer clothes, stunning shoes. I think we all looked so well, raw!

Ah well, the old order giveth way to the new.

Next: Much ado about Mouch ( Ever noticed how ALL boys went through growing moustaches as soon as they could and shaving it off once they hit 25?)