Vehicle versus Person

The Constitution of India gives me the right to travel, stay and seek employment anywhere within India. But apparently my vehicle cannot be taken along with me, without paying through my nose for “fines”, “bribes”, “repeat taxes”, without going through hordes of paper work, police checks, queues.

Maybe if humans also had to compulsorily display a number plate which predominantly identified them with the state they come from, I would also be not allowed to enter places like Maharashtra. The Nation’s Constitution can take a hike when it’s Maha-Rashtra (Great Nation) talking about.

You won’t sell to me?

The other day I went to a medicine shop and asked for a medicine from a prescription. The pack of 10 costs four-fifty. I open the wallet and find that the smallest paper currency I have is a fifty. The second smallest? Five hundred! And the loose change all totalled up to two rupees fifty.

I gave an apologetic sigh and offered the shopkeeper the fifty hoping that he’d give me change. With a stern look the shopkeeper took back the medicines from my hand, gave me a hand signal denoting refusal and put the medicine back in the shelf, without saying a word. I asked him why. And he says “We won’t entertain this”. That’s all.

I walk over to the next shop, which was like two blocks away, enter it. The guy looks friendly. I thought let’s take a chance. So I asked him for the medicine, and while he’s taking it out of the shelf, I casually ask “You have change for fifty, don’t you?”. He looks back at me, and politely says “No”, keeping the medicine back in the shelf.

So I ask him, “You are a shop. How come you don’t have change?” to which his response is “If you can’t produce change for 4.50, how do you expect us to keep change for 45.50?”

So is having a bigger note worthless if you’re buying a small item? I know that if you offer a pan-wallah a thousand rupee note for a five rupee cigarette it’s absurd, but this is not a difference of 995 we’re talking about or a small pan-wallah. Both shops were decent-sized medicine shops, which I’ve grown up seeing and buying from. What is the reason for their refusal? Is short change really short in the market? Is day-to-day liquidity so low that people are clinging on to any short change they have and are refusing business? Or is it just a stand they have taken that they will not entertain business which makes them do this ‘heavy work’ of counting and returning change?

What use is a bigger currency note if I cannot buy small things with it? I had over a thousand rupees with me right then, but I could not buy medicines worth less than ten rupees.

If there is a liquidity problem, then it is worrying. But if the problem is in the mindsets of the store owners, then it is ridiculous. If they are facing a real short change problem, I think they should offer other channels of payment. Accept credit/debit/charge cards, accept cheques.

Why lose business over this issue, and why dishonour a customer even when he has more money than needed for the transaction?

Who?

For the last six months, I have been seeing TV spots by this one advertiser: V-Guard, who claims that this is a name you can trust.

Pretty tall claim for someone about whom I don’t know anything – not what they make, not what they sell, not where they are from, not who the chairman/CEO is, not even an idea of the broad sector or field they are in. Since their ads have been on TV, they have not talked about any of these things once. All I see is “V-Guard: the name you can trust”. Yeah, you wish.

Pretty clumsy way to be bit by the “build the brand, not sell the product” bug.

Blah blah?

You’ve seen the Headlines Today ‘blah’ ad, right? The one where they imitate other news channel shows with the people saying “blah blah…” ad inifinitum, implying that other ‘typical’ news channels of the day are doing nothing but blabbering on about nothing in particular, and then that Headlines Today is the refreshing channel which does not give you blah but substance?

Now can you tell me the number one blah news item of the season? Ofcourse it’s the mighty WWE warrior Khali! World’s envy India’s pride, if I may borrow the line from Onida.

So what was the self-proclaimed blah-free channel doing, showing us a story about how Khali gave some Indian gifts to his opponent The Big Show, had dancers doing Bhangra in the ring and all that jazz to become friends with his opponent, and then how The Big Show hit him instead of being friendly, and then how Khali fell down senseless after just one blow?

Now what was the poor white man supposed to do in a wrestling ring? Hug his opponent and call off the fight, because they have become best buddies?

But I’m digressing. The real question is, if you want your target audience to believe your claim that you are a non-blah channel, then why is a blah item featuring on your waves?

Questions – Got Any Answers?

Number one in my question list right now is

Why do rickshaw-wallahs in Pune always not find any customer on the way back from where you want them to take you? Why do they always want a 10rupee or 20rupee or half-return extra on the meter? Why do they always begin with a flat rate instead of turning the meter on? Why don’t the authorities increase the meter rate if the current rate is not feasible for the survival of the poor rickshaw-wallahs?

I’m sure the other things happen in almost all cities in India, but do all rickshaw-wallahs in all cities of India ask for a half-return or a markup on the meter on the pretext of “I won’t get a passenger on the way back” at 11 in the morning?

Proof, courtesy Indian television

Read the headline on the next frame. Can you believe it? Yes, India TV has found that the legendary Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu is not a myth but is a reality.

6 crore saal pahle aaya dharti par: came on the earth 60 million years ago

How does the channel get to this conclusion? By getting a piece of news that paleontologists have found a head of a crocodile which lived around 60 million years ago, and was killed by a sharp object which severed the head from the body. Ofcourse this could not have happened other than the mighty Vishnu killing it himself, according to a fable (The one where the said crocodile catches hold of an elephant, who happens to be Vishnu’s devotee. The elephant, seeing inevitable death, cries out his Lord’s name, and Vishnu comes running barefoot to save his devotee, and to achieve this end, uses his Sudarshan Chakra to cut off the crocodile’s head).

The deeply religious folks at India TV saw this as proof that the fable actually happened.

sach hai sudarshan chakra! brazil me mile avsheshh: the Sudarshan Chakra is a reality! the fossils were found in Brazil Even though the head was found in Brazil, while Vishnu is an Indian deity.

pandit Ajay Gautam, vedon ke jaankar: expert on Vedas
Who is the expert they are consulting here? A certain Pandit Ajay Gautam, who is apparently an expert on the Vedas.

No, they don’t feel the need to consult, interview or publish words of the team who is supposed to have been involved in this excavation and is responsible for this discovery. Not their opinions, not their clarifications, not what they derive from this, not what impact this discovery could have on their field. And no, they did not flash or tell us the names, identities or even nationalities of the scientists involved in this.
ab mile saboot, Proof found now
The story carried no identifiers using which we could search for more information on this excavation. Only low quality video footage of some people holding a crocodile head’s bone structure. And repeat “flashing news” snippets that the mighty Sudarshan Chakra has been now proven to exist. All with ‘expert comments’ from Panditji who is an expert on Vedas, not paleontology, carbon dating or archeology.

sach hai sudarshan chakra!: the sudarshan chakra is a reality!
So dear friends, if you are an atheist, start repenting now, and if you are an agnostic, don’t be one – here’s proof. Courtesy Indian news television 🙂

Please provide a what???

A Calcuttan missing his hometown opens up the website belonging to the most read newspaper in that town. Pleased with what he saw, he clicked on one of the sections of the e-paper. The site tells him that he needs to be registered in order to go deeper into the contents. No problem. He is ready to register. So he clicks on register and fills up a form. Presses Submit. And see what he gets:

Email ID? The form does not mention email ID anywhere, let alone ask for it. Oh, the error page tells him that the “Username” field should have been populated with his email ID.

Who would have thought? 🙂

If you were that person, would you fill up that form again and continue to use the website? I didn’t. Who knows what other ‘mistake’ I would be chided for next? Is the phone number field actually supposed to contain my height?

Is it so difficult for web designers and companies that hire them to make websites that are free of inconsistencies and are helpful instead of carrying the old ’80-90s attitude of “I made this thing and it works at my end. You need to learn how to make it work for you if you want to use it.”?

It is all adding up to the user experience and thus the brand in the end.

BPO Apartheid

In a move that seems ill-timed given Raj Thakre’s Neo-Nazi-esque actions in Maharashtra, Netambit in Noida invited applications for positions in its BPO business, but candidates belonging to UP, Bihar and Islamic backgrounds need not apply. The reason cited for this is diction and other language problems candidates with these backgrounds generally have.

Why don’t you take a look at the email that sparked this controversy over ‘language’?

The picture is taken on a low-end phonecam. The highlighted line reads: “Those candidate belong to Bihar & U.P. & Muslim are not eligible. Required English/Hindi/Punjabi profiles.” The words within the quotes are verbatim as they appear in the email / the news item.

(The main story and photograph courtesy evening Delhi paper MetroNow 4th March edition.)

Long Live Indian Journalism!

How does it go? “The King is dead, long live the King!”

Around a week back, the Pointy-Haired Dilbert aka Chandoo wrote a blog entry about the “must read” section of a famous Indian news channel’s website. That just corroborated the general sentiment prevalent among people who care about journalism and news and its present state in the country.

News channels have been serving us items about ‘ghosts’, supernatural ‘incidents’, television soaps news, page 3 type parties, kissing scandals, timeslots dedicated to comedy shows, while keeping journalistic professionalism at bay. A ghost story or a faith story is covered with sensationalism, but without any coverage on the rational angle as is done by any self-respecting news agency. Page 3 scandals are covered with juicy gossip intact. And half the time when you switch to these channels they are either discussing cricket with a has-been cricketer, or showing a comedy gig featuring one of the new crop of Indian stand-up comics.

And ofcourse the love affair of these news channels with India’s first family – no, I’m not talking about Mrs. Pratibha Patil & family – the famous Bachchan family of Allahabad to Juhu fame is there for all to see. But they took it too far today with this:
Breaking News: Amitabh Bachchan ko thand lagiThe “Breaking News” ticker reads: “Amitabh Bachchan ko thand lagi” (Amitabh Bachchan catches cold).

Sing-me-a-song

Can’t find a new idea? Write a song instead.

Is this the new mantra in the Indian advertising world?

Take the new LIC commercial – “ना चिंता ना फिकर ना है डर…”. What is the idea behind this commercial? What are they trying to tell us that they have not already told us in their scores of advertisements in the past? Any new product? Is the execution any fresh? And doesn’t the song seem like a bad rehash of an old Hindi film tune?

Do you remember an ad for a construction / construction equipment company from some time back – the song went “जो भी बनाते हैं हम…”? Sounded like an insipid composition from mid-90s Hindi movies.

And while we are at it, can you tell me what is the link between “Mind & body, heart & soul”, cricket, Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and Visa? Beats me.

But don’t take this as a blanket critique of music in advertisement. The song used in the first Lead India advertisement that spread on the internet as the “new national anthem” – with words like “बढ़ाओ हाथ के सूरज सुबह निकाला करे, हथेलियों में भरे धूप और उछाला करे” and a strong idea and execution, this ad is a sure winner.

And if you’re not particular about understanding the lyrics, there always is the astounding Nike street cricket commercial, and the Bajaj Pulsar 200cc launch bike stunt commercial, which if I’m not mistaken was shot in Morocco.

What set these three apart from the former three is the presence of an idea, and freshness in execution.

Just singing songs won’t get you a place in the customer’s mind.