Untitled 2012 Nov 24

Disclaimer. I shall bare my soul and heart in this post. Make all my dirty secrets public. Please do not judge me on the basis of this post. I am a far better guy!

Last few days have been interesting frustrating. A lot of work, a lot of play, a lot of mental masturbation and yet, very little sleep. And since I am the kinds that can go with small amounts of sleep, less sleep doesn't really bother me. But then I am 30 (There! I said it. Secret # 1) and all the signs of ageing have started to show. There are evident signs of abuse that I have subjected myself to over the years (erratic sleeping schedules, no control on what I eat or when I eat or how much I eat, no physical activities etc). Thankfully since there is no narcotics, drugs or alcohol involved, I can somehow breathe. I wonder how to those people survive beyond 30?

Coming back, so last few days have been busy and a lot of action has happened. But for some reason, the action is not translating into excitement. And neither is it showing any tangible results. At least not the results that would have made me happy. Of course the output has been voluminous but then there is that debate about quality vs quantity and I know for a fact that quality has taken a hit.

I mentioned about lot of work, lot of play and lot of mental masturbation. Let me take each one by one.

Its been crazy at work. Not that I work a lot but I can safety say that I am overworked. There are just too many things on my plate and I am juggling too many things at the same time. I am worried about that one wrong move that would send all the plates I am juggling crashing down. And in the business I am in, there is no second chances. No, I dont get stressed about things. Thankfully I dont want a "career" and I am not worried about "spoiling my cv" and I can rest but yes, it bothers me. It bothers me that I have put so much at stake and so much at risk. And it just happened!

Also, I am most probably moving to Mumbai soon (before the month end) and that means a lot of loose ends to be tied up here in Delhi. This means that the next few months will be full of uncertainty and frustration. I would be running from pillar to post when I am trying to set my foot in Mumbai. I dont know if I would succeed but I will have to give it my 100%. That work life balance thing that we strive hard to achieve will get fucked up in the process.

I would also have to leave the comfort of home which I am very fond of (secret # 2). Things that I take for granted will now start becoming big and will make me part of the daily grind that involves cooking, maintaining a house, haggling with maids, etc. Its a very scary thought. I now appreciate all the efforts that my mom has put in, to raise us and keep my home a sane place!

Not much except drives, lunches and dinners with few people that help me kill time. Suds, Ankit, Vijesh. Missing is a meeting with Agony Aunt - she is too tied up to grant me darshan. I have been able to write quite a lot. On this blog, on Sandbox. I started working on SG.com and its close to completion. I will have to dig into Wordpress if I want it to look like what I have in my head. I cant really translate that into a product spec and get a theme made. But then, the lazy ass like me (Secret # 3), will I want to go through the grind of learning PHP and WP and spend countless hours mastering it?

Mental Masturbation
I added at least three more ideas to my list of to-do things. All the three ideas are what dreams are made of - easy to execute, large addressable market, clear gap, potential to be billion dollar enterprises that could run on autopilot and throw enough cash at me. Just one hitch - I am sure I will not start any of those. I just wish I had a machine that could execute all these ideas. Remember my post about hiring a boss? I dont know why I cant seem to do things (Secret # 4).

Then, I lost big in a recent game. It wiped my bankroll (Secret # 5). Time to slowly build it all over again. And the only way I know, to build the bankroll, is by saving a measly amount every month and waiting for it to reach a point where I can afford a ticket to Goa. And then hope to make it big there.

Finally India, has seen a lot of interesting days as well. Thackery died, Kasab got executed and there is that regular uproar about corruption etc. And for a change, I cant seem to have an opinion on any of the three (Secret # 6). I never liked Thackery or what he stood for but that gathering of 19 lakh Mumbaikars people at his funeral has left me confused. Kasab, in my opinion, should have been executed long time back. But now that he's gone, I dont know what will happen now. The war on terrorism is still far from over and with Kasab, we had a hope that something good may come out of it. I wrote about Kasab here.

Then there is this huge unrest in the country where every politician is either apparently corrupt or playing the blame games. I mean its not really surprising to know about corruption at highest levels. I have always known that bribery is how things actually move in India. Favouritism and ulterior motives has ensured that some people make all the money and everyone else is left poor. I just think that its amazing that us common folks are ignorant. And the fact that we minions dont know about favouritism has actually kept us happy in our own shells. I have a fleeting suspicion that the day we get to see the kind of shit Wikileaks exposes, we wont know what hit us. We wont be able to comprehend the depth or impact of it. I secretly pray that it actually remains under the wraps (Secret # 7).

End Note 
Phew! this was a long one. Thats it I guess for this edition of Lets Reveal Our Lives on Blogs. More episodes soon. Like always, please ignore typos, grammar etc. As if you'd read. The last two untitleds were read a combined 15 times.

Conversation with myself, on Ajmal Kasab

Today, I woke up to the news of Ajmal Kasab's execution. And to be honest, I was indifferent towards it. Ofcourse there was this curiosity to know more about it. Ajmal Kasab and his case has to be the most famous case in the country - for what he did was amongst the worst a human can do to another humans. I woke up and read about it and despite all the witty, sarcastic, patriotic, inflammatory and useless comments about it, I remained indifferent. Probably its the classic case of "not my problem". Or may be like most other things, I grew so tired of all the debate and discussions around it that I had shut my head to anything about it. Or may be its plain, good old indifference?

I dont know. And I cant seem to find an answer. Apart from the indifference about it, the execution has left me with conflicting thoughts to be honest. On one hand, I dont support capital punishment and on the other, I want the guilty (especially of the attack) to be punished. I appreciated the way the Govt. handled the entire issue and at the same time I loathed hated all the rejoicing that was going around. End of the day he was a human being and its barbaric as a society to celebrate someone else's killing. But like someone pointed on twitter, our biggest festival is all about victory of good over evil by killing of the Ravana and making him pay for his misdeeds.

There are no easy answers to this debate. More than taking a side and answering anyone else, I am struggling really hard to be to true to myself and find answers. I am hating all this uncertainty and indecisiveness. I actually revel in uncertainty and celebrate freedom that comes with it. Though my fickle mindedness is legendary, I am not undeceive at all. I hate waiting for decisions. In fact I take fast decisions. And I take so many of those (is this why I am fickle minded?) that it at times is a blur. More food for thought.

You know (who am I talking to by the way? Myself?) I was actually in Mumbai when the attacks happened. I was tucked away in one remote corner when Kasab and his gang went about firing and killing innocent civilians. To be honest, I was not afraid, even for a minute. I think because I dont really know what terminal danger looks like. And I am the kinds who believes that nothing that is an outlier, could happen to me (including stoke of extraordinary luck). But then since I consume so much media, I could sense the anger, pain, frustration and helplessness in the ordinary Indian.

Is the execution of Kasab an answer to these emotions? I sincerely hope it is. Hate to see so much potential being squandered away over fruitless discussions and mental orgasm. As a capitalist, I cant really understand where do people get the time to practise religion. There is so much to do and so much to achieve and yet people tend to waste their time. Every day is a new day. Why cant we get up and live each day to the fullest?

I hope that the ones who lost their loved ones in the entire episode have found some kind of closure. That to be is the only good thing about this execution. Hope they sleep better now. Hope they wake up tomorrow with renewed vigour and enjoy all the blessings that Mother Earth has showered on us. The world is indeed beautiful out there.

Untitled 2012 Nov 16

Yet another untitled. Last time I spoke about restlessness. This time I shall talk about suffocation. And before you get confused about negativity of these posts and depressive language, please know that these are parts of a larger text that I am hoping to write before the end of this year (another month or so to go). And no, these dont reflect the state of my mind. 

This time let me talk about suffocation. 

Suffocation. Most of us know it as a state when we cant breathe. We are left gasping for breath and we cant seem to get enough oxygen in our lungs. We try harder to breathe and that whiff of air remains elusive. The line between life and death seems to blurring with each moment. You love life and hence you try harder. And the sheer effort of trying harder makes it all the more difficult and further blurs the thin thread. Tough to visualize? Ok, lets make it easier.

Do you know how to swim? In the relative safety of a swimming pool? Where you have life guards, floats and predictable shores? Think of the time when you were learning the art and science of swimming. The first few days. When the entire effort was focussed on just one thing - staying above the water level. Because once you went down under, you could not breathe and it was not a good situation to be in. You could hold you breath for a few seconds but after that you were left gasping for breath. While trying to breathe, water would rush into your mouth and lungs umpteen times. Most times, you would have coughed it out, lungs cant hold water, you see. Once in a while someone would have helped you clear your lungs. But suffocation, by water, was not a pleasant memory.

The ones who dont know swimming, imagine a huge polythene bag. Imagine wearing it like a cap, from top of your head and pull it all the way down to your neck. And tie it from the back. And make it taut. So much that you can see the outline of your face on the polythene. The eye pits, the nostrils and the open gaping mouth shouldn't just be evident, but be prominent, just like a student of art draws the outline of a human face. Now when the apparatus for experiment is in place, try breathing in. Every breath you take, will not bring that surge of air that you expect and are used to. But it will pull the thin and yet impervious polythene further in, will make it tighter and make it difficult to survive. And this will effect you on two dimensions. One, you arent breathing and you arent sending oxygen to your brain. And the lack of oxygen takes you a step closer to being a vegetable. Second, the head thinks that its breathing. I mean all its life, the head has told the lungs that the body needs oxygen and the lungs complied by getting air, filtering the oxygen and pumping it along with blood to million little arteries in your body. This, however, is amongst those few times when lungs refused to comply. And it leaves your head confused. Its like that double whammy.

Suffocation is thus a very very potent force. It brings you this close to the edge that you dont know that there's a way back. It brings out the will to survive, or it makes people let go, depending on how you are, who you are and what you are. Its like a test. A test that tells you what are you made up of, deep down inside. Everything else is a sham. The psychometric tests, written assessments, simulators, social pressure, relationships, emotions, all are good tools to evaluate an individual but nothing comes close to the test of suffocation.

Now the reason of the post. Do you have it in you to subject yourself to this test? And share results?

Chevrolet Cruze - Hunter (2012)

Of all the ads that are on TV, because of the sheer number and the frequency with which they bombard you, very few catch you eye, your attention and make you take note of what is happening on the screen. The new TVC for Chevrolet Cruze is one such commercial.

Unlike most great ads, its not a one minuter and there are no powerful characters or dialogues. Its a very simple ad that has just one hero - the product itself. And unlike all car ads, there are no cliched stories and it does not talk overtly about the power, mileage, young adult protagonist or the awesome looks of the car.

Have a look, if you haven't seen already.

The lyrics go as follow...
Run boy run there's a storm on the run... dust... rising!
There's a beast on the prowl, there's a roar, there's a growl... thunder and lightning! 

Wow! Beautiful visuals, amazing lyrics, awesome voice and great music. A brilliant package. There is no way that the target audience for Cruze will not like it.

Talking about the target audience, for any car company, typically the key sets of audience are...

  1. Potential customers - the ones who are actually considering buying a sedan that is high on comfort, value for money and stylish enough for them to buy it. The car must elevate their status within their heads and more importantly, in their peer group. For a prospective Cruze customer, I am assuming, from the commercial, that they are looking at selling it to fast rising corporate kinds rather than the old businessmen. These young men want to play, rather than just commute in comfort. For "play", the hunter and prowl is a brilliant place to be at. 
  2. The automotive fanatics - the kind of people who know what horsepower the engine is, what is the turning radius, the clearance and other such things that are Greek and Latin to people like us. These people participate in forums and post their opinion on portals. These are the people that potential customers actually turn towards for their buy decision. Even though, the commercial has zero stats or numbers, it has everything that would make a car fanatic take note. The drifts and looks will make one search for more. The Cruze website does an ok job at it. 
  3. Dealers/sales team etc - the ones who will actually sell the car. These people are often oblivious to  the content of the ad but need the gratification that the "company" is advertising on TV and is spending money to help sell easier. 
  4. Competitors - merely to take a jab at em ;P

The ad clearly does a good job at appealing at all 4. Even though, it would be tough to get the sales data just for Cruze but it would be interesting to see. At least in this category, premium sedan category, there must be a direct correlation between advertisement and sales. Since in India, a car is a very very high involvement product, its really important for a car commercial to appeal to emotions.

In terms of how a planner would have approached this TVC, a typical planner is trained to think in two dimensions - rational and emotional. Rational - you talk of the benefits that are apparent, measurable and verifiable. Examples could be better mileage, superior looks, impeccable build quality or extra space. Emotional - you talk of benefits that a customer will perceive after they are exposed to your communication and hence are non-quantifiable, subjective and open to interpretation. The examples could be "makes you a hero", "takes you home", "your first car" etc. The rational ones are easy to make and the emotional ones are difficult to pull off.  This commercial is definitely not rational and slightly evolved for classifying as purely emotional.

For the category, the commercial is spot on. Easily breaks the clutter and makes the audience take a note. Take a note of the hunter on prowl! In the end, its a #win commercial for Chevrolet. Kudos to the agency that came up with the insight and wrote this commercial (who?). And to the client that approved the concept and is actually spending money to air it.

I'd rate the commercial a 4 on 5. Go see it. And yes, it makes me want to go and buy the car. Just that I dont have the money to do so. Sigh! 

Disclaimer: Personal, opinion, only. 

The cost of a short fuse

I have to have the shortest fuse that anyone has ever had in the entire universe. I love what I do and I put in a  lot of effort and heart in my work. I am not the greatest in what I do but I more often than not I do good work. And I have been able to create a reputation, atleast in my office, if not in the market. And as a result I have things going easy for me.

But once in a while, there comes a client who is a total moron and has no respect or regard for things. The client assumes that he is no less than the God himself and loves to assert his God like status. But forgets that God is God for a reason. Today one such thing happened. For no fault of mine, I was dragged into a melee. I hate such skirmishes and I refuse to get into an argument. This guy was persistent and got me into it.

Little did he know that I am the kinds with total disregard for rules and I dont give two hoots about authority. I know I am correct and I refuse to budge. And its come to a point where I think we would lose his employer as a client. Thankfully my office understands the stand I am taking and they are with me on this. But it sucks to be a part of such a stupid thing. Need to quickly find a way out. May be its time to bring back Cyntax. And my hunt for a boss has drawn nil :(

Yes, I am a corporate bitch and this is one of those posts that I wanted to share with my boss and client but dont have the balls to do so. Blame me.

Untitled 2012 Nov 08

Some kind of unnamed, unknown restlessness has set in. Its just beneath the surface, ready to explode. The kinds that makes you scream out loud. Where you yell so loud that your lungs are about to explode and you are left gasping for air. And yet, all that the world around you seems to hear, is pin drop silence. The silence of lambs that are about to be slaughtered. And you are left wondering. Like that kid in a war zone who can see and touch that long shiny metal object but cant comprehend its purpose, its impact or the destruction that the mere trigger could unleash. That kind of restlessness.

Now in my experience, that restlessness is typically is a good thing. It breaks the monotony of life. It afterall is a harbinger to drastic changes. You may or may not have asked for those changes. But like most things in life, change happens and you can merely react to it. Most of us succumb to these changes. Some live with it. And a handful emerge out on top. I typically have been the kinds to try and survive. And while I am at the survival game, I hope like hell that another change would happen, ofcourse without my control, and hope that the next one would be easy on me. At least easier than the one I am suffering under the weight of at the time being.

There have been times when I have actually tried to scratch the surface and see what the restlessness is all about. For someone like me, it has to be either about growing old, money or a relationship. I am not a narcissist but I am very sure that I hate the process of growing up. Its the inevitable end that all of us drifting towards, one second at a time. Wish I could stop it altogether. Slowing it, delaying it will be of no use. Its a just a game of numbers and units. Then I am not rich by any yardstick that I may evaluate myself on. And it sucks to know that there is so much money to be made in the world and I am poor. Money to me, let me explain, is not really an end. But is a means to be able to do things that I ought to be doing. And finally, the relationships. For me, more have gone sour than they have worked out. And hence the restlessness.

But the funny bit is that this time, the unnamed, unknown restlessness that has set in, has nothing to do with any of the three I just spoke about. It is something else. Something that I cant comprehend right now. I would love to know about it ofcourse. Men fear the unknown more than they fear the known. With known dangers, however mortal they are, the entire gamut of outcomes is on the table for everyone to see. And on one extreme of the possible outcomes is a fleeting chance, a flickering hope, of getting away with without a scratch. However, with the unknown, there is no list of outcomes and thus there is no hope. And once there is no hope, there is nothing left to fight for. And most men give up, without even trying to fight. Their will leaves them alone, probably when they need it the most. Me for example.

Recruiting a Boss. Applications anyone?

Today, I logged onto my dreamhost account after ages (read few months). It has more than 20 domains that I have booked over the years. These include saurabhgarg.com, cyntax.in, the entire DIY line, madewith, klpd, ODID, offbeat etc. Each domain corresponds to an idea that I had wanted to work on. And each domain corresponds to an idea that I did not work on. Am not too sure if any idea was a winner per se but the sad part is that I did not even try. And to put things in perspective, there are ideas that I dont have a domain for but they are idling in my dropbox, desktop and evernote. (Side note to self - work on consolidating all the information and put in place a information management plan.)

Apart from everything else, this long list is a painful reminder of the fact that I suck at execution. I may take pride in my ability to conjure ideas every minute of my waking time but I have realized that mere popping up of these light bulbs will not take me anywhere. Need to put pen to paper. Here is a quote. I dont know who said it. It just popped into my head, like all those ideas...
An idea, not executed, is not an idea!
Thus to qualify as an ideas person, I need to execute some idea and take it to completion. Over the next few weeks, I would be single mindedly focussed on execution. And I will put deadlines and tasks and goals in place and I will take one idea and take it to closure. Any idea. Even if its bad. Just to see if I have it in me to take an idea from beginning and finish it.

Another unrelated observation. One of my ex-employers told me once upon a time that I am brilliant employee to have and yet I would make a really bad owner. That time I dismissed it as yet another pep talk to get me to work harder. Now, the writing on the wall looks so much clearer. I now know what he meant.

But being the stubborn and overconfident fuck I am, I refuse to yield till I give things one more shot. This time till 31 Mar 13. However to help me expedite things, I want to recruit someone, to be my boss. Someone who constantly nudges me and forces me to do. And like all recruitment offers, I can put some kind of compensation on the table. Can telecommute and just need to give about 5 minutes of your time, everyday. Apart from compensation and awesome working hours, perks include, boasting rights, if I manage to do something. Any takers? Application shall be considered with strictest of confidence.

Thats it for the time being. Over to you, Execution.

Thank You Nilam

Forget Sandy. India, we have our own hurricane. And like all hurricanes in the US of A are named after women (why? can someone tell me please?), someone aped the big brother and our hurricane is called Nilam (with an I). Not very creative if you ask me. We had better options in Priyanka, Aishwarya, Sunita, Babli etc. Anyways so here I am in Chennai where I know exactly one person, apart from my office peeps. When I was coming here, I thought I would extend the day and hustle around for a business idea that I have been working on for last few weeks.

So I got over with my meeting, which went rather bad, and promptly decided to visit someone that I thought I could partner with. Little did I know that A, those guys are American and hence they shut down by 5 and B, there was Nilam, wrecking havoc in Chennai. I mean the impact of Nilam has been far from adverse - at max, we have had a few fallen trees, really wild winds and incessant showers. But we live in the era where media loves to exaggerate things and everyone I know plays it safe. I mean I asked atleast 5 people if they want to goto the beach and experience the true might of Nilam first hand but all of them chickened out. Guess not everyone is as frivolous as I am.

Made me realize that a city, a place is all about people. The fact that I thought I know enough people there and yet I couldnt get company, sucked! If I was prepared, I would have planned for something - I would have read about it, I would have carried a camera, I would have seen something that needs seen. Or I would have idled time, seeping in scenes and smells from the new city, like I do when I travel. But this time I was caught off guard and it sucked. There was nothing at all to do.

And this is when the idea man in me said, why not look for a place where I could sit and write. I immediately ruled out my hotel. Not a lot of reasons, but this time, I was booked into a hotel where the tiny 15" wall mounted TV was two miles away from the bed and there was a wash basin in the room. Ok I am painting a far worse picture but I think TV was indeed larger than 15" but I am not kidding about the washbasin in the room - I did use it to dry my shoes afterall. So my room was not really inspiring as a place and there was no table and I thought I could goto a coffee shop and write, the way I do when I am in Mumbai or Delhi. So I set course for a known and famous coffee shop. I think I left my office at 6 and by 8 the driver was still trying to find his way! Google maps was acting weird and all I could see around me was traffic. And when I did reach the shopping mall that housed the coffee shop, it was shut! Why? because someone had issued some advisory about Nilam!

By this time, I had lost it and I was yelling at everything that moved, including the cow munching onto I dont know what. The I-yelled-at-following list could boast of fancy names like the KFC till-man, the driver of my car, the policeman that was trying to man the traffic, the security guard, the gatekeeper at the mall.

I realized that I was pissed off for no reason. May be because I dint get to name the Hurricane or something! The thought about cities and what gives them life and what makes them important, endearing, mesmerizing, popular, safe, grand etc kept swirling in my head. And I had no answer. May be this is why I was angry. I tried to reason with myself and discover the reason for my anger.

And then like lightening, it dawned onto me. I was hungry! I had to eat! And thats what I did. I promptly went to a Simran's, had awesome Appams and went off to sleep, next to the wash basin that is.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?