Monday 29 December 2014

What did you read in 2014?

This is just for fun, and completely random, but I think we can get some interesting insights together. No, I can't track you and steal all your personal information (this is a Google Drive form, so maybe Google can), but if you prefer, you can take this poll in its own page, here.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Jo mera hai, woh mera hai

Hello. This is Cartel, one of those lovely companies who came into the electricity-providing business when the government opened it up to the private sector.

When we started out, all of you were using incandescent bulbs and tube lights and stuff like that. Achche Din, right?

Now many of you are using power-saving CFL bulbs and even LED bulbs. This has cut into our revenue.

Yeah, yeah, sure, you're also using our electricity a whole lot more because now there are so many more electricity-powered devices available, but basically we resent you terribly for being subversive and using our bijli less for lighting. So, henceforth we will be charging you more money to provide power to your other devices, like ACs, TVs, computers, cellphones, electric vehicles and suchlike, to make up for what we're losing to the advance of technology, which we hadn't really accounted for in our business plan. Who knew, right?

How do we know what you're using the power for? Well, let's just say we have ways of looking into your home and seeing what's, heh, charging.

Why? Heck, because we can.

Written for Nikhil Pahwa, who is out there leading the good fight.

Thursday 25 December 2014

The #GoodGovernanceDay Hymnal & Songbook

Carols for the fat man with the white beard

मेरी Good Governance Day!

Christianity, mitron, has often appropriated festivals and celebrations from other religions. The Christmas tree, the Yule log, mistletoe (and that debauched custom of kissing under it) all have origins in pre-Christian times and pagan customs. Even this so-called Christmas day was conveniently shifted to coincide with the Winter Solstice to make it easier to lure in followers of other religions.

Now that we are doing a bit of Ghar Wapasi for the 25th December, as a former Christian and devout believer in and proselytiser of Good Governance, I present for your singing pleasure a few songs I, ahem, 'converted' from their previous use. Perfect for chanting around a pile of burning books.


Jingalala! Bail! Jingalala! Bail!
I got out of jail!
O what fun it is to be
Pals with India's leading male!


Silence! We're the Right
Stay calm, sit tight
Curfew time for mother and child
No going out, the night is wild

Sleep in, we'll keep the peace,
Sleep in, we'll keep the peace

Silent night, no not quite
Safe for you to go out tonight
Chow mien has been stuffed down faces
So, no, the night for you has no place

Stay home, cook, & give birth
Stay home, cook, & give birth


Hark the herald Sanghis tweet
"Glory to the Virgin King!
Peace on earth? Only my child
If Ghar Wapasi pleas are filed"

Joyful, all ye nations rise
In from India Modi flies
While the NRI hosts proclaim:
His undying glorious fame

Hark! The hired Tweeters sing
"Glory to the Virgin King!"
By the VHP adored
And by all who can afford
To have him use their private planes
Achche dins will fall like rain!

56 inches round is he
Custom-made is his finery
Pleased to watch that tummy swell!
No sorry, that's his chest that fell.

Hark the hired Sanghis tweet!
Then off to Burger King to eat!


Deck the halls with balls of haldi,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Clear out all western baggage jaldi
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Don we now saffron apparel,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Trolls are here with you to quarrel,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Choose: against us or are you for us?
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

What western culture is this chorus?
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Follow me! Your RTs are treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

They give me all kinds of pleasure,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Ancient culture for our masses
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Never mind if it's anti the lasses
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

Sing, you yoyos, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!

While I tuck in to my headband a feather,
Fa la la la la, la la. Aila!


Godse rest ye, mere gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Good Governance
Was born on 26 May
To save us all from Western powers
Such as this Christmas Day

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(It does not cloy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

For three score years and seven
This country had not known
The joys of being governed
And not by a Kangressi pawn
But now, mitron, I am here
Give thanks that I was born!

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(It's a boy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

Watch us wield our jaadus now
In the TV camera's frame
So that tonight at nine pee em
Arnab can say our names
Never mind that we're sweeping up
Pre-arranged garbage for fame

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(It's a PR ploy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

"Fear not" said the party head,
"I got you in my sights,
I got info on your foes
Enough to give them frights
They'll soon sing the party line
If they know what for them's right"

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(Don't be coy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

The NRI fans at those tidings
Rejoiced as do their kind,
By abusing all the sickulars
And libtards they could find
Though strangely very few returned
To the land they left behind

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(Green card joy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

And when they came to New Delhi
Where our dear Saviour stays,
They found him not in the Lok Sabha
Though you may remember the day
When he knelt down and kissed its steps
The 20th day of May?

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(MPs annnoy!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy

To our chief we sing praises,
Bless his bearded face,
We the insecure brotherhood
Are right here in your face;
He may call it governance
We call it running the place

O tweetings of comfort and joy,
(We love our toys!)
O tweetings of comfort and joy


Jai to the World, #SwacchBharat has come!
Let no one be shirking!
Let every hearth prepare their brooms,
Cameras are looking,
Cameras are looking,
News TV cameras are looking!

Jai to the World, soc'l media reigns!
Let pee aar firms employ
Benched geeks and jocks to shill and 'splain
Retweet the sounding joy,
Retweet the sounding joy,
Retweet, retweet the sounding joy.

You love the words, and I have more!
Lots more, so hang around!
Good Gov'nance Day is my next play
I really like the sound,
I really like the sound,
I like, I like, I like the sound.

He trolls the world, with a straight face,
Though he is yet to prove
That he can do the things he says,
We drink the Kool Aid, Love,
We drink the Kool Aid, Love,
We drink, we drink the Kool Aid, Love

Friday 19 December 2014


9 years and 51 weeks ago, I was a part of something that changed my life in many ways. The TsunamiHelp blog.

It broke me, in some ways, re-made me in others. And it taught me so much. Not least about collaboration and collective goodwill. It lead to a certain amount of visibility (and I struggled with my feelings about that) and to, in some circles, being seen as an authority, almost, about things I had muddled through. It taught me a whole lot about the limits of my knowledge.

But most of all, it made me some friends who are close even today, despite me never having met some of them. It's a bond that will always be linked in my mind to that overwhelming tragedy, the South-East Asia earthquake and tsunami. So it feels, in a way, wrong to be grateful for those friendships. But I am, I am. I will never regret Megha, Bala Pitchandi, Dina Mehta, Neha Viswanathan coming into my life.

There were so many others, of course, who were part of that effort. Some drifted away, for one reason or another. Like Rohit Gupta, who, nevertheless, I remember only with fondness and admiration. Another special place is reserved always for Sanjaya Senanayake who died earlier this year. He and his friends in Sri Lanka brought home to us so much of the grimness of that disaster. Though I never got to know them as well, seeing Angelo Embuldeniya, Constantin Basturea, Nancy Bohrer, Taran Rampersad, Pim Techamuanvivit, Maitri Irwin, Rudi Cilibrasi, Anna Lissa Cruz, Balaji Bondili and others pop up in my social media feeds always makes me smile.

Then there were Ryze and blog friends who were part of it (some I knew from before and got to know better): Nandini Chopra,Amit Varma, Dilip D'Souza,Priyanka Joseph, Samit Basu, Jai Arjun Singh, Annie Zaidi, and so, so many others. There were more than 200 people collaborating on that project. Andy Carvin said, a little while ago, that in it were the roots of other projects, other disaster relief efforts that used online power. Google's People Finder, for instance. The methods we used are outdated now. They were outdated by even 2005, when other disasters struck and people evolved fresh approaches that worked more smoothly, used tech better, were more effective. And it continues to evolve, continues to improve. Case in point: the wonderful efforts, first in Kashmir, then the North-East and Andhra, of what has now become VOICE - incrisisrelief.

Saturday 27 September 2014


Alas, I have been unfortunate

None of my assets are disproportionate

'Cept my belly

Which, sigh, is jelly

Comes from not watching whatchuate

Version 2, on, er, mature reflection

Alas, I have been unfortunate

None of my assets are disproportionate

'Cept my belly

Which—sigh—is jelly

Because dessert is so importunate

Got no disproportionate assets

Except—to be honest—my ass; it's

Larger than yours is

By several sizes

It will stay one of my notable facets

Friday 26 September 2014

If you applaud at the wrong time at a Symphony Orchestra of India concert, they won’t be upset with you

Earlier this month, my colleague Kathakali Chanda and I were waiting to chat with Zane Dalal, the resident conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of India. While we waited, we had our pick of seats in the NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium, and got to listen, and watch, the SOI run through its first rehearsal of the season.

The orchestra is a sea of wild colour, very different from the sober black and white that one associates with its stage performances. Among the varicoloured slacks and T-shirts and bright tops and sports shoes and flip-flops, one pair of brightly-patterned Bermudas stands out. But even it fades in comparison to the bright pink sunburn on one of the cellists. Back to us, however, is one figure all in black.

Dalal is soft, polite in his instructions, but evidently in command. Every little while he reaches behind him for a towel to mop his profusely sweating face.

Several hours later, rehearsal done, he takes a small breather before joining me to chat. His face is drawn, his close-cropped thinning hair is plastered to his skull. He sits down, and admits to feeling faint. I’m concerned: does he need some water, some heavily-sugared coffee? I commandeer a bottle of water from a passing violinist, and he accepts it, swallows a few mouthfuls, rejects my offer to do the interview another day, and insists we talk right away. (Later, he says that he’s still a little jet-lagged, having flown in from Los Angeles two days ago, and, um, he hadn’t eaten anything since the previous night. This was at 3pm. Then we chatted for an hour. After which he patiently stood for a few portraits. Then, finally, he went off to get something to eat.)

During the course of a long conversation, we dwelt for a short awhile on the one thing that seems to come up with metronomic regularity in every conversation about symphonies in India: the audience clapping between movements. Symphonies are longer pieces of music, with distinct ‘movements’ which explore aspects of the music and its moods. And the convention is that one does not clap between movements. Of course, to differentiate between the end of a piece and the silent space between movements, one would need to know the piece in the first place. Which is not necessarily the case for audiences in India. Then there’s the additional ‘handicap’ of our audiences being more attuned to the decorum of Indian classical music, where it is quite customary—indeed, it indicates that you’re a connoisseur—to express approval of a particularly skilled rendition of a passage immediately, not waiting for the end.

Western classical music’s staunchest aficionados tend to be a prickly lot, and audience members applauding at the wrong time could get some very stern looks from the purists. Some are irate enough to have told Dalal that he should do something about it. You know, get up there and tell people not to clap!

He is quite certain that that is something he will never do.

“They’ve paid money and come here. You don’t make them feel bad because they sitting next to some stuffy person saying They clapped between movements! How dare they!

“It’s an experience. They’ve given their money, they should enjoy it. Next time around, or the next time, or the next time, maybe at some dinner, someone will say, you know, I heard that you’re not supposed to clap. And then it’s done. I don’t have to sit there and tell them. Some people said, there should be a green light and a red light. I was like, that can’t be right, I’ve certainly never seen that in any professional set up internationally. Perhaps in the taping of a soap opera, but not in a concert hall!

“Sometimes people can be short-sighted about the process of bringing people in to our audiences and growing our audience base. They should look to the potential of why they’re there. Not the rules of the people who set up 20th century European concert etiquette. There was a good deal of interaction with the audience in the 19th and 18th century, especially in opera…and it served us well, with all its shouting, heckling and smelling salts.”

And it’s not that Dalal thinks there should be clapping between movements.

“We can talk about that, discuss it. You can say, Actually, I like that. When I’m sitting at an Indian music concert, the connection between me and the player, the Arrey Waah! is crucial to the interaction. Just like the when there’s jazz going on and there’s a riff with a fantastic saxophone player or there’s a great drum solo. When I’ve paid my money, why can’t I be connected to all these people? I’m just enjoying the music the way I’ve always enjoyed it and I’m Indian and this is what we do.

“And you have to explain, nahi bhai, there is a sacrosanct silence to the music.

“You can explain it in different ways. I’ve tried. It goes something like this.

What we do up there is very simple. You have the Mona Lisa; you know everything you need to know about it: it’s on wood, not canvas, all the dyes are hand-rubbed from plants, there’s this fantastic sense of perspective behind the shoulders, there’s that translucence of the dress she’s wearing, the folded hands, the enigmatic smile, no eyebrows... whatever you decide is in that picture.

Then, this is what we do. The masterwork is our book, the composition. What we do is we’re master painters.

There is the Mona Lisa, on the left-hand side of the stage, and in two hours, we will recreate it.

We will repaint the Mona Lisa. We will not make any mistakes, we will do it from start to finish, in a moment in time. And you will have understood that it was made on wood, with natural dyes, and we will try and get the translucence, and we’ll try and get all the things that the composer asks us to do, and we will go after this for two hours, all of us, in silence, just create that masterpiece again. We paint in sound. So your coughing or clapping is like throwing paint up on our canvas, while we’re trying to do it without any mistakes.

“Now if you explain that to someone, they’re going to sit on their hands. You have to explain that this is a sonic painting, and it has to take place in the terms that we’ve set up. So any sound, whether it’s unwarranted from the stage or the audience, is like someone taking a bright colour and throwing it on to the canvas while we’re trying to create our Mona Lisa, our sonic painting that starts in a moment and drifts into silence at the other end. Or as we like to say, is ‘brought down and then sent back up.’ Why should you have any human interaction to screw around with it?

“We paint in time, and if that’s not precious enough: we’re in this Swarovski crystal box, which you can look at but not touch... you have to explain that. It’s not that people can’t understand it.”

“I can understand all the reasons why they feel they can and should have this connection with the stage. And sometimes I think we are too stuffy. Maybe we should have a connection between stage and audience. There’s some pieces you can, some you can’t.

“But people shouldn’t expect me to go up there and tell them not to do this, that, the other… that’s not my style,.

“Having said that, if one does come out on stage and restrain the audience by telling them how many movements there are in a certain piece, one will get a clap free concert, but not a silent one…people are still coughing, clearing throats, looking for keys, doing their usual thing,… and, yes, sometimes chatting. They are restrained from clapping for the wrong reasons.

“Also, I’m sure people don’t know that there are times that it is permissible to clap between movements. For example if the orchestra has turned out a really virtuosic performance of the scherzo of Schumann Symphony No. 2, one should recognize the sheer prowess with applause, and people do so, the whole world over.”

On another note, Dalal was bemused by some reactions to the SOI’s recording of India’s national anthem.

“I had someone tell me that it was sacrilege that in [our recording of] the national anthem, the cellos didn’t stand up. Scandalous!

Arrey bhai, that’s how they play! You don’t stand! Every national anthem everywhere in the world, the cellos are sitting because you sit to play the instrument! You have to. It’s like saying play the national anthem on the sitar, and stand playing it; is that possible? But no, no, no! They had to tell me!”

Thursday 28 August 2014


When I was young, and I saw an old person, I just saw: old.
Now, as I stagger ever closer towards dodderage myself, I only see in old people's faces the young ones they were.
This is not some major feat, of course. You just need to have lived long enough to realise that that face in the mirror is very different from the one college ID card picture you just found, but you feel just as unsure of yourself, just as callow. You just need to suddenly notice the grey hairs and fine wrinkles of your friends and yet know that their souls, like yours, are still young and wild.
You see in their children the contours that were, are, those of the smooth faces you knew, now creased by weather, by life. And you find, in your memories of the ones gone now, the youthful spirits that animated their bent bodies.
And the young ones you see now, you see in their faces their old age.

What's this .भारत all about?

A quick backgrounder on the new Indian language top-level domains, भारत, .ভারত, .భారత్, .ભારત, .بھارت, .ਭਾਰਤ, and .இந்தியா

For the absolute beginner, some background first. Please note that these are simplified, and in some cases, simplistic explanations, meant to give you an overview, not a deep technical understanding.

• Every computer connected to the Internet—in fact every device connected to the Internet, including your smartphone, or your smart refrigerator—has a unique address, an IP or Internet Protocol address. This is a number, something like this: 1234.5.67.890 Computers and smart devices are comfortable with dealing with and remembering long strings of numbers, but we human beings aren't that good at it. So, over those numbers, there is a layer of URLs, Uniform Resource Locators, based on domain names, like, that humans find easier to remember. The last part of the address, the .com, is the top level domain (TLD).

• Databases of existing TLDs and the IP addresses that they point to them are stored at Domain Name System (DNS) root servers. When you type in a domain name, what you're doing is asking the Internet to find a particular computer. Your 'request' is processed right to left: first the TLD, like .com, then the second level, like forbesindia, then the third, like www or any other dub-domain, and a web site pops up on your screen. On any decent internet connection, this happens almost instantly; on a slower connection, your browser's status bar will show you where you are in this name resolving process.

(Irrelevant and possibly useless to know: A web site doesn't have to be hosted on a commercial server farm. You can buy a domain name and point it to any IP number. Yes, your phone or your smart fridge included. But if you intend that your site be easily and reliably available to large numbers of people, it might be best to find solutions that are always on, and have fat pipes connecting to them to the Internet. Like commercial server farms.)

• In the early days of the Web, there were just a few TLDs meant for specific types of organisations, .com, .net and .org—COMmercial, NETwork infrastructures, and ORGanisations not falling within other TLDs—but they have since become unrestricted and are referred to as generic TLDs (gTLDs). There were others, like .gov (for government) .mil (military), .edu (educational institutions) which had and still have restrictions on who can apply for and own them.

• Another slice of TLDs are the two-letter ccTLDs, the country codes, like India’s .in. Every country in the world, plus some dominions and territories, have them: around 250 exist, from .ac (Ascension Island) to .zw (Zimbabwe). Some of these are tightly controlled by their countries; others which have fortuitous two-letter combinations have been exploited—sometimes even sub-contracted out to commercial registrars and sellers—with domain names available to anyone, like Colombia’s .co, attractive to corporations, Montenegro’s .me, Tonga’s .to and Tuvalu’s .tv. (India's .in is partially restricted, and in this writer's opinion, underexploited.)

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit that is the Internet’s primary governing body) introduced a few more internationalised (or available to any first bidder, within each category, anywhere) TLDs in 2004: .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. The results were mixed.

• Of the 750 million to over a billion web sites online at the moment (depending on whom you ask), the biggest chunk of these (over half, according to this source) end in .com, and they continue to be the TLD most in demand.

• Fun fact: No one can tell you exactly how many web pages exist at any point in time. For one, much content is dynamically generated from databases, like in your web-based email, for instance. And then there's the Deep Web.

• Other early gTLDs like .net and .org have sizeable shares of what's left of the TLD pie. Russia's .ru also plays in this league (in fact it has a share slightly higher than that of .org). .de, .uk, .jp, .br, .pl, .cn, .fr, .it and .in all hover between 1% and 4%. All the many other TLDs have even lower numbers, with a large number of them less than even 0.1%. Clearly, a .com site is still what most seem to want.

• But while the number of permutations possible with just Roman letters and numbers is astronomical, finding that one .com name that is unique, relevant to you and your needs, and memorable isn't easy. If you've tried querying a whois service like the one run by Internic (or uwhois for ccTLDs), you'll know that all the good names are taken. A huge number of existing domain names are speculative buys, people hoping to get rich by squatting on a domain someone wants or will want. Others are bought as protective measures, like similar names to that of a big brand, which redirect to a mother site.

• To get around both, the difficulties finding that perfect .com name and the fact that for much of the world, Roman letters are, well, Greek, there have been frequent demands and requests for more TLDs, including those in scripts other than Roman. By 2007, ICANN had a set of policies in place on how new TLDs could be brought in. These were further debated by the international community. In 2011, ICANN announced that it would be opening up applications for anyone wanting to sponsor new TLDs. The process was detailed, and involved no little expense from applicants. You can view the applicant guidebook here (PDF, 5.8 MB).

• Complex and demanding as it was, when ICANN opened up for applications for a few months in 2012, it got 1930 of them (and $357 million in revenue). Of these, 373 have already been introduced into the Internet, and another 1321 are in some stage of being processed.

The India link

• The National Internet eXchange of India (NIXI) controls the .in ccTLD, and has oversight over that TLD. The only exceptions are these reserved second-level domains, which are available only to Indian organisations in India that qualify: (academic), (research institutes), (colleges and universities) for which you have to go to ERNET's registry, and the government-controlled and (for Indias armed forces) which are controlled exclusively by the National Informatics Centre's (NIC) registry.

• You, I, or anyone or any organisation in the world with disposable income can buy domains ending in .in (or the second-level names,,,, and (for individuals)) from INRegistry's accredited registrars. NIXI charges its registrars an annual fee of ₹350 for a domain and ₹250 for a third level domain, but leaves it to them to decide what price to offer them to the public.

• On 25th January, 2011, under ICANN's fast-tracking system for new internationalised domain names NIXI's proposal asking ICANN to delegate to it seven new TLDs representing India in various languages was approved. These are .भारत, .ভারত, .భారత్, .ભારત, .بھارت, .ਭਾਰਤ, and .இந்தியா, all variations of 'bharat' in Indic scripts.

• Why it's taken three-and-a-half years to make them available to the public is something only NIXI can tell us.

Further reading and references

• The Internet Society's pages on the basics of the Internet
• The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority's (IANA) Root Zone Database (all the TLDs available, listed with their 'sponsoring organisations').
ICANN's New gTLDs statistics, timeline, the status of all the applications and the Frequently-Asked Questions page.

Monday 25 August 2014


Do you have to do the shaadi
To be a true love jihadi?
Or is it enough
To date — & stuff —
Across religions to be a baddie?

Sunday 24 August 2014


Daycation: A really short holiday.

Naycation: A holiday taken by someone who hates holidays, and spends the entire trip saying no to whatever her/his travel companions suggest.

Flaycation: An S&M couple's holiday.

Laycation: A holiday with an explicitly focussed agenda.

Gaycation: A holiday in LGBTQ-friendly destinations.

Greycation: Senior citizen holiday.

Hey!cation: Basically, Goa, where you meet everyone you went there to get away from.

Décation: Shobhaa takes a break.

Feycation: A doomed holiday.

Yaycation: Whoopie! A holiday at last!

Fraycation: A nervous holiday.

Jaycation: An exotic holiday, something one immediately posts pictures of on Facebook to provoke jealousy. Also: Saycation: a holiday you take just so you can talk about it later.

Veycation: Oy! A kosher holiday.

Wheycation: No milk solids, please.

LostYourWaycation: Look at the damn map, will ya?

Lehcation: Ladakh is wonderful around now.

Praycation: Most of India's tourism.

Quaycation: Sittin' on the dock, strollin' the promenade..

Quakation: Disaster tourism.

Raycation: Take me somewhere sunny!

Fakation: Where you tell everyone you're going out of town, but you stay home and watch lots of TV and don't bathe.

Playcation: A holiday where the kids get taken care off while Mummy and Daddy get drunk and get some sexy time.

Maycation: If that leave application gets approved..

Mehcation: "How was your holiday?" "Meh."

Sleighcation: Dashing through the snow..

Slaycation: Where serial killers go.

Weighcation: Eat like pigs all day.

Imprecation: Eff-all holiday.

Intoxication: Eff it. let's stay home and drink.

Inspired by a bit in World Wide Words, a newsletter I subscribe to, in which a reader riffed on the neologism 'staycation.'

Vacation blues. A cry of linguistic distress arrived from David Rosen: “The Boston Globe of Saturday 16 August carries a picture of a golfer in the buff and describes taking a naked vacation as nakationing. I suppose, like staycation for those who do not travel for vacations, it is a variation on vacation. What's next? Will the equine set take neighcations? Those who like the sea take baycations, and will fresh water enthusiasts take lakeations? Will those who do not have vacations as a work benefit envy those who have paycations? The possibilities are limitless.”

Have I left any alphabets for you? Enjoy.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

"You'll never work in advertising again, Griffin"

I once made a living writing ads
As livings go it wasn't half-bad
'Cept for the suits
Who to tell you the truth
Often severely lacked gonads

Suits & creative: always antagonistic
"You guys are SO unrealistic!"
That's MBAese;
What it really means
Is "Creative are all bloody pricks"

Account Planning is (pause to wink)
A serious ad agency funtcionk
They do the stuff
That wasn't happening enough
I.e., occasionally think

Art directors are easy to find:
Their shoes are always well shined
Even if the work
Shows no signs of quirk
The attire? ALWAYS well designed

Ad film makers are (if 1 may bitch)
Always very very rich
Their lives are quite flash
They make lots of cash
I hope their undergarments itch

Media planning is a serious chore
Numbers & spreadsheets galore
Planners get paid
Though not often laid
'Cause sleeping with them is a snore

Copywriters wear capes & masks
They do all the crucial tasks
Save the planet?
"I'm on it!"
(Why yes, I wrote copy; why'd you ask?)

Clients hire MarComm double grads
Give 'em big cars & luxury pads
To write strat docs
Think out-of-the-box
But their mummies approve the ads

[The numbers link to the original Tweets that this post collects.]

Monday 21 July 2014

Hear O Israel

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil, Hear O Israel:

We loved you, because you were the plucky underdog, building a nation in the desert. We wished you well, because over the centuries, so many had wished you ill.

After generations of persecution, of horrors beyond belief, we wished for you what we wish ourselves: peace. We wished you what you wished for: “Rain to your land, the early and the late rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.” “Grass in your fields for your cattle.”

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil, Hear O Israel:

These things cannot be bought with missiles. These cannot be won with the deaths of children.

You will win this war. You have the power, the strength to extinguish those who stand in your path.

What you will also win for your children and their children and their children is the opposite of peace.

You will bequeath them fear, anger, terror. They will inherit sleepless nights.

Those you have bereaved won’t turn the other cheek. Those you have made homeless will not forsake revenge.

Sh’ma Yis’ra'eil, Hear O Israel:

We wish you peace. We wish you life. Don’t take them from others.

Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yis’ra’eil.

V’im’ru: Amein.

May there be abundant peace from Heaven and life upon us and upon all Israel.

Now say: Amein.

Oseh shalom bim’romav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil.

V’im’ru: Amein

He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel.

Now say: Amein.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Wee, the Media

He wanted to make a big stink
About a politico-big biz link
His editor liked it
But the owner spiked it
And that's why journalists drink

At 9 pee em, with elation
We wait for today's sensation
We watch as he shouts
Waggles his fingers about
Heck, you wanted to know, O nation!

A young one with visions of glory
Filed an investigative story
"Let truth prevail!
Evil must quail!"
The editor laughed till he had a coronary

Oh you journalist chaps
With your idealistic crap.
The real world-changers
Aren't facing danger;
They're working with Team Apple Maps

The first draft of history, they said
As they put the paper to bed
Then polished their CVs
& sent feelers to TV
If only the world still read

The web is killing us, they say
Good content, but no one will pay
They mutter & splutter
Foul oaths they utter
Then they go surf Pirate Bay

On Twitter, they mourn the loss
Of journalism's ethos
"You no longer aspire
To truths that are higher"
Then they go back to watching BigBoss

His friends were worried: "I say,
Don't say that in public! No way"
His lips he pursed
As he wrote another verse
Nobody reads poetry anyway

In newsrooms home & away
One topic du jour holds sway
Not Ukraine or Gaza
It's something more taaza:
Which editor quit today?

NRI columnists are upset
They praised Modi skyhigh & yet
They're waiting & waiting
Pupils dilating
Waaah! No call to join his cabinet

When Big Media barons meet
Do they exchange fact sheets
Of mockers & blighters
& joke-making writers?
I hope they're not reading this Tweet

The Emergency: you may recall
Told to bend, they crawl.
Now we'll do better, yes?
Politician can't fetter us!
'Cause big biz has us by the..

[The numbers link to the original Tweets that this post collects.]

Sunday 13 July 2014

The itsy bitsy teenie weenie song

She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid she’d land up in the lock-up
She was afraid of the Goa Pee Dubyu Dee

“One, two, three, four! Showing body? Thoba! Haw!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
It was her body, so she thought it was okay
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
But Mantriji said it would make men prey

“Two, three, four! Two-piece? Shee! Must be a whore!”

She was afraid to come out in the open
Sex crimes were because of her, see?
“Poor men can’t help gawkin’ and gropin’
And next thing they’ll do Ar Ay Pee Ee”

“Two, three, four! They raped because of what she wore!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
A garment she wore ’cause she felt fine that way
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
But now Goa’s gorment was saying “No way!”

“Two, three, four! Western nangapan on our shore!”

Now she’s afraid, this new India’s daughter
“She asked for it I say, what to do?”
What if Muthalik was prowling and caught her?
The Ram Sene would beat her black and blue

“Two, three, four, patriarchy is the law!”

It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, symbol of her own agency
That she thought she had a right to display
An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, ordinary flash of whimsy
“Shut up woman! It’s our world! Obey!”

(First the lock-up then a blanket ban)
(No more women on our sea shore)
(We learnt it from the Taliban)

Yes, there isn’t any more


This is the end
Hold your scalp and count to ten
Feel your comb move, and then
Hear my hair fall again

For this is the end
I've combed and brushed this moment
Comb-over time, can't grow more
Taken away, it's stolen

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
As hair falls
As hair falls

Hairfall is where we part
Our hair but then it parts
From us and clogs the drain-hole
Got a trichologist's number?
Can you give me a name?
Yes I'll give the devil my soul

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
As hair falls

Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall
When it tumbles
We will stand bald

There it goes, it goes
On its way out to sea
I know I'll never be thin
But the lack of keratin's
Lovely strands atop my crown
Makes me feel really down
Gimme a hat my friend
And we'll stand....

Let the hair fall, when it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
Let the hair fall, when it tumbles
We will stand bald
And face it all together
As hair falls

Let the hair fall
We will stand bald
As hair falls

(Sorry Adele)

Monday 7 July 2014

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Last week saw much indignation from Tendulkar ‘fans’ because Maria Sharapova, in an interview, admitted to not knowing who the cricket legend was. Sharapova’s Facebook page was attacked, and enough Tweets to sink an armada were launched. Who the #### was she? What had she achieved that could compare with Tendulkar’s sacred divinity? How could she not know who SRT was? Dammit, there he is in the Royal Box! Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Take a breath. Pause. Sit down. Put down that smartphone.

Ask yourself, can you blame Sharapova? That young woman plays at the top, or near enough, of her sport, which, as anyone who has played any sport with any degree of perseverance knows, takes a lot of gruelling, concentrated effort and eats up a large slice of one's time. So she, perhaps, isn't the best-informed sports star around; everyone can't be Rahul Dravid. And she's not alone. You know Virendra Sehwag, right? Arguably the most explosive batsman Indian cricket has ever seen. Who’s got a few achievements under his belt that even SRT didn't crack, like two Test triple-centuries, including the fastest ever, the highest ODI score, the fastest ODI century by an Indian. A friend on Facebook reminded me that that Sehwag, an Indian, a cricketer, an outstanding Indian cricketer, didn't know who Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy were.

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Anyway, if achievement in one’s own sport is what earns one the right to confess ignorance of another sportsperson, Sharapova isn't a ‘Greatest Of All Time’ candidate mentioned in the same breath as Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King or Steffi Graf just yet, but she’s got some solid credentials. She's been world Number One, and she’s got a career Grand Slam behind her, which is nothing to sneeze at. And she’s doing quite well on the earnings and world fame fronts, thank you very much. And yes, she has a few years left in the sport for sure, injuries permitting, so she can aspire to GOAT status.

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Sachin Tendulkar certainly has a very special place in our cricket-loving hearts. And the debates about whether he or Donald Bradman was the GOAT will, no doubt, continue long and fervently. But, because the little big man played a sport only a handful of countries play with any degree of seriousness (and one practically unknown in the world’s biggest market for sports, the USA, and one that’s played in only a few of the countries that play the world’s most popular sport, football), as much as we idolise him, we cannot realistically expect him to be a household name outside the cricket-speaking world.

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Look at the other side of the coin. We in India are as ignorant of many other sports as this Russian in America is about our world. Could the average Indian sports fan (or, hey, Tendulkar himself) pick Derek Jeter out of a line-up? Or Peyton Manning? How about Floyd Mayweather, a world title holder in five boxing weight divisions, and undefeated as a professional? Or Wladimir Klitschko, current world heavyweight boxing champion? He’s been champ for eight years now, and is the second-longest reigning heavyweight champ ever, behind only Joe Louis. Do we know a thing about gorodki? Or sambo?

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Fine, fine, let’s leave all that out of it. Let us concede, for argument's sake, that, never mind apples and oranges, Sharapova’s achievements in tennis are not in the same league as Tendulkar’s stupendous achievements in cricket and that her knowledge of the world isn't what it should be.

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

There’s this, dear Tendulkar-bhakts.

Tendulkar has ascended to Himalayan heights in cricket. He played at the top level of his sport for a truly epic length of time, starting earlier than most and carrying on longer than most. Some of his records look like they’ll never be broken. His place in the sporting pantheon is secure. For all practical purposes he is unassailable.

Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

But when you say that if Sharapova does not know who he is, it is a grievous insult, then you’re saying one of two things (or, perhaps, both).

One, that your own life is sad and you have nothing else to bask in but the achievements of Sachin Tendulkar. Any slur on him, imagined or real, attacks your own self-worth.

Two, if all his legendary career counts for nothing without affirmation from this 27-year-old Russian tennis player, that must mean that you think that Sharapova is greater than Tendulkar.

Are you sure that’s what you want to say? Join me now: Saaachinnnn! Sach In!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Vote. For my sake.

I was going to title this post 'Vote. For Me." But then, I frequently 'stand for office' in some way on Twitter every now and then, and I didn't want anyone to think this was another of those larks.

I posted this on Facebook last week:
After a bit of running around the last week, I finally found neither Dad or I are on the rolls, and we can't re-apply until the 27th, election commission cards notwithstanding. Therefore can't vote. I have not been so angry-sad-disappointed in years. 
Yeah. I'm not on the rolls. I can't vote. So, if you weren't going to vote, do me a favour? Go anyway? For me? I don't care who you vote for, just vote.

A vote in time..

The participatory Web, Web 2.0, as it was called for a while, what we now call the Social Web, doesn't have the power to change the course of an election in India yet. Heck, I've said so myself, in a recent set of articles.

But consider this.

Way back in January 2007, I wrote this in a piece in the Indian Express:
On the other side of the planet, during the run up to the recent elections to the US Senate, an incumbent Republican senator, considered pretty much a sure thing for re-election, made a racist remark about a young Indian-American Democrat who was taping his rally. Footage of that remark rapidly found its way on to YouTube (a video-sharing site), where it was adopted and promoted by some prominent American desi blogs. The wider blogosphere joined in too, as did US media. Digging into the senator’s past revealed more signs of a racist streak. Slowly, the Republican’s lead in the polls began eroding. And come counting day, guess which sure-shot Republican seat backfired and swung a very slim majority the Democrats' way?
I guess, what I'm trying to say is this. What if this election yields a hung parliament? What if, in the cobbling together of alliances, it's just a seat or two that makes the difference between your party coming to power or not? What if your constituency could have swung the other way if a few more people had voted?

So, go vote, please?

Monday 21 April 2014

My Kumble moment

An unusual thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. A story I worked on made the cover of Forbes India.

My portfolio was and is the non-business features at the back of the book, and ForbesLife India—which I no longer work on—but it was still gratifying. I don't cover politics, or business in general, and while I'm interested in technology, it's not my beat either. And I'm by no means a good reporter. I fancy myself more a backroom guy, thinking up the stories and angles, matching them to the right writers, working on the stories once they come in, to make them sing, that kind of thing. So this found me way out of my comfort zone. And it was a wonderful challenge.

The metaphor I thrust on a few people was Anil Kumble's test century. It wasn't expected of him. He was a useful bat now and then, but would never have got picked for his batting alone. Nevertheless, his joy as that ugly shot cantered off to the boundary was pretty darn good to see.

I won't stretch that analogy further—I hope it's not near the end of my career in journalism!—but I would like your opinion, either here, or at the links (it's a package of several stories, two of them co-written with colleagues). Please do not worry about being harsh. As I said, I don't think of myself as even a decent reporter or business writer, so you won't be demolishing my dreams if you diss these.

e-Lections 2014: How Political Parties Turned Tech-Savvy

Case Study: The Dynamics of Mumbai South

Elections: Spawning Business Opportunities

Vote for... Start-ups!

Social Media: Limited, but 'Liked' in Indian Elections

And this interview with Nandan Nilekani, which is where the story started, which was online-only.

Sunday 20 April 2014

On 'my' Hinduism

I have great faith in Hinduism. As much faith as a devout agnostic can have.

How could I not?

My family has moved several cities and a lot more houses over the years, and everywhere we lived, my parents' ethnicity and faith were always a very small minority. In Bombay, in my school, I was one of small handful of Anglo Indians, one of a small handful of Protestants, and the only one who was both. Everywhere we lived, as is only natural in a country where the majority profess some form of Hinduism, we were surrounded by Hindus.

But the Hinduism I grew up surrounded by, that I am still surrounded by, was warm, inclusive, embracing. It is a Hinduism that sends sweets over at Diwali, and asks us over to celebrate. It is a Hinduism that shared its firecrackers with me because I didn't have any, that yelled at my door for me to come join in the Holi fun (and didn't mind when I declined, because I didn't like the coloured powders, and that made me one of the team captains when I joined in the water pistols-and-pichkaris war games we played in the evenings). That invited us over to celebrate marriages and birthdays and holds us close when we offer hugs at bereavements. That calls or comes over for Christmas, that joins in our parties, that learnt 'western' dance steps at those parties. That checks with us what is appropriate to wear to our marriages and christenings and graciously welcomes us in to their special events even when we, clueless, wear colours that we later discover aren't quite proper. A Hinduism that, even when it practises vegetarianism, still comes over to eat at our home and serves themselves veggies from the platter next to the meat. That didn't and doesn't give a damn what we cooked in our kitchens, really, except to exchange recipes. That made 'national integration' jokes about me when, in succession, I dated a Muslim, a Parsi, a Hindu, and much later, a Christian (who wasn't Protestant, but then I wasn't either by then).

(I'll add here, though this is not the point I'm making—or maybe it is—that this inclusiveness was and is as just as prevalent with Muslim, Parsi, Jain and Buddhist pals.)

It was and is a religion secure in its beliefs, happy to acknowledge and respect that others' paths differ in few or many ways.

It was and is a very different Hinduism from the variety espoused by Mr Modi and his cohorts. This binary view of the world. This suspicion, this distrust, this scorn for difference.

It's not 'my' Hinduism.

It's not a Hinduism I have faith in at all.

The new economy

Vote for..

Friday 14 February 2014

More Animal Passions

A prehensile whatsit gives the elephant motor control.
When his Valentine expresses delight, he smirks, ‘that’s how I roll!’

Ants are almost all female,& only the Queen gets to hump
Her Valentines die after they mate mid-air,& fall down with a thump

Male ducks have spiral thingies, which are with speed imbued.
On Valentine's Day those quackers redefine 'corkscrewed.'