Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stopping by words of copy on a Sunday Evening

    Thankfully for the world, Robert Frost was a poet who won as many as four Pulitzer Prizes for turning his observations of rustic life into complex philosophy through poetry. But I wonder what was to become of his poetry if he was stuck in this time, and forced to make a living as a copywriter, and turn his observations from a plethora of reference material like Award journals, newspapers, TV, internet, FB etc. into a simple sales pitch through words. My guess is he may have ended up writing something like this:

Whose words these are I think I know
His campaigns are from across the sea though;
He will never see me stopping here
To read his copy from an old One Show

The security here must think it queer,
To read something from the yesteryear,
In between deadlines on a Sunday night,
Surely the darkest night of the year.

He gives my shoulder a gentle tap,
Wondering if I was having a nap,
Because the only other sound is of the AC
As I was lost in the tome on my lap.

The words in there are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have too many deadlines to keep,   
And many lines to go before I sleep,   
And many lines to go before I sleep.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Do You Wanna Get Rocked?

I've reached that stage in my life when I try and act like I know nothing about contemporary music and that I would have none of it. Why, I surprised myself the other day when I caught myself saying, " I don't understand how people subject themselves to so much of shit in the name of music."

That however doesn't stop me from forgetting the songs and bands I once loved. Have you ever experienced that strange feeling when you seem to remember the lyrics by heart but cant for the life of you remember the the blasted name of the band or artist who sang it?

I guess its because you never choose the songs or bands you love. They choose you, depending on the state of your life when you first listen to them. Before I totally forget the bands that I once claimed to have loved, I thought it's best to make this list, and save for its preposterity. So here's what I was doing when I first heard these bands, before it was love at first sound byte:

Metallica: Loved them because it was cool to do so as a freshman.

Rolling Stones: Learned to love them because Metallica was only meant for freshmen.

The Who: If a band got a mention in Fundamentals of Physics by Resnik & Halliday, they had to be cool right?

Iron Maiden: I loved this one simply because they had an album named after a book which I'd later go on to read.

The Doors: Well, I just loved the band even before I heard a song they played, simply because they named themselves after a literary work I'd never go on to read.

Bob Dylan: I loved this man because his songs actually qualified for literary work, listening to which would save me the effort of reading anything.

Deep Purple: Loved them because they composed the song that was used in the Philips Powerhouse commercial

Led Zeppelin: Loved them because they wrote songs about Lord of The Rings, which was a super cool movie way back in 2002.

Jimi Hendrix: Loved him because he gave me enough to air guitar my way through second year.

The Kinks: More Air Guitar. My performance of "You really got me going" would have got an encore in any air guitaring concert.

Simon & Garfunkel: Loved this band, more so after it gave me a name for this blog.

Beatles: Loved the band, simply because for the first time, I couldn't justify my love for their music. And thankfully, never needed to.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trained For Life

9 am. Time for morning work-out. Speed walk to station. Oh no! Will miss the 9.20. Hail a cab. Minimum fare only. Taxi traffic outside station. Human traffic on the over-bridge. Missed it again. Drat!  Here comes 9.25. Andar chalo, boss! Why crowd at the entrance?

Oh my god! Death by armpits. The burial for every fragrance known to man! Davidhoff Cool Water will develop cold feet. Axe effect will face the axe. Ittar wearer will realise a train is not a bed of roses. Here the sweet smell of success is the one you experience when you can stick your head out like a mutt. Should have stood at the entrance only!

Arre hello, Prannath Bhai! You'll live a hundred years. We were just going to play a new round of teen patti. Here, here. Your cards. 100 bucks please! Come, come. Give the man his khakra! What's wrong with your eyes, Gokhale Saab. Watching match till late night or what?? I dont underastand why young man like yourself should watch football? Anyway, no hope for us, no? Oh, what? There was Hockey world cup also? Oh ho! Put money on Australia, I say. They usually win. Please move a little inside no? Here, here. You can also sit? "Agla Station, Matunga Road!"

Abbey Oye! Yeh First Class hai! Chal Nikal! Side please! Dadar? No? So move no? Please wear bag in the front. Please get off and then get back inside? Travelling the train for the first time or what?  So what if you have first class pass. I also have. Now will you just move. Dum hai toh get off the train and get on to the platform. I'll show you! Yea yea! I also dont have time to waste with people like you. You think you have the most important job in the world. You dont know who I am. Arre Dadar's come. I'll settle scores with you later. Excuse me, uncle. Dont know why I need to start my day like this.

Are you done reading? Oh why dont you hand me the business page. And the editorial to chacha. Dont worry. We will return it to you whenever you get off. We are getting off at Churchgate only. It's been so hot. I hope it doesn't flood this year. Ha ha ha ha! Who am I fooling. Dont know how Mumbai runs? Authorities seem to be doing nothing. They say we are a global city, but look at the state of our local train. You should actually change trains at Bandra. Shift to a fast train, and get off at Bombay Central. Then catch a slow train in the opposite direction. Arre, its easy. You'll get used to it. Wait, Wait. Lots of people get off at Elphinstone road. Get ready to grab a seat.

Hello! Sir! I'm sorry, I am still inside a train. I'm almost there. Let me call you in 5-10 mins. There's poor signal here. What? Oh no. I had called Sriram last evening, and he told me he'll have the report mailed to you the first thing in the morning. No no no. He should be there already! What? My god! Let me call that fellow! I dont know why these people cant plan their lives better. Dont worry. I should reach in another 15 minutes. What to do, walking takes time, no? Oh yes! Thank you! Whew! Hello, Sriram! Where the hell are you? What? Late again? Couldn't you have taken an earlier Train? Now dont give excuses. Just wait for me at the Lower Parel Station. We'll figure something.

9.45. Shucks! I have to stop hitting the snooze button in the morning. Side please!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

So You Think You Are Funny?

As a teenager, I spent a few years trying to crack an original joke. And spent many more years waiting to unleash it at a crowd when they least expect it. Just so I time it well. And be hailed as a king of spontaneous wit. Because for some strange reason, this funny voice that seems to emerge from my hypothalamus always told me that it’s going to make me popular. So armed with a few puns, I started writing jokes. I now realise it’s not the same as being funny, but humour me for a few more lines, won’t you?
After writing a few jokes, it occurred to me that it would take me a lifetime before I found an opportune moment to say something like, “KFC is a truly democratic organisation. Whether it’s the left wing or the right wing, both can be bought at the same price.”  What was I thinking?
Probably I thought I’d earned the right to be funny. Taking a cue from all those countless Bollywood movies of the 90s, where one would see 35-year-old heroes literally dancing around college, I learnt that if you weren’t hero enough to say “Meri Pant Bhi Sexy”, your best shot at getting some glory as a side-kick would be if you were witty enough to say, “Draupadi teri akele ki nahi hai … hum sab shareholder hain”. So I went about trying to write something funny every day.
To say I stayed committed would be an understatement. It’s almost like saying the IPL ads are irritating, when you actually mean to say that they are like mosquitoes breeding on Columbia’s most valuable chemicals. So on I wrote, one joke at a time. And what drove me to do this every day? Just a few laughs actually. “When I tell people I want to kick off a career in comedy, they laugh.”
But the more I tried to say something funny, the more I ended up laughing at myself. Here’s a sample, “I’m so lazy that even in my dreams, I find myself sleeping.”
I’d begun this earnest exercise four years back. I am still very far away from calling myself a funny guy. But at least, in four years I’d like to believe I spent more time trying to make sense than Rahul Gandhi has all his life. “What’s common to Congress and the pizza from the neighbourhood bakery? Both have a rotten crust with some Italian topping.
I’ll probably never know what it is to be a full-time comic. But thanks to this silly exercise I subjected myself to, I can make a safe guess. “As a kid, I thought becoming a humour writer would help me laugh all the way to the bank. Today, the only one who seems to be laughing is my banker.”
So after attempting to write 1407 jokes over the last four years, I’ve come to realise there are just two ways to look at all the troubles in life. I could choose to call them nightmares and lose my sleep over them. Or call them bad jokes and laugh it off. I think I’ll do the latter.

If it will bring me nothing else, it will at least help me think up of stuff like this – “The problem with being labelled a funny guy is the women stop taking you seriously.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

All Groan Up

As a child, I imagined my adult life to be very different from what it has turned out to be.

I thought I’d be a dashing man in dapper suits, a paragon of perfection, the epitome of esquireness (is that even a word), the G in GQness, the paradigm of Playboyness…you get the drift. I imagined I’d grace presidential suites in bespoken suits, hobnob with heads of state in stately halls, and shuttle between these routine rituals in a jaunty Jaguar. So basically, I imagined I’d Pierce Brosnan my way through adult life.

Today, the only time I’m dashing is when I try to push through over-crowded overbridges in Bombay. The only time I could carry off the aforementioned adjectives confidently is when I have a magazine of those very names. And the fastest transport I’ve taken is the Kasara Fast from Dadar to Kurla. 

So here I am. The grown up I’ve always dreamed of becoming. Groan!

But when I think about it, it’s not as different as it sounds. Not really.

As a kid I wondered if work would involve myself driving down to a famous skyline at Lower Manhatten. Today, I find myself driven enough to make it to my office, a little building hidden among some of India’s tallest abominations at Lower Parel, by 10 in the morning. 

I imagined swaggering into my office and sitting with my feet on my workdesk. That’s exactly what I do. Because that’s the only way I could catch some 17-18 winks after being in office all night.

I imagined going very far in the career of my choice. I recently moved 707 KM away from home, looking for a new job.

I imagined I’d be too busy to give anyone my time. These days, I’m too busy to give myself any time.

I imagined I’d be committed to enriching lives of people all over the world. I now work on advertising campaigns for a global bank.

I imagined committing myself to a creative hobby every day. Now I’m happy if I manage to write a half-decent FB status message every other day.

I imagined carrying a techie gadget that helped me prioritise all my assignments for the month. I now maintain an excel sheet on my laptop that reminds me when to pay off my rents, electricity bills, mobile bills and renew my train pass.

I imagined wining and dining all over the city all week long. Today, I’m at least whining all week long.

So is there a lesson in here? Most certainly. For young readers who may stumble upon this piece, be careful what you wish for. Because your destiny is written by someone with a wicked sense of humour. Beware!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Secret Life of Walkesh Mitter, Copywriter.

“And the Terbium Metal Award for outstanding services to the Advertising Industry goes to…”, said Mark Avignon, the last recipient of the honour at the Salzburg International Advertising Awards. For a second, there was complete silence in the 5000-seat Baroque styled Amphitheatre which stood proudly in the world heritage site that was Salzburg. With the silhouette of the Alpine backdrop in sharp contrast to the bright lights of the festival, there couldn’t have been a better venue for such a prestigious award. There was tension in the air, but there was only one man in the crowd who sat with a quiet confidence. In fact, he knew he’d be taking home the award this year the minute he was left out of the jury for the honorary position he’d served since the inception of the Terbium Awards five years back. “The man’s going to win.”, said Jiju Joseph, a senior Indian creative. “And at 29, he’ll be the youngest Terbium winner by a distance”, the veteran declared.  
“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?” shouted Akash Mehta, a 36-year old Creative Director at AHV Advertising. “Walkesh, you were expected to be at the client’s place now, presenting your campaign. But here you cluelessly sit, without a care in the world. Now we have been given one more chance. And I cannot have you Screw it up again. So get of your fuckin’ arse and GET WORKING!”   

“Huh!”, said Walkesh. He turned to see Akash breathing down his neck over a deadline that was safely missed. Just like several others that happen every other day. “Well…err…there’s an idea that's brewing in my head…”, he whimpered. “YES! I can see how keen you are on seeing the job completed. Can you at least name the project that we are currently discussing? Which has already reached a critical state?”

Walkesh looks helplessly at Somdev - his art partner - hoping to find a clue. But like a student who is desperately guessing to achive a pass mark in his viva voce, the dreamy copywriter mentally scans through his joblist. “I know, I know. It’s regarding the Ebony Shampoo press ad right? I’m working on the headline.”
Akash and Somdev nearly suffer a haemorrhage each on hearing Walkesh’s response. “He was referring to the New Generation School pitch.” said Som, trying to gain a rare brownie point with Akash. “And thank you for reminding us of how late you were on the Ebony Shampoo ad”, clarifies Akash, who was forced to wrap up that blasted press ad the week before when the client threatened to part ways with his agency unless he stepped in.

 “Please join me in welcoming the Creative Tycoon, Walkesh Mitter”, said the pretty emcee, as several young students jumped from their seats to get a closer view of the man who revolutionised the communication industry with his radical concepts in Integrated Marketing and Communications. The applause was deafening. And it only stopped when Walkesh raised his hand deftly, like a virtuoso conductor.
“Well, I thank you all for the kindness that you have showered on me. But in all honesty, I don’t think very greatly of my work.” Murmurs in the crowd, some appreciative of the man’s modesty, others critical of his false-modesty. “You see, I have spent considerable time to further develop those ideas that have given me all the fame and honour. And those very ideas that have brought me to this stage, will be rendered void when I unveil my new set of ideas.” The murmurs grow louder. But Walkesh raises his hands once more. “That, ladies and gentleman, is one of the best learnings I’ve received in the fortunate career I’ve enjoyed. You have to be the best judge of your own work, and irrespective of what the world thinks of your work, you have to find ways of constantly elevating your own work to a higher standard. Even if its original form brings you all the laurels you’ve dreamed of. That, in my opinion, is the essence of a creative career, and more importantly, a creative life.” Another deafening applause follows. Once more, Walkesh raises his hand characteristically.

“ Yes, Mr. Mitter. You seem to be a little too keen on offering your views on the recruitment scene in the Banking industry during the economic slowdown?” said Amit Joshi, who headed the HR of Global Bank of India. Walkesh looks at all the amused faces of the client, Akash and Som around him, much like a man who suddenly fell into the room when the roof gave away. “ Well…Sir, I was just hoping you’d help us summarise the problem we were discussing…” A few frustrated heaves follow. Walkesh’s colleagues seem a little concerned with his request. Joshi on the other hand is adamant. “So Mitter, which part of our hour-long discussion didn’t you follow?” In what was perhaps the greatest act of collective Harakiri in the corporate world, Akash jumps to the rescue. “Amit! Let me reiterate. As the agency, it is your belief that our creative team should have been a little more specific with the last recruitment ad for the Managing Director of GBI.”

The half balding client nearly pulled apart his modest mane on hearing a half-baked justification from the Creative Director. Mockingly making air quotes, Amit retorts, “I think calling it a little more specific is putting it a little too mildly. How do you explain a recruitment ad for a Managing Director without ever mentioning the words “Managing Director” even a single time in the ad? And whats worse, your great writer has the nerve to ask me to summarise this for him!! Are we wasting our marketing budget on retards like Mr Mitter here? Mr. Mehta, I'll refuse to pay for this ad. And I demand a fresh ad immediately.”

After being shown the door after much agony, the Creative Director finally exhausts his emotional reserves and gives Walkesh a whack on his head. “This is the last time I’ll ever try to defend you. I thought I saw your worst this morning, but your incompetence can take you far lower than I can ever imagine. Here, let me pat your back once more,” said Akash sarcastically, before taking out his anger on Walkesh’s back.

“They have no idea about my abilities”, thought Walkesh as he returned to office. “I’ll make them regret their words when they finally see what conspires in the great mind of Walkesh Mitter. Now what was this great brief about?" said Mitter, more as a reminder to himself than anything else.

“Rarely, have we the luxury of recognising the efforts of a man so overqualified to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Let us take a moment to remember the great contributions of Walkesh Mitter. Communications pioneer. Writer par excellence. And a fine human being.” Said a septuagenarian in a dour tone, as a one minute biopic highlighted the accomplishments of Walkesh Mitter. As the film comes to an end, the audience start clapping respectively and give a white-haired Walkesh a standing ovation. As he receives the trophy, Walkesh patiently waits for the audience to stop clapping before he begins, “It has been my belief that Man can achieve a great many things if he is only given his right to dream. And I have only committed myself to fight for this cause. Because nothing in god’s world should stop a man from his right to dream?” He then lifts his prize aloft as the audience start applauding.

“DAY DREAMING AGAIN, YOU IDIOT?” Shouts Akash, as Walkesh drops the pen he was holding high up in the air.