Archive for September, 2009

The risqué factor

Posted: September 25, 2009 in Pune

People sometimes ask me what I do. So I tell them I handle Public Relations for an IT company and I teach journalism at a few media schools in Pune. I get a polite “oh really?” Then I say that apart from these two jobs, I also handle Public Relations for an online luxury lingerie store. Then the “oh really?” becomes “Oh REALLY?”

I get funny looks, sly smiles and winks. Have I just uttered something rather risqué?

“Cool job, buddy!” is what this friend in the media told me when she heard what I did. I mean (according to her) what could be more exciting than a job at a lingerie store?

Another friend even said, “Just think about it. When you aren’t working, you can look at those pictures.” He reminded me of Hema Malini in Sholay, telling a young Sachin that he should take the job at the beedi factory, because whenever he wanted a break, he could always light up!

A third friend who, till recently worked with an indexes firm in Singapore met me the other day and announced “I like your job.” I don’t know whether he meant he liked my job or he’d like my job! Either way…if only he knew!!

When we launched this online luxury lingerie store last year we dished out gift certificates to the media as part of the promotions and even my boss couldn’t help ribbing me about the fact that I must be the only man in the world handing out gift certificates for free lingerie to women!

Heck, here’s a bit of cold water on all those racy thoughts. In a nutshell, it’s just another job and a boring one at that. There aren’t any models in exotic lingerie lounging around, and nor are there photo shoots with them in various stages of dress and undress. And the women who work here are all clad in business suits! Even the graphic designer who works on the images of lingerie-clad women does it almost like he’s filing his tax returns.

I once asked my wife, who works with a bakery chain, whether she enjoyed taking a bite of all the different delicacies there, and her answer surprised me: “I don’t even feel like touching them.” Then, I wondered why!

Actually the one good thing this job has done, is that it has given guys a better perspective of what women (and men too) like when it comes to luxury lingerie! Yup! Surprisingly, a lot of buyers at the site are men and they are the ones who ask a lot of questions, not the women.

But what was really an eye-opener was my first visit with brochures of the portal, to a journalist in a magazine in Delhi, just before the launch. When she pulled the brochure out of its cover, there was this embarrassing silence, which was broken by a rapid push, thrust and tearing motion. When I realised it had ripped, I offered her another brochure, but she fled. I am still wondering what she got so worked up about. I wasn’t pushing Playboy or Hustler.

Of course, there were others who did not want to even discuss the subject. I was even told that they don’t publish “such stuff.” What stuff? And this from a publication, which many, many years ago (when morality and permissiveness where still scrambling to get out of the closet) announced an amorous politician’s demise with this heading “H***Y MLA KILLED.”

The last word on this must go to my wife, who put the entire issue in perspective quite succinctly – “So, basically you’re just promoting different brands of innerwear.” Uhh… luxury lingerie sounds so much better, doesn’t it?


I wish that holding talks, peace marches and candlelight vigils at India Gate or the Wagah border could solve the problems between Indian and Pakistan. But since it can’t and never will, let’s get real.

Today at the South Asian Youth Peace Meet (SAYPM) at the Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication in Lavale, Chintamani Mahapatra, Chairman, Centre for Canada, US & Latin American Studies and Professor at the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, narrated a very interesting incident about the attitude of the members of a Pakistani delegation during a conference to discuss the problems between the two neighbours, held somewhere abroad.

During that conference, the Kargil fiasco erupted and the Pakistanis began to celebrate. Their mood would oscillate between fury and joy as they kept hearing about the developments. And these were people who were there for a peace meet!

One well known editor of a Pakistani newspaper came up to Mahapatra at the same conference, puffed up his chest and announced loudly, “Tell your government not to get too adventurous, Pakistan now has the bomb.”

Mahapatra reminded him that in the event of a nuclear war, lots of Indians might lose their lives, but looking at India’s population, millions will still survive. In Pakistan’s case, even that was doubtful! Incidentally, the conference was organised at Dr Mahapatra’s request, which goes to prove that good intentions, don’t mean much to the Pakistanis!

What I and, I’m sure, many others like me would like to know, is how a country, supposedly on the verge of bankruptcy half the time, and in the throes of anarchy, the other half of the time, can repeatedly tell its more powerful neighbour to F*** OFF, every time they are asked to arrest the people who plan terrorist attacks on Indian soil? My apologies for using the F word here, but there is really no other expression that fits so perfectly what the Pakistanis have been telling us to do for the past so many years.

See how the Pakistan Army hosts Hafeez Saeed at an Iftar, when they should, in reality be arresting him for his terrorist acts, or see the contempt with which the Pakistani foreign minister treats each dossier he receives from the Indian government. For that matter, see how easily Pervez Musharraf admits that the funds and weapons which were given by the US to fight the Taliban, were used against India. Even more ironical is A.Q. Khan stating that he had sold nuclear secrets to China, Iran and North Korea. Have you noticed any signs of surprise or outrage against any of these actions anywhere, except in India? I find it difficult to believe that the Americans didn’t know what Pakistan’s Dr. No was up to?

Take the case of Dawood Ibrahim. Indian Intelligence officials have given Pakistanis every single detail about the underworld don, but the Pakistanis simply junk it claiming that it’s not adequate. What else do they need – his underwear brand name?

Could the Pakistanis have done any of this without tacit backing of the Americans or Chinese? Don’t you find it strange that despite all the dirty tricks Pakistan indulges in, the US and Chinese continue to fund it? The Americans first castigate Pakistan for, “not doing enough” and then promptly send them a couple of billion dollars of funding to fight their “war on terror.”

A few days earlier, also at the SAYPM, well known reformist Asghar Ali Engineer, had me smiling when he said that wherever in the world there’s unrest and strife, there’s a US hand! A man after my own heart, this Mr Engineer!

The Indian sub-continent is becoming a very dangerous place, thanks to the Americans. They are running riot all over Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and no one can do anything about it. Things are slowly and surely spiraling out of control and the weak-kneed Indian government is busy sending out dossiers to all and sundry or flying out its ministers to meet God (read Obama) and complain to him about our unfriendly neighbours.

Just because Mahatma Gandhi told us to show the other cheek, must we take it so literally?

The austerity drive

Posted: September 15, 2009 in Rahul Gandhi

Trust the Government to cash in on austerity and the media to turn it into a bloody three-ringed circus.

Ever since the Prime Minister announced that his government will cut down on costs, everyone’s on overdrive. Ministers are told to shift out of their 5 Star accommodations and MPs are asked to travel Economy instead of Business Class, etc etc. That’s all very nice.

But then along comes the drama queen from 10 Janpath, who the papers and channels fawn over because she actually travelled Economy Class, while her son travelled by Shatabdi. So what’s the big deal if Little Lord Fauntleroy went by train to Ludhiana? It’s anyway better known as the rich man’s train.

Now anyone and everyone in government is busy announcing to the world (read media) that he or she too travelled Economy. They almost make the terms ‘Economy Class’ and ‘train travel’ sound like a cross they have to bear for the damned.

They even had a TV crew following him into the train. Can you believe that, his exalted feet were actually touching the dirty New Delhi railway platform…look, look he’s stepping into the train…! We had an in-depth report about where mother and son sat – front row, left hand corner, window seat, etc etc. I am surprised most of the channels didn’t have a reporter tagging along to give viewers a blow-by-blow account of what transpired with the VIPs.

I wonder if they had a doctor waiting at Ludhiana station to check Master G’s pulse and heartbeat after his ‘exhausting’ journey in air conditioned comfort.

Don’t be surprised if some TV Channel flashes a picture of a water bottle and announces dramatically “This is the bottle from which Rahul Gandhi sipped his water throughout the journey… and here’s the half-eaten palak paneer that he left behind.”

But will all this drama and hype help the starving farmers and their families in Vidarbha, Orissa, MP or UP?

In a country where one square meal for a poor villager comprises rats and lizards and not rice and dal; Where a mother sells one child so she can feed the other; Where minor girls are sold to brothels to keep the home fires burning; Where food and blankets meant for flood victims are sold by greedy officials in the open market, does it surprise you that 60 per cent of the population still lives a hand-to-mouth existence and some not even that?

That should tell you exactly how effective are the poverty alleviation schemes of the government. And how effective this equally absurd ‘Economy drive’ is going to be…

When the boot’s on the other foot…

Posted: September 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

Why is it that our honourable MPs never protest when the financial burden of this nation is passed on to the tax-payer, but are waving read flags when they have to take a slash in their perks, which we are paying for in the first place?

Most of these guys haven’t done an honest day’s work in their lives and have assets that would make you wonder why the heck you were struggling in a crappy 9 to 5 job from the time you were old enough to get one, just to make ends meet and still pay some silly tax which helps to keep these parasites in power.

Heck, I still pay some cess every month. But the poor are still poor and the children are still malnourished and illiterate. And we are still buying sub-standard equipment for the brave men and women from the armed forces who give up their lives, to protect us, while those who collected the money on their behalf have only become richer.

So instead of lecturing us about the suffering millions, why don’t these ladies and gentleman, who sit in the House of the People, walk the talk?

We do know that MPs are allowed 40 Business Class travel tickets with spouse or P.A every year. For a start, why don’t they also fly less and use the Rajdhani more? They are also entitled to 1,70,000 free phone calls per year. Why don’t they halve that? And while they’re at it, why not take a slash in their petrol allowances too? How about a car pool? After all, they keep telling us to do it, so why don’t they lead by example?

The other day on Times Now, I was watching the reaction of our MPs when asked to fly business class. The excuse of one particular gentleman – from the Communist party, mind you – was that he would give up those privileges only if the Centre implemented austerity measures that applied to all the Cabinet ministers. When the Anchor told him he was spending the tax-payer’s money he replied that he knew that, but wasn’t giving it up! All men are born equal, but some are more equal than others, eh comrade?

Here’s some information that should make you ponder. To keep an MP with no qualifications it costs us (and I mean the tax-payer) Rs 2.66 lakh/month; For 5 years it is Rs 1,60,00,000 and for 534 MPs, the expense for 5 years is 8,54,40,00,000 (nearly 855 crores). That’s a lot of money to maintain (in numerous cases) an angootha chaap to look after one’s national interests!

Lokmanya Tilak might have uttered the famous words “Swaraj is my birthright,” but people in our country have taken that one step further. They break the law and think it’s their right!

I’ve been reading with interest all the reports and articles on the new traffic plan that the Pune Police has implemented to ease congestion on the roads. “Don’t have a left turn here… don’t allow right turn there… don’t have a bus stop here…don’t have road dividers here…” we can read it all in the newspapers. Columns, opinions, letters, reports – you name it, they are all there. Everyone who is someone in the city is voicing his or her opinion on the issue and where else can they do it but in the ever willing media. So here is my two cents worth…

Everywhere in the world there are traffic laws and everywhere people follow them diligently – except in our country. Drive on any road anywhere in the country and you will see how vehicle owners use the roads, and Pune is no exception.

I might be painting myself in a corner here, but I think apart from Delhi, Pune has the most number of uneducated (in terms of traffic rules), and ill-mannered vehicle owners. That is not to say that everyone who owns a vehicle is a lout, but they will soon be a helpless and powerless minority. There are a burgeoning number of vehicle owners in Pune who believe that they can get away with anything – even causing mayhem– on the roads.

Everyone who’s been complaining about the problem with the new traffic diversions in Pune and blaming the Traffic Police for it should realise that the problem lies elsewhere – with us, our skewed driving sense, and our blatant disregard for the law.

Stop at any traffic intersection and what do you see? Vehicles parked over the pedestrian crossing instead of behind it, and worse making an additional two lanes right in the way of oncoming traffic. Actually these idiots do it with pride. Garv se kaho hum idiot hain!

The Traffic Police can also solve the problem in a few weeks. They forced people to put on their seat belts didn’t they, so what stops them for enforcing the law now? If we observed lane discipline, more than more half the traffic problems in this city will cease to exist. Peak-hour traffic may be slow but at least there will be order.

Yes, yes, I know what some of my friends will say – too many vehicles on the road, stop the Nano, etc etc. Even if we halve the traffic in this city, these problems will still not go away. And we know why… We may or may not be able to do something about the ever increasing number of vehicles in the city. But we can surely do something to reduce the chaos that unfolds on the roads every day.

I was in Pune’s Deccan Gymkhana a few days back in the midst of chaos. As I sat in my car waiting for things to return to normal, I realised it was no use blaming only the police. I saw a private bus which was on the extreme left coolly cut across to the right, almost hitting a car and holding up traffic. I also saw a two-wheeler rider scrape past a car from the left unconcerned that he had damaged another vehicle. So many vehicle owners are not even aware that overtaking from the left is an offence!

See how people have refused to accept the crash-helmet rule. I’ve heard some really bizarre excuses from those who want to avoid wearing helmets – can’t hear the traffic noise; spoils the hair; perspire too much; whistling sound in the ears; safety clip chokes us; and the list is endless. That it can save your life doesn’t outweigh all those cockeyed excuses.

I once saw an accident near RSI where an ST bus knocked down a girl who was overtaking from the left. It was clearly the girl’s fault, but the bystanders roughed up the bus driver. Like always ‘well-wishers’’ crawled out from somewhere to execute summary justice on behalf of the accident victim. Someone should have slapped the girl really hard for deliberately breaking a traffic rule, endangering her life and creating a nuisance on a public road.

So let’s stop blaming the Traffic Police in any city. They have a difficult job on their hands and we don’t make it any easier.