Viral Pandya – That sounds like a really cool name

Yesterday afternoon, a colleague of mine asked me

“Machaan, have you heard of Viral Pandya (he pronounced it right..not like viral as in viral fever)”

I was like “Ya man…I’ve heard this name. Isn’t he some famous advertising dude.” Pardon me man, because my networking skills are really bad.

But I had heard of you…as this really kickass art guy who has won a lot of awards and all that.

But then he showed me your post.

And I was shocked. Like in Rangeela…Aamir says no..”I shocked”..ya..that kind of shocked.

I was shocked at various levels. Actually not shocked, but some mixed emotions.

One was…shit..why is this famous art guy accusing us of something which is totally baseless.

But then I thought about it from your point of view.

Yes. I admit..it does give you some kind of kick when you spot the original of something. Something that is generally popular. Like even when we suddenly spot the original version of a song or a TVC or a scene in a movie or a picture…we go like..”Dude…check what I spotted. and everyone gushes and bitches about it for sometime. I agree it’s fun. It’s a kind of a kick.”

So let’s leave that part.

But usually we do that with a few set of people we know…in private. Laugh about it.

But you decided to post it on FB. But that’s ok. It’s your wall. You can do as you please.

Infact, I am quite motivated by what you did. See how influential you can be man. I am also planning to post this on my wall, after completing this. I mean what the hell. If you feel something, you should say it. Say it openly.

But then you jumped the gun. Shot off your mouth. We all do it.

And when we realize we screwed up, we kind of shut up. Tuck our tails back…and say sorry whatever and get back to life.

So when we told you the actual story of what really happened, we expected you to kind of shut up, tuck your tail and get back to life.

But no. You seem to be of another type. This part onwards is when we start feeling a bit puzzled. Because dude, you are not like us normal folk.

Then we realize, oh yes, you are different. You are trained to think ‘out of the box’.

I really became inquisitive about you. So I googled about you. And stumbled upon some of your ads.

I must admit. Some of them are quite mind blowing. And yes, I share your feelings on this one. It’s sad that they had to be with strange logos. Like I wish the world got to see it. So much effort gone into it. But sadly, it’s only earning you awards.

Like the one where you have so painstakingly arranged grains, lentils and all, and it forms the image of a dog. And it’s about Vegetarian food for dogs, for some ‘SM Store’ in Pitampura.  I thought it was quite kickass. I mean so what if this kind of a treatment has been done some zillion times where small small things are arranged, and the larger picture is then something else. Just out of curiousity…what was this? A poster? If it was, then was it instore. I don’t think so. Because if it was then the ‘Pitampura’ is totally unnecessary. Because they are already there. So it’s pointless. But if it was for other places outside the store. Then don’t you think its kind of too small to read. Ya, I agree it will totally screw up the layout. It’s for awards right. Then fine, because they usually see it from close quarters.

Sorry, I digressed. Ya, I also came to know you are the jury member for One Show. Yipeeee…congrats on that. It must be quite a proud feeling.

Just out of my experience, I want to just point out a few things. I don’t know much about awards and all. I haven’t won many. Since you are into it big time, I just wanted you to know a few things. What I hear from other industry folk, it’s a bit sad for some of them.

Apparently, a lot of young interns from art schools are engaged in doing these things. these pain staking things like arranging those grains and all. They sit and slog for many days doing that. Of course the idea isn’t theirs. They are only used for executing it. Because the ones who come up with that idea, don’t have the skill or talent to do it themselves. So they ask these young fellows to spend half their lives doing such stuff. They promise them credits. And they are made to believe that those credits can then give them a great career ahead. So poor chaps fall into this trap.

But no. Nothing happens. Because even after years, they don’t grow up in the system. They just remain mute executors. I’ve even heard that sometimes they don’t even get the credit.

I hope you are giving them their dues. Because they spend their lives doing only these kind of posters for SM Store, they are quite clueless about real brand work. Oh yes, going by your moral standards, you surely must be.

Ya, real brand work is boring. I don’t know if you’ve tried it…but it’s quite an uphill task. Because there are too many people with too many opinions. And you know budgets, market realities, building a brand, reaching out to consumers and all that jazz, can be quite a bummer.

But then there are a whole bunch of people out there who’ve dedicated their lives doing this stuff. Ramming their heads, killing themselves, to get their stuff through all this, and still manage to do some work that people out in the streets end up loving.

Sadly man, these chaps aren’t the ones who are celebrated. You know, they have never been to Cannes, drunk at the gutter bar, or seen their names on One Shows. Nothing.

The only thing that concerns them is ‘what’s good for the brand’.

And if they happen to spot something that seems like a good idea for the brand, they will find a way to make it happen for the brand. It could be a cause, a song, a play, a celebrity, anything. Or sometimes a picture.

They know their brand. And are passionate and pretty selfless too about it.

Those 86 people out there, are defending that my friend.

Lastly, I feel, it’s still better to search for a picture that suits the purpose of your brand, than search for a logo that suits the purpose of your award.

Remember….SM Store, Pitampura.

By the way, Viral Pandya is quite a cool sounding name.

And I’m not copy checking this shit. It’s not for an award.

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The Bell v/s The Bull

(Recently, and after a long long time, I went through my last portfolio that is now 7 years old. And the first ad that I saw in it rang a bell. A loud loud bell. A loud fucking cycle bell.

This story will keep bloody digressing at every other point. I honestly know no other way to narrate it. I confess that I fib a lot in most of my stories, just to make it seem more exciting than it actually was. But this one’s true all the way. Not that the truth of this is exciting, but I can’t think of any better bullshit than its actual truth. So, here it is….just the way it was.)

Twenty minutes had passed and I was still staring at the first question in the paper,

“Is advertising an art or a science? Explain with arguments.” 30 Marks.

The invigilator kept pacing up and down beside me. My paper was blanker than my mind. I looked around. The silence kept reminding me about the importance of the event. I felt like an idiot to be answering this idiotic question after having spent 7 fucking years in advertising. Frankly I had no clue. Had I not been in it, maybe I could have written seven pages of academic bullshit. But experience had mind-fucked me so badly, that trying to find an answer that sounded true to myself was getting to be impossible. Because I knew that truth would fetch me no marks. Advertising was exactly the opposite of whatever text books made it out to be. I was trying hard to forget my experience and recollect the crap that the author of the prescribed textbook had written, who I was sure had never ever been in an agency.

As I kept pondering over that question, I was shadowed by a bigger question that was looming large over my head.

“Why the fuck am I writing this exam?”.

I spent some time thinking about this new improved question. Soon the question spiraled out of proportion and started to creep into every nook of my brain which was till then trying to find a simple answer to that stupid question in the paper.

I snapped out. And stared at that question again.

“It’s just plain fluke”

I scratched it out faster than I wrote it.

That was the truth. But too true to fetch me an MBA degree.

And I tried to think hard like the innocent ignorant MBA aspirants around me who were trying hard to remember the author’s attempt at this impossible question.

And then I heard a bell. A loud bell. No…..it wasn’t the exam bell. It was a shitty cycle bell ringing loud in my brain. A bell that drowned every other thought from creeping in. A bell that sounded much more important than the bullshit I was trying to craft.

Ok…Now come the digressions that I warned you about.

What the fuck is a cycle bell doing in this useless story?

Or more importantly or futilely,

Why was I giving an MBA exam after seven years in advertising?

Well, both are equally fuckall in their backstories. But let me start with the latter since my father plays a role in it. And I love my father. (So appa, this is for you. A story that I am sure you’ll never read. You would not care about. And you’ll certainly not be proud to know.)

After spending seven glorious years in servicing (yes, I was in servicing about six years back for about seven years. That’s a long time back but spending even a day doing that job makes it unforgettable) it struck me one day that I had been a bad student at college. It took me seven years of working to understand this. And I thought it would be important to get an MBA before they discover that I am not only bad at my job but also have a pathetic academic record. This insecurity eventually gave birth to wisdom and I decided to enroll myself into the cheapest, easiest and most non-interfering MBA programme available on the planet. People around convinced me that those 3 letters beside my name can actually help camoflage my incapability.

And my father had always instilled fear in me that my job was a transitionary illusionary phase. And soon the world will discover that I am neither qualified nor talented to do the kind of work that I was doing (Yes. I’m to be blamed. I had convinced him that it was as important as space research).

These mixed emotions attracted me to an M.B.A. degree offered by Symbiosis Centre for Distant Learning. A centre that was the answer to my father’s dreams which by then was getting equally distant. The fee was cheap shit. It offered those 3 letters. And yes. I had heard of Symbi…..and Symbi sounded cool to me.

I chose to do it. And cleared the first two semesters which I have no idea or memory as to how did that exactly happen. My father was ecstatic. Even more happy than me having gotten myself a job. That too, a job that was legal and that payed. But he had always been paranoid that the world will soon discover everything else about me that only he knew about. So this MBA was important for him. A kind of a shield that his son is earning to survive in this competent world, which he strongly believed, had no space for mediocrity.

But after clearing my 2nd semester, my brain started to generate new wisdom.

To join creative.

It commanded a lot of respect. And what was even better was that you could fake it. It was easy. You were granted that title by just being an appreciator of it. Which wasn’t possible on the other side. How much ever you appreciated mathematics, you still needed to be good at it to be respected. But with creativity it was easier. You just needed to passionate about it. And you could get away with it for a longer time. And no. You didn’t need no jack degrees to prove it. All you needed to do was moan and groan at every great piece of creative that you saw. And somehow you start sharing the credit for having created it.

I liked this concept. It seemed easier than the MBA mindfuck that I was going through.

I convinced the world that I was creative by faking orgasms over commercials that I barely understood. By appreciating art that I secretly puked on. And by having a strong opinion on any piece of creative that I was exposed to. I talked about performances, music, lighting and editing with authority. And yes it worked. I started to blend in with the creative crowd.

The planets rearranged themselves and soon I was in the creative department. Freely imagining any rubbish that I wanted to. It needed nothing. No MBA. No degrees. No shit. And I loved it. And I forgot all about the 2 remaining semesters and ofcourse those 3 important letters.

But my father did not.

“I don’t need this MBA anymore appa. I am now in creative.”

“I don’t care. A post-graduate degree is very essential to survive in today’s world. So you bloody well complete this course.”

Like all good advice, I found this uncool.

“But I took it up on my own. And I’m ditching it on my own. So why are you so concerned now. I am now in the creative department. They don’t give a shit even if you haven’t passed your tenth. So even if I do this shit, it won’t make jack of a difference.”

My father already hated this department which had no regard for logic, knowledge and precious education.

“It will. Even if it makes no difference to anyone, it will to me. I can atleast feel proud of my son. You cannot now give up in the 3rd semester.”

“But what is stopping you from feeling proud about me now. I have a job.”

The silence that followed made all the gas that I had been giving him all these years, evaporate into nothingness. He really didn’t believe that I was saving the planet. No. Not even the country, Not even my city. Not even my locality. Not even my street. No…..Not even his trust in me (why do I get this feeling that the last one broke the progression of the descending order?).

So there I was back at my MBA. Writing the exams for the 3rd semester.

Writing the paper on advertising. And I hated it. I hated it because my head was blank. After having spent 7 fucking years, I didn’t know if advertising was an art or a science. I mean, after seven years, who the hell cared what advertising was all about. It was about chasing artworks, negotiating deadlines and indulging in screaming matches. And ads were born out of confusion and clashing egos. It had no academic answer.

Advertising was all about guessing and gassing.

The guess was the art. And the gas was the science. And sometimes vice-versa.

This was the answer experience had taught me. And I had not bothered to read what the text book version of this was.

I couldn’t get beyond the first damn question.

But I still had to fill that answer sheet with some shit. Something. Anything, so that my father could believe that I was actually fit enough to do what I was doing.

But the cycle bell kept coming in the way. Ringing louder and louder. Till my brain went deaf and my pen went dumb.

Yes. Now to digression No. 2.

What the fuck is a useless cycle bell doing in this useless story?

Vivek Kakkad. The bastard who wanted a cycle bell. A cycle bell in the middle of my exam. The exam of my life.

Vivek Kakkad was an art director. An art director who was genuinely creative. He was so good at his job, that he had earned the license to be a bastard. A bastard who knew that the world loved his work. And would do anything to get their stupid ideas art directed by him and elevate them out of their mediocrity. He could make crap look good. And he eventually decided to only make good look even better. He was choosy and strongly opinionated. He would never work on something that he did not believe in. It seems like a good virtue, but only to those who weren’t victims to his high standards.

Kakkad had built a good portfolio. He also got himself some awards. He got himself a deadly job in Mumbai. And he was all set to go.

And being a good art director he knew how to paint a great picture of the world outside. And it is dangerous to hang around with people who are serving their notice period. They suddenly begin to look great. They seem wanted in this world. And you seem unwanted. And slowly this difference begins to grow in gigantic proportions, till the point where you begin to hate yourself.

I always felt Kakkad sniggering whenever he passed by. He would look at that shitty dangler that you were working on while he was busy packing up for the day with an expression on his face that read “Rot in hell you fuckers. I’m off….”

I had only one desire to be fulfilled before Kakkad left. He was yet to art direct an idea that I had come up with, which he had surprisingly liked.

About a month earlier I had told him about an idea that I was scamming on.

“Dude. It’s for cycles. You know….what’s the good thing about cycling. You see more stuff around you. You notice those little things that bring a smile to your face. Like some kids playing in the park. Or some stupid dog chasing its tail. So we just show these small joyful everyday scenes that happen around us and sign off “Life looks beautiful on a cycle”.

Kakkad took a long drag from his cigarette and smiled.

“It’s sexy man. I like it. I’ll art direct it for you.”

I was thrilled to bits. This was the first time that Kakkad had actually liked an idea of mine. It was like a Cannes moment.

“We could do it for Hero Cycles or some such thing. And send it to them and see what happens.”

“Ya.”

We spoke about this idea in great detail. So much that it had lost all thrill and juice. And what remained was only getting down to do it. Which was invariably the most boring part.

Kakkad kept pushing it. I kept reminding him. And it later seemed like he had now lost interest in the idea.

And he was leaving in a day. Forever.

And just before I walked into the exam hall my phone rang. It was Kakkad. And it was a Saturday.

“Dude. I’m in the office.”

“So?”

“I have come all the way to execute your idea. The cycle one.”

“Fuck dude! Finally. Thanks man.”

“Ya. Screw your thanks. Shut the fuck up and get here with a cycle bell.”

“A cycle bell. For what?”

“I want to sign off with the visual of a cycle bell with The Hero Cycles logo on it. It’s got a good feeling about it.”

“Ya…it’s a nice idea…but I’m about to enter an exam hall man.”

“I don’t care dude. If you get here in the next hour with a bell, I’ll do the ad for you or you can pedal your cycle to some other art director….ha ha ha ha ha”.

Kakkad had now become an expert in being a bastard. And it was a trait that he was proud of. And when he makes mean statements like these you never know if he’s joking or serious. And it is always serious when you think otherwise.

To me suddenly this little cycle idea become the most important one in my portfolio. It seemed like my passport to stardom. I picturised my portfolio beginning with it. And imagined creative directors going gaga over it. It even reached the Cannes podium. I knew that I had to get it done.

But I was there sitting in the middle of an exam, sitting and staring at the first question.

Is advertising an art or a science?

Right now it was a bully. A bully named Kakkad.

The answer to the question could fetch me an MBA degree that my pop needed for reasons best known to nobody. And getting out of that exam hall and buying a cycle bell meant a fancier job. Fame. More money.

I timed myself. For 45 minutes. And wrote whatever the fuck I pleased.

And ran out of the hall. And reached office with the prescribed cycle bell, infact 4 options of it.

Kakkad looked at it and smiled.

“I like this bell. By the way, what fucking exam was that?”

“My MBA crap dude”

“Ha ha…so what paper was it today?”

“Advertising”

Kakkad laughed till he fell off his chair.

I realized why he laughed so much, much later.

I cleared my MBA but got the least marks for advertising.

Maybe it was because of all the bull I wrote.

But I got a fancier job with a fancier pay.

And maybe it was because of The Bell.

The damn cycle bell.

The lonely roller coaster ride-part 2

Kannan, his assistant and I bundled into an Omni along with Kannan’s paraphernalia, looking like an ad for Omni’s spacious interiors. He had brought enough equipment to shoot the flora and fauna of The Amazon. I was feeling disgusted that all this drama was for some crappy brochure. I felt guilty. And I’d have stopped myself from feeling that way if I knew that this guilt would slowly graduate to pity.

I had spent a lot of time hating Kannan and had gotten bored, so just for variation I changed it from hatred to pity for a little while.

After all he was just a passionate guy going about his job. I had no reason to be pissed off.

The journey to Niladri amusement park was about 2 hours. I had stayed awake the previous night thinking about ‘what the fuck to talk about during the journey’ and had narrowed down on a few topics that could maybe work.

“So you like Bollywood?” I started with my favorite topic.

“No”

With this answer Kannan had straightaway knocked out the conversations I had planned for half the journey.

This left me with only two other topics. ‘How did I land up in advertising?’ or ‘How did he land up in photography?’.

I instinctively knew that he cared two hoots about the first one. And I was scared approaching the second.

So I saved them for later. And spent time looking out of the window at Shilpa Medicals and Chandu Tailors and New Modern Hair Drassars and other shop boards to keep myself occupied. Kannan kept polishing his lenses one by one throughout the journey. And Kannan’s assistant polished them again before packing them back in their cases. I wish they’d let me polish them too since they made it look so engrossing.

I waited till we hit the highway. The sign boards were fewer. And I had memorized every pattern of the seats inside the van. And Kannan had finished polishing every single spare part in his bag.

I decided to launch the topic that I had kept reserved.

“So Kannan, how did you end up being a photographer?”

Kannan’s adam’s apple moved up and down to clear the lump in his throat. And he looked like he was going to burst into tears.

“I believe that destiny chooses you. Not you choose your destiny.”

By the time I could find the connection between the answer and the question, the driver jammed his brakes for a speed breaker. Kannan gave me a look which made me feel the need to probe further to unearth the wisdom in those lines.

“So how did it all happen?”

“I thought I just told you”

“Ok…destiny chose you….how?”

“Ask destiny”

I had half a mind to tell him “Fuck it man. I wish I had destiny as my companion. Instead I have you…so cock up and answer.” but “Ha ha…you are so right” is all that I could say for the sake of that shitty brochure that was on my lap waiting to transform itself into an artwork in two days.

“I hope there is someone there to guide us” Kannan spoke to the roof of the vehicle.

“Ya. I guess while destiny always chooses a different path it still expects us to be its guide.” I replied trying to sound as close to the lyrics of his favorite song.

“I’m talking about Niladri Park…is there someone out there to guide us?”

“Oh…ok…ya there is someone.”

That’s the problem of being an AE. People think you have no right to intrude into worldly wise discussions. You are not allowed to speak anything outside of your joblist.

My pity for him ended and I reverted to the initial emotion.

I hated Kannan. And I could not admit that I hated Kannan. Just like I could not admit that I hated that brochure. That client. My job. Niladri Water Park. The Omni I was travelling in. The driver who kept jamming his brakes. And Kannan’s assistant’s red ears. NO. My job was to not just conceal my hatred but also make it seem we were off bungee jumping to the alps.

“I think the shoot will be fun, don’t you think so?” It sounded like shit after I said it.

”      ” kannan replied.

I spent some time remembering motivational quotes on perseverance and hard work and positive attitude and other such jazz written by people who were lucky enough to escape from it.

These self development techniques helped me kill some time before we reached the amusement park that was waiting for the jokers to arrive.

Niladri opened its gates for the first time to any visitor. It was still under completion though most of the rides were already installed.

Kannan got straight to work. He inspected the tiles in close quarters and mid quarters with some yogic poses.

And I inspected the rides in the amusement park in close quarters, mid quarters and more quarters than Kannan examined the tiles. According to me my job was over. The next job in my list was to arrange lunch. Ofcourse I had other parental tasks of calling the client periodically to assure him that his brochure was being looked after.

So while Kannan was unpacking his 967 items, out of which only 2 or 3 were needed, I took a stroll around the amusement park.

There was a water slide. And another massive roller coaster with a track that took you to a great height and then plunged into a pool of water. And a giant tora tora. And some dashing boats. And some other exciting rides.

It was empty with not a soul in sight. I returned from this little investigation back to the most boring spot in the location. The part where Kannan stood.

He looked like a killjoy amidst all these joy rides. I sat down nearby watching him assemble his camera that had more parts than a Lego toy.

Kannan’s assistant was handing him over the parts one by one. And then I suddenly remembered that I had never heard his voice. I didn’t know how it sounded. Did he have a booming voice inside that skeleton? Or was his voice squeaky?

I tried exploring this pastime and went up to him.

“Are you hungry?’

He nodded his head in a manner that could have meant a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘I hate you because my boss hates you’.

“Shall I get something to eat?”

He repeated the same action.

He had no idea how important it was for me to hear his voice. I took a special interest in him. I relied on his company for the rest of the day.

Kannan barked back ‘no we have eaten’ which sounded like ‘leave us alone’.

I walked back and took a seat in the parapet.

Kannan had finally finished assembling half of his father’s earnings. And took the aperture readings.

And he suddenly started to look gloomy.

I was worried, and then I realised that it was not him this time, but the weather.

Kannan looked above, and before he could start weeping, the skies broke open and it began to rain.

Kannan’s assistant dived and rescued the machine as Kannan and me ran for cover.

It poured and poured like mad. And the three of us stood under a nearby ledge that extended about 5 ft.

The next shelter was around 500 meters away.

We watched the rain like we were watching a movie. Kannan stood in the corner balancing himself from not getting drenched and at the same time making sure he did not brush against any part of my body.

“Oh no. What rains!” I restarted conversation.

Silence.

“This is crazy”

Silence

“I mean it was so sunny and suddenly such rains. This is crazy.”

Silence.

I had found a new relief with this popular topic of bonding. The weather. And still noone wanted to participate. I had never seen this topic fail so miserably before. I continued trying to save the interestingness of rains.

“I hope we will be able to complete the shoot”

Silence

“Outdoor shoots are so risky. You can never tell.”

Silence

“Wow. Such nice weather. It would be great to have some hot tea.”

Silence

“The trees look so beautiful in the rains”

Silence

I tried cutting the weather in every possible angle. But nothing seemed to work.

Kannan put a cigarette in his mouth and reached out for a matchbox. His matches were wet. And I had a lighter in my pocket. I waited for him to ask me.

Kannan kept smoking his unlit cigarette. And I took out my lighter and tried lighting it up for him. And the lighter failed. And so did the opportunity of bringing back conversation into our stupid lives.

Being cramped in that space, every minute felt like an hour. And suddenly Kannan spoke.

“Do you realize?”

“Realize what?”

“Probably even God is in disagreement. This is his way of making us realize that we are doing something wrong. And that’s why He’s stopping us from doing it.”

Approximately 6 blood vessels burst inside my head. I thought that the battle was over. But Kannan’s brain was severely damaged.

“So what do you want to shoot?’

“Nothing. I don’t think we have given this enough thought. I can promise you that I will not be able to give you a picture that I’m satisfied with.”

“Ok. So give me one that you aren’t satisfied with.”

“Listen pal, this is not just a camera. It does not take pictures. It is a machine that paints my imaginations. I worship it. And I will not misuse it.”

It was only then I realised that Kannan was not suicidal. He had a strong desire to be murdered.

“You should not have taken up this project if you weren’t convinced.”

“Yes. You are right. I should not have taken up this project.”

“So is the shoot cancelled?’

“No. I will give you what you want. But I will take no money from you.”

I had no idea how to respond to this philanthropic offering. It was too long a journey to go searching for my conscience. It was the first thing that had been frisked off me when I took up this job.

So I tried dealing with the situation without one.

“Ok. Cool.”

It also sounded cool.

The rain suddenly stopped like God was in agreement with this settlement.

And Kannan got back to work. And started setting up all over again.

“Now you decide what you want me to shoot? And I’ll just shoot it.”

I think that line was meant to move me to tears and make me grovel with shame.

“Ok”

“Oh. So you’re ok.”

“Yes. I’m Ok with that.”

And Kannan continued setting up his imagination painting machine.

But the rain had created puddles all over. And we had to wait for it to dry up.

With silence as company.

Kannan’s assistant and me yawned at each other. Even with this, Kannan made sure to not bond by suppressing the yawns inside his elongated face.

A horrible looking frog hopped by making me notice his species after a long time. I started to fall in love with the frog.

I followed it like an inquisitive seeker to get away from the situation.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

“What’s this?’ I asked the first human being I spotted in the environment after a long time.

“It’s a water slide” the human being replied. The human being was an employee of Niladri water park, whose job was to hang around till the water park declared itself open to public. He looked bored. I looked bored. And we kept giving the ‘so what do we do?’ type look to each other.

“This trolley goes up all the way, and then comes down in full speed and plunges into this pool of water” The human being explained the funda behind the contraption.

It sounded exciting. I was getting tempted. But wasn’t sure if this was the right time to indulge in any form of entertainment. Kannan had so badly infected the air with his funereal mood strongly banning any form of joy from entering the premises.

But I also got a strange joy from seeing him depressed. I had had enough. This was one of those rare moments where I could slip into joy without being noticed. I had no boss around. I had no client around. It was like ‘Joy’ was making me a limited period offer.

“Want a ride?” the human being asked me noticing the deprivation of happiness in my life.

I nodded.

Kannan, his assistant and the tiles surrounding him zoomed out in my vision as I sat in the trolley that took me high up above. I realized that sometimes true joy meant distancing yourself from depression more than anything else.

I sat there in a roller coaster, all by myself, with the wind blowing on my face. The world beneath me looked like a tiny speck. As an AE, I had no option but to take refuge in these momentary metaphorical delusions of life. I felt like a king.

I could faintly hear Kannan’s assistant screaming something below.

The trolley now reacted to gravity and all the weight that was weighing me down got thrown around in a blur. As I momentarily freed myself away from deadlines, clients, brochures, creativity and other such idiotic entrapments.

It was the most exhilarating feeling. I screamed loudly in a decibel that would have matched a fully loaded roller coaster. I felt happy to be probably the only man who went on a roller coaster ride all alone.

Splash.

I had water all over my face and body. I was cleansed from the misery that this project brought along with it.

Suddenly I cared a fuck about anything and everything that I was responsible for.

I could hear Kannan’s assistant louder and clearer now.

He stood beside me mumbling some crap. It took a while before I could make out what he was saying.

“Sir, Boss says that if you are not there he will have to bill you for this project.”

“So, let him bill me.”

Yes. I realized that Kannan was taking me on a ride. But he had no clue how much I enjoyed it.

A traumatic suspense-part 2


REPRESENTING CLIENT:

Mr P. Seshadri. The friendly Secretary who decided to put forth the proposal of The Agency to the committee members of The Film Society. The man who innocently arranged a meeting between himself and all the others mentioned below, without knowing the actual intentions of The Agency.

Mr. Murthy. The stern looking President. The main approving authority, a big time lawyer by profession and a walking encyclopedia on cinema.

Miss I forgot her name. I am not sure what she does.

Mr. Big spectacled guy. Who I think is called Gopal. Usually sits at the reception.

Mr. Young boy. Overall flunky who is too early in his career to earn any adjectives.

REPRESENTING AGENCY:

Mr. Rajesh Ramaswamy. Creative copy guy facing existential crisis and dying to win an award

Mr. Anil Kumar. Creative art guy facing existential crisis under the influence of previous member and dying to win an award

VENUE: Conference room of film society.

TIME: Friday evening, when generally the whole world is partying outside.

Agenda for agency: To somehow find a way to get the society to organize a suspense film festival, without making them get to know the selfish motive behind it.

Agenda for client: To figure out what two anonymous assholes were doing here, disrupting their daily routine.

Minutes of the meeting

The Agency introduced themselves as two kind souls who were willing to support the cause of good cinema and offered their undying support towards the same.

The Client was suspicious and asked Agency to explain the reason behind this rare display of goodness.

The Agency maintained that it was for the welfare of the society, that is the film society and the society at large.

The President was still not convinced, because he was a lawyer by profession. And urged The Agency to speak a little more, so that he could test his own investigatory skills.

The Agency put on a good show by continuing to display their love for cinema and turned towards The Secretary for support.

The Secretary explained to The President that the world still had good people. And he had just discovered two of them.

Miss Forgettable decided to order tea and snacks to Secretary’s discoveries and other members in the room. Mr Flunky executed her order. Mr. Big Spectacles played his role of looking bored to avoid what Flunky was doing.

Mr President was still not convinced. He asked The Agency if they would be interested in lending their support for a documentary festival.

Agency thought for a while and discussed in private. They weren’t sure if they could come up with a direct mailer idea for this. But since they could not disclose that, they argued that a suspense film festival would be a better idea.

The President now discussed in private and questioned The Agency again on their disinterest towards a documentary film festival.

The agency discussed in private and concluded that a suspense film festival was a better idea, with greater passion.

The President was convinced that he smelt something fishy and asked The Agency to confess their obsession for suspense films.

The Agency tried to explain that suspense as a category was ignored.

The President trashed it with a small speech on the evolution of suspense films and their popularity from the time of Lumiere Brothers till date.

The agency then tried a parallel argument that suspense was the supreme most form of cinema since it was interactive.

The President suggested a surreal film festival instead.

The Agency again discussed in private and came to the conclusion that surreal cinema was too nascent. Too niche.

The President argued that it was all the more reason why it needed support.

Agency felt unprepared to debate with a lawyer, who seemed to have both knowledge and power on his side. They meekly suggested that suspense could be a run up to surreal.

Tea arrived with the necessary distraction, following it up with some hot puffs procured from a neighbourhood bakery. Mr Big Spectacles certified that the puffs were fresh. The Agency took extra interest in this comforting topic and recommended a few other bakeries that made tasty snacks. And then used this opportunity to slip in some words of praise for the puffs and the tea, gradually extending it to the tea cup, the ketchup, the overall hospitality, The Film Society, The Films they screened, Ritwik Ghatak, The Secretary, The President and of course his remarkable proficiency in the subject.

The trick worked in making the president loosen up a bit. After a few more sips of tea and some silly jokes, the meeting started to lose its seriousness. Well, not all of it, but atleast to make the debate less esoteric and more transactional and direct…

Mr. Murthy: “What is this obsession with Suspense films? There must be some reason for it?”

I knew at that some point I had to spell out the actual intention behind this whole drama. It seemed like the time had come.

“Well sir,…it’s nothing like that…..”

Anil nudged me with his elbow so hard that the words fell out of my mouth…

“Sir…..ok…it’s like this. We have a great direct mailer idea for this. And that is the reason we are so keen on suspense…we send empty envelopes to all your members……..red envelopes…every single day…..”

I explained the idea to him in one breath, trying to avoid any eye contact.

There was pindrop silence in the room. Even Gopal had stopped sipping his tea.

Mr. Murthy “You mean, you are going to play a prank with our members?”

Me “Sir, not a prank exactly…but it’s a direct mailer that brings the activity alive. I mean your members will surely be excited and appreciate the idea when it is all over.”

Miss Forgettable panicked in her penetrating voice “But..why you are doing like this? Why are you not sending normal postcard? I mean what is this suspense? I mean I am not understanding? I mean who are you people? I mean why are you doing this complications. I mean why are you doing nonsense. I mean I don’t understand. I mean what when which where who how…I mean…what for all this?”

I was hoping that Miss Forgettable was not too important in their system. I was hoping that The President and everyone else hated her. Her voice was too shrill to not make an impact. Hearing her voice, even I started doubting my idea. She had the power to make anything sound horrible.

Mr Murthy then thought for a while and arrived at the priceless question, that proved that he had topped his law school.

“I am not able to understand one thing though. Why are you doing all this? What’s in it for you?” and raised his eyebrows synchronizing it with the ticking of the wall clock.

“Well…sir we want to send it to awards. It’s like this. You know there are a lot of advertising awards for creativity. And they are very prestigious ones. We would like to send this as an idea for a direct mailer. Sir, even you can be famous actually. If we win, even Suchitra Film Society will feature in the book.”

The silence returned. Mr Flunky who was taking notes of god knows what, now gave us an idea of what his voice sounds like with an “Oh!”. Miss Forgettable tapped him to stop him at his “Oh!”, and ensured that silence prevailed in the room.

Mr P Seshadri took off his glasses and polished it with his shirt sleeve till he was convinced that he could now use it to not just see but also see through with it.

Mr Murthy snorted. Scoffed. Coughed. Sighed and made a few other noises that each had deep cinematic relevance.

Mr Murthy then turned towards Mr P Seshadri “I told you! I knew that there is something fishy in this.”

Mr P Seshadri looked at us looking cheated.

(We did turn out to be two selfish assholes, exactly like the “I told you’ Mr. Murthy was referring to. It proved that Mr. Murthy was far more learned and had watched many more films than Mr P Seshadri, that could now make him identify jerks like us. That’s why Murthy was the president. And P Seshadri remained the humble secretary who only appreciated good cinema, but never learnt from it. Just like his icons…only inspired…never influenced. And what made him feel worse was that it was He who arranged for this meeting. It was He who mistaked us assholes as goodsoles who supported the cause of great cinema. And what he got in return was two traitors who were pedalling their two paisa direct mailer for some advertising award that he cared a rat’s ass for…I mean how could we betray his…..)

Mr. Murthy suddenly uttered something that made Mr. P Seshadri stop this incident from growing in his head and reach new levels of unusable wisdom.

“Seshadri…But coming to think of it….it’s not a bad idea at all. I know that they are doing this for their own benefit, but it might just work….and cause some excitement…you know…the activities in the society are quite dead nowadays. We need to do something to disrupt it.”

Suddenly all those awards that were pixelating away started becoming clear again.

Anil Kumar jumped up with his art directorial inputs “Sir…we will design beautiful invites in matte black, with bright red, flaming red envelopes” adding aesthetic appeal to a not so good idea.

We circulated samples of the invites that were hidden in our bags till now, assuring them that the logo size was only indicative but would be much larger in the final.

“Red is a good color” Mr Murthy agreed. It was a relief to hear discussions on design now. Copywriters always feel happy when designs are being discussed. It indicates that they are now safe.

Mr P Seshadri snapped out of his Go-Takish sentiments and tried reviewing this idea in a new light that his senior Mr. Murthy had flashed.

“Ya….ok. I understand the selfish motive. I agree that it might also not be such a bad idea…but who is going to fund all this?”

“Sir…we’ll take care of all that. You agree to host the festival and we sponsor the invites, the designing, printing and postal charges…we’ll take care of everything. It’s free.” Me and Anil repeated after each other to doubly assure them.

“And what movies are you planning to show?” Mr Murthy asked.

“Hitch-cock?”

They looked at each other like they didn’t hear the ‘hitch’ in it.

Or maybe there was one…which we didn’t know about.

To be contd…

(Error-In the previous post I had mentioned that the right pronunciation of Ghatak is Go-Tak. But my dear Bengali friend Mr Rajiv points out that it is GHO-THOK. So kindly note that this is now the right way to say his name till the next Bong comes into the picture with a newer, better way of saying it.)

Gowrnamentu adutising-the final post

Phase 7- The presentation

It was a bright cheerful morning. Atleast to Boss, who appeared in his new friday dressing, neatly scrubbed and drenched in cologne. All set to dazzle the discerning DIPians. I sat in the navigator seat feeling small in his extra large SUV, clinging on to the delusions of the Gowrnamentu, specially designed by us for them.

Boss adjusted his rear view mirror to take a final look into his nostrils. And we zoomed away in his Sierra to doom’s dungeon.

“How many agencies were there did you say?”

“About 40 of them I guess!”

“Ha…The numbers are getting larger’ The Boss declared in a tone that rubbished the other 39 like they all needed to be running a poultry business instead.

Everyone outside the window seemed to have had their baths and breakfast. I hadn’t slept or bathed in 2 days. The perfume from Boss’ armpits enveloped me into an illusion that I had had my bath too.

The smell of the rubber solution in the layouts was comforting. Somewhere it indicated that this saga was coming to an end. I had washed my face with the handwash in the loo, and the harshness of the liquid helped me stay awake. I hadn’t had the time to change into another costume so that The Boss could look at me differently.

No.

I still looked like the same idiot who couldn’t get a handful of books on time.  The memories of which were vividly kept alive by the same shirt I was wearing ever since I came back from Vidhana Soudha.

The Sierra swerved into the DIP Building, and Boss walked out in style waving out to every passerby, clicking the auto-lock button on his keychain. I followed him with a fat bunch of layouts under my arm, keeping as minimum a distance between us, so that people do not doubt my pedigree.

I felt strangely happy to be back in that dismal room, in the company of my stinking stubbled sleep deprived fellowsuckers each accompanied by their clean shaven, cologned and wide eyed bosses who were all eagerly waiting to perform their role of flipping the flap to reveal the Gowrnamentu’s cryptic achievements in an easy ‘show and tell’ form.

The flunks yawned endlessly, and their Bosses looked like their lives depended on this. I was happy that Boss looked the smartest of the lot. He looked sufficiently educated and MBAish as compared to the rest.

But Boss looked out of place in his fashionable attire. It seemed inappropriate in an atmosphere like this which was uniformed in plain white terrycot shirts. Such dressing was equated to being overindulgent, materialistic and frivolous distancing yourself from the seriousness of the matter that everyone had gathered for.

Boss decided to give the frivolity of his Friday dressing some purpose by bonding with every official who passed by. Loudly enquiring about matters that only an ultra confident man can do in a tense hour like this.

He enquired with utmost concern to an official who was hurrying inside…

“Mr Sampath….yes….so what happened to the litigation on this building. I heard that the office is going to be transfered to the premises of Vidhana Soudha….Is that true?”

The other inmates looked insecure with Boss’ indepth level of trivia on the business. They fidgeted in their seats uncomfortably revising their layouts. Surely, a man who knew all this could never go wrong with a piddling ad.

“Can I see your layout?” the man beside me nervously whispered noticing that I was momentarily orphaned by My Boss.

“No” I replied like a loyal dog.

“Come on. Now nobody can do anything…….just one glimpse. You can see our’s as well.” He urged having no qualms to reveal the secret he was holding.

The discussion was disturbed by the popular Desai making an entry into the room. The audience stood up in attention, and greeted him like it was the most important parameter in the selection procedure.

“Good morning all of you. Good morning ..good morning. I can see that you all have had a very tough time. I know, this time we were not in a position to give you all more time. My apologies. Would you all like some coffee or tea.” Mr Desai said in a rehearsed tone.

“No…No”…”That’s ok”….”It is normal in our business”…” ha ha”…..”that’s ok”……” the various bosses echoed various words disguising their desperation with earnestness, and the various flunks gave artificial smiles that instantly faded away the minute their respective bosses had verified their display of courteousness.

Suddenly Boss decided to rise above this ordinary bonding and seeked a private moment with the man who supposedly knew it all. Mr Desai discreetly signaled to us asking us to meet him at the canteen.

And Boss walked away through other envious bosses adjusting his sunglasses in slow motion. I followed him adjusting the layouts through various flunks who actually cared for nothing at that moment but to go home and get some sleep.

I was actually feeling shitty for letting my co-flunkies down by participating in this last hour drama.

We settled at a private corner at the canteen.

The Boss proudly unveiled the masterpiece to Mr Desai and watched his reactions intently.

Mr Desai put on his reading glasses and ran his eye-balls shiftily.

“I hope you like the colours. This time we have gone for brighter tones….It really jumps out.” Boss mentioned in a manner that automatically made the content indisputable.

Mr Desai sipped his filter coffee and gave a sharp whack to the cardboard with the back of his palm. “This is wonderful” He declared. “The colours are very eye catchy.”

The Boss was pleased that his palette matched Desai’s taste.

“But in some publications it bleeds, you know.” Desai added

“Don’t you worry….we’ll take care of that. Let’s meet over a drink after this assignment.” Boss perked up Mr. Desai as a compensation for his fine observations.

Somehow, the content seemed the least important everywhere. I was expecting atleast Desai to spot the absolute havoc played on the information. But I guess they were so well camouflaged by Mahadeva’s overpowering clip-arts. Or maybe I was just too sleep deprived to live in reality anymore.

Soon we returned to the room, and Boss waited for the opportune moment to say a loud ‘Thank You Mr. Desai’ that could be heard by everyone sitting out there. And looked at the others like they were all wasting their time and energy.

In a few moments the peon came and collected our answer sheets and disappeared into the Secretary’s room.

And everyone waited like expectant fathers outside a maternity ward.

And all of a sudden the swing door threw itself open and the secretary stormed outside, followed by Desai, followed by another unidentifiable man, followed by Mr Sampath, followed by the peon with the day’s collections, straight into a white ambassador that was parked at the portico with the ignition on.

Everyone jumped up and followed this procession. But the doors of the Ambassador slammed just in time.

And we all clustered around the car like a superstar was departing. But the Ambi zipped past clouding our faces with black smoke.

Of course the gowrnamentu wasn’t going to end all this so easily without adding some thrills from their end.

And we rushed to the parking lot and started our vehicles in a frenzy. And frantically chased the cavalcade.

My Boss and me participated in this car chase and speeded away in the direction of the Ambi.

“Where are we all going”

“To Vidhana Soudha you fool. They will be presenting our layouts to the CM now.”

“Oh. So will we be presenting it to him?”

“No…..But we need to be there in case the CM wants to verify something. He might just call in any agency at any point, so we need to be prepared.”

“But what will he want to ask us?’

“Anything!!”

But it all made sense to me then. I understood what this type of adutising was all about.

I recalled what a Harijan had warned me about on day 1.

“Remember….They tell you nothing. You make something. But be prepared, as they can ask you anything.”

At Vidhana Soudha, we parked our vehicles and rushed like maniacs till a certain point. After which we were all stopped by security guards like we were entering a cricket match without passes.

Mr Desai came to subside the enthusiasm in the crowd.

“Please calm down. Everyone’s layout will be presented. The CM is going to personally go through all your efforts, so please settle down. We will call you in case of any clarifications. Till then I request you all to patiently wait in this room.”

Another waiting room filled with numerous chairs. A peon walked in and switched on the fans to help us fizzle out our left over energies.

And we waited. A skill that I had mastered by now. I no longer needed the help of topics to keep my mind engaged. I had exhausted every topic under the sun to think about in the past few days. I had no more thoughts in my head. No more questions that needed answers. No nothing that demanded participation from my brain. I had learnt the art of existing with an absolute blank mind. I let my involuntary actions take over and paid attention to every sensation that my body was going through. I enjoyed the cool air every time the standing fan faced me. I turned my face towards the direction of the wind and tilted my head, to create different hairstyles without using any effort, and checked the results periodically in a stained mirror at a far off corner.

We spent the next few hours by engaging ourselves with every distraction possible. Everytime the door clicked…everytime someone cleared their throat…..everytime someone coughed….everyone were alerted, hoping that any one of these would slowly evolve into a full fledged entertainment programme.

But nothing of such sort happened.

Soon a bearer appeared with a huge tray of coffee and tea cups. He walked around asking everyone “coffee’ or ‘tea’.

“Coffee”…”no …no…tea”…..”no no coffee only” said one member unable to make up his mind as to which could help him stay awake.

And this was the best joke for the evening. Everyone laughed unanimously on this man’s funny portrayal of indecisiveness.

We waited for about 5 hours. Somewhere in the middle Boss suddenly realised that he was The Boss. And excused himself from this peasantry.

“Call me if you need me and I’ll be back” He said giving me a look that meant “You are a fool if you really believe what I’m saying.’

I felt relieved that I no longer had to keep a grim face. I no longer had to feel the pressure of keeping the conversation going. I no longer had to keep thinking about what he was thinking. I no longer…….I dozed off into my chair.

To be woken up by a commotion that I had just gone through some hours back.

The ambassador glided in and took position at the portico.

Everyone woke up and took their positions as well.

A gentleman stormed out. Another uniformed man followed him. After a brief pause, the secretary and Desai darted across the room with a peon following them holding the layouts.

We all ran to the parking lot again. Kick started our vehicles and chased the secretary’s car all the way back to the DIP’s office.

I was fainting with this sudden burst of excitement in my sedate condition. I was not in a position to think of anything better than follow the herd, for whatever its worth.

Soon we reached the DIP’s office and before we could reach the waiting room, The Secretary, Desai and gang had entered the prohibited room and slammed the door.

I thought for a while if it would be appropriate to call back the Boss. But what If I was needed in the room. Calling Boss back also meant that Im increasing his anxiety for some good news.

I looked around. I could see many flunkies abandoned by their respective bosses.

I could see only the lower strata filtered into the room now. It now resembled the crowd that I had seen on day 1.

It seemed too inferior a situation to summon My Boss back. Either I could have the privilege of delivering him the good news. Or exclude him from being a part of receiving the bad news.

So ‘screw calling Boss back’, I concluded, feeling scarily advantageous, for the being the sole decision maker on this matter.

Phase 8-The Results

In a few minutes it was time to announce the results.  It was an understood ritual that the agency who’s name is called out first, is the winner. Ofcourse, to make this grand announcement the Secretary stepped out with Desai and the Peon, flanking him on either side with a beaming smile, that conveyed that they were also instrumental in the selection of the winner.

We all stood up and flocked around the jury impatiently waiting for the results of this mysterious game.

There were no hot favorites. Nobody had a clue.

“I would like to call upon……the first agency…….” The secretary announced dragging each word to create an intrigue in the audience, where most of them were ready to pass out. We were in no mood for this suspenseful build up.

But the secretary was feeling as fresh as a daffodil.

“..The agency I would like to call upon is….” The secretary looked at Mr Desai for a final nod of approval.

“Ok….can we have Avantika Adutising……..yes yes….please come inside.” The secretary smiled and retired into his cabin. Mr Desai waited at the door to shake hands with the winners and the peon held the door open as a mark of respect.

The members of Avantika gleamed with pride and walked inside looking like they knew it all along, to collect their prize.

Of course the prizes were known to all.

First Prize

Deccan Herald….the costliest publication. Prajavani…the second costliest publication and a few other random publications thrown in.

Second Prize

Indian Express…..the second costliest english daily and a few other random publications…

Third Prize

The Hindu…the 3rd costliest English daily and a few other random publications…

The others were now left to haggle and negotiate in the room and bargain for the leftovers like Raitha Rajya, Ushe Vani, Sutta Mutta Suddi and other unheard publications that boasted of circulations which were so few in number, that you could distribute them personally.

I knew deep within that we couldn’t have won this contest. The rapport that Boss shared with Desai was all fake. Ultimately the CM seemed to have spotted the fictitious numbers.

Somewhere in the middle I was summoned.

The secretary had left by then, leaving Desai to distribute the consolation prizes to the inept mediocre losers.

I stepped into the room and Desai handed over our layouts back…..

“Mr. Renaisaance adutising….very sorry. I thought that your design was the best, but what to do…..the CM preferred someone else’s design.”

“That’s ok sir.” I said opening my note pad to jot down the list of publications allocated for me.

“Jot down please….Sankrtanti, Jana Jagruti……and Sanje Suddi’

I hadn’t heard of any of these publications. I scribbled them down on my pad feeling completely defeated.

“Hmmm..what is sad is that only your agency had got the content perfectly…..only if you had paid more attention to the design…. Infact the CM has asked us to use your content……..but someone else’s design.”

I was speechless. I took time to recover from this shock.

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‘Saar…atleast for that can you pleej give us one english paper …pleeej saar” I succumbed and pleaded shamelessly, embracing my destiny and deciding to not question its strangenesses.

And then I realized, that was the only thing you needed…to be into adutising.

Gowrnamentu adutising-part 3

Phase 5 – The Brief

After two grueling days, I returned from Vidhana Soudha with my own understanding of the statutory warning inscribed on the building “Government’s work is God’s work”. But I always doubted if they had misspelt GOD.

I got back to the agency with a feeling of triumph. The receptionist failed to see the glint in my eyes and asked her regular “Have you signed the register?’, reducing me to just another employee, the variety who need to record their attendance to earn their wages.

She probably didn’t know of the treasure I had in my bag. Six delicious annual reports as ordered by The Boss. After all that, in my head, I knew I belonged to a superior league, where I no longer had to stoop down to such chores to ratify my existence.

I walked in The Boss’ cabin with my head held high and chest out, in spite of the weight on my shoulders. And emptied the contents of my bag on The Boss’ desk with pride, and put my hands on my hip and freezed on that pose, waiting for him to construct his words of praise.

The Boss made a quick count, 5 mundane looking books in assorted colours and one of course, photocopied.

Boss looked at me and then at Mahadeva with a half grin, and said nothing, and pressurised Mahadeva to come up with his comments first, so that his own gathered some respect in the waiting.

“Earlier the books used to be much thicker, no Boss!” Mahadeva commented, roughly weighing one of the reports in his hand.

Boss nodded and smiled reminiscing the burden he had endured in his youth. He erratically picked up a book and flicked it, and stopped at a random page and studied the contents for a split second.

“…..But….what took you so long?” The Boss made his opening remark with a practiced restraint.

Mahadeva duplicated The Boss’ look on his face to make the question seem doubly worrysome.

I was shocked to find any traces of appreciation missing in his remark or Mahadeva’s concerned face.

“I mean, Sir….you have no idea what I had to go through to get these books. Each one had a unique problem….and Mr Desai had given letters to many others……I had to wait endlessly………they treat you like shit…” I tried everything to evoke sympathy out of their sadistic faces.

The Boss remained unmoved. Mahadeva did a quick cross-check and decided to continue with the same look.

Since this had no impact, I added impromptu “Someone even said that this is a futile exercise since he had inside information that they don’t even want an ad….” with a bleak hope that this might make him suspend the exercise altogether.

The Boss cut me short……

“Listen….listen…you should have given me a call. Didn’t I tell you, that this information is urgent. We don’t have all the time in the universe. Just give me a call….how difficult is that?”

….and Mahadeva punctuated his speech with the necessary expressions.

“But…..what….I mean….” I was trying to find the diplomatic version of ‘What the fuck could you have done?’.

Boss looked at Mahadeva and asked him “What’s that new chap’s name….ya Appaji’s assistant, call him.” highlighting the distance in heirarchy between Sudarshan and him.

(Sudarshan was the new flunk who worked under Appaji. And Appaji….was a fat middle aged man who held a mysterious post in the office. Appaji had joined Renaissance at a tender age, and had been handling tender notices since then. He was a separate department by himself. He cared for noone, and noone cared for him. The everyday chaos in the agency never affected his life. And he liked it that way.

He was happy and content with this portfolio, and demanded no more than an assistant to help him with his ever growing clientele. After years of penance he was granted one disciple to serve him. A young timid looking Kannada literature student, Sudarshan.

Appaji had a special corner for himself, where he stayed aloof. And he had equipped himself with bad breath to keep public at bay. He enjoyed his space. And to further ensure his privacy, he wore the same pink shirt everyday, till it had gathered a shimmer on its crease. A strange mix of these odours protected his territory, a tiny corner in the office. Thankfully, Sudarshan perpetually had a blocked nose, which enabled him to interact closely with Appaji and vice versa.

Appaji was fiercely protective about Sudarshan. After many years and a great deal of difficulty he had found a flunk, and didn’t want others to now poke their working noses into their relationship and muck it up. Appaji was so visibly excited with his empowered status, he would make sure that his orders to Sudarshan were heard by all “Sudarshan, didn’t I tell you to file these yesterday? Why is it still here in the table?” and beam with pride as his little lamb trembled with his orders.)

In seconds, Sudarshan appeared in the Boss cabin, parking Appaji just outside the door, to eavesdrop on this mysterious summons.

“How busy are you?” The Boss asked Sudarshan in a tone that dictated the answer along with the question.

Sudarshan folded his hands and bent down modestly displaying his slavery which he had perfected under the aegis of Appaji.

“You need to help this boy out here. We are working on a DIP pitch. And he needs a lot of help with Kannada. You need to read out all these books to him within tomorrow morning.”

The Boss turned towards me like he was generously giving me a second chance to prove my worth to continue holding the dignified title I held.

“And you …….don’t waste time now….you need to take notes of any point that might seem essential for the ad. Let me explain, take for eg. housing,…you need to gather from this book, how many houses they actually built in the past one year!! Is that clear? Numbers are important…..so any figures….make a note of it. I want it all by tomorrow morning.”

The Boss exited in a hurry, jamming Appaji’s nose at the entrance, which he had anxiously kept pressed to the door.

The Boss explained to him “Appaji ….this boy needs your boy’s help. Some kannada help. So spare him for a day.”

Appaji nodded sheepishly, feeling empty to be flunkless for a day.

The Boss retired leaving behind the labour class to figure out the nitty gritties of this transaction.

Sudarshan crossed over and stood beside me symbolically lending the needed support, leaving Appaji alone in his flank.

Appaji glared at his son with vengeance “Sudarshan, by all means you can help him out. But don’t forget the Canara Bank estimates we need to hand over by tomorrow.”

And came close to me and whispered in my ear “Learn to handle things on your own, you young fellow.”

I hurriedly exhaled unable to handle the stink in his breath. But Appaji felt content mistaking it to be an expression of regret.

Soon, the other members of the agency cleared the field one by one, leaving Sudarshan and me staring at half a dozen annual reports that were waiting for such victims of joblessness, ever since they had been printed.

As instructed by The Boss, the office boy switched off all the mains that connected you to objects of distraction like TV, Computers and locked up the shelves that contained intimidating books like The One Show. Even the girl in media had safely tucked away all the voucher copies of exciting publications. Leaving the two of us with limited access only to switches of harmless survival gadgetry like the tubelight and the fan.

So me and Sudarshan finished our dinner and sat under the fan. Sudarshan picked up his first book of recitation and began his verbal diarrohea in a Sanskritish dialect of Kannada. The government had decided that these books could be used as a medium to preserve the purity of the language.

The annual reports were torturous to say the least. We started with ‘The Housing Department’s’ annual report. The text started a millimeter inside the bleed area in page 1 and continued breathlessly till the bottom most edge of page 187. All in 8 point size with no pictures, graphs or any form of visual relief. It looked like the writers of the book had been specifically briefed to breakdown all useful information and scatter it all over the book, so that it becomes a gripping mystery novel.

Sudarshan orated tirelessly through the night like he was reading a thrilling screenplay. He was delighted to display his fluency in the language and explained the nuances of certain words and exampled their usage through some poems he had written for his college assignments. He cribbed about the death of Kannada. And gave me an instant crash course on appreciating the language through his poetry that preached goodness in twisted ways.

He was feeling stifled with this limited exposure his masterpieces were getting. But he had decided to juice this lone member in the audience to the fullest. He waited for words in the report with which he could seamlessly digress into his poems. He seemed to have found something to keep him engaged through the night.

I was waiting to find mine.

I suffered him for about three hours and then interrupted, inviting him to participate in some gossip. “What is that Canara Bank estimate? Can Appaji not handle a simple job like that on his own!”

I was egging Sudarshan to loosen up a bit and bond over our menially similar job profiles. I had ideas in my head that could save us from this drudgery. Afterall, how difficult was it to invent a few numbers? But that needed participation in the crime. He had already given me a clue about his virtuous personality through his poems. But I still hoped that I could crumble that facade by bringing him to terms with harsh reality.

Sudarshan dodged “No no…..Appaji is very hardworking. Also he is very senior to do all this?”

“Forget all that. Are you getting paid enough? For all this donkey work…..I certainly am not. I get paid peanuts.” I confessed my shitty stature in the organisation, to create a certain comfort level between us.

“Ya. I got a good offer. They are paying me what I asked for.” Sudarshan replied not fully trusting me or the walls of the agency.

“Are you getting what you deserve?” I pushed him further hoping that his pay was as pathetic as mine.

“Yes. I am happy.” Sudarshan dismissed it quickly and returned to his recitation even more purposefully to not be seduced into pointless discussions.

I hated the honesty with which we were carrying out this irritating job. I never knew that the houses built by government in Bidar and Belgaum would haunt me through such sleepless nights.

I was trying hard to see Sudarshan’s stupidity as sincerity and be inspired by his goodness. But the boredom of the subject failed to take this motivation any further.

By now Sudarshan had even stopped giving poetic reliefs to the narration. He sensed that his digressions could make the conversation livelier, but mine were dangerous. So he decided to steer clear of this.

8_boredomI collapsed on the table by 5am unable to hear another word in that voice that hadn’t stopped for about 10 hours.

Phase 6- The ad

The ads had a format. It was simple. Arrange graphic icons of houses, electric transformers, schools etc in ascending order of their heights, to represent the growth of these departments over the years.

So year 92-93…a visual of a small house…with text underneath, 1400 houses built. Year 93-94…the same house now bigger… with the text underneath 2,100 houses built and so on and so forth.

Thankfully at Renaissance, you never had the problem of getting your brief approved. You only had to get it art directed.

Mahadeva appeared with newly spray painted illustrations of houses and electricity poles and schools, the recency of which reflected on his long fingernail, which was shining with a similar shade of colour used in one of the illustrations.

And a headline above that “MEETING EXPECTATIONS. BUILDING HOPES.” waiting to be poetically translated into Kannada by Sudarshan who was now back in the custody of Appaji, as promised. Sudarshan hid from Appaji, inside the closet that stored ‘Canara Bank Estimates’ and wrote some lines and passed them over to me. They seemed like desperate adaptations of his priceless poems he had rattled away to me the previous night. I picked one and whispered to him “This one sounds good.” Sudarshan smiled. I felt happy for him.

But I knew that the ad was nothing but a pathetic attempt at glorifying bullshit. Only I knew it. In spite of being in the trap of goodness the previous night, most of the numbers in the ad were all made up. The annual reports rarely revealed numbers. It only had adjectives like ‘almost double’, ‘surpassing the previous year’, ‘ a new milestone’, ‘stupendous’ and other words that were invented to conceal the actual. The numbers were more or less a reflection of the impact each adjective had on me. The stronger the adjective the higher the numbers. What lay before me was a graph that loosely plotted the state’s welfare based on my personal reaction to assorted adjectives.

But nobody interfered, as long as it stuck to the norm of the approved safe tried and tested ascending format.

We covered all these pieces of fiction with colourful textured handmade paper, mounted them on thick GSM boards and proudly pasted stickers of our agency to enable the gowrnamentu to pick the rightful authors to orchestrate their fantasies.

The Boss flipped the cover, and poured into the contents and commented about everything that needed no informed opinion, like the colour, fonts, kerning and friendlier territories that bordered on subjective tastes.

“Why can’t the colours of the houses get brighter and happier over the years?…Mahadeva…..comeon…I am sure you can do better than this?'”

Mahadeva took this valid suggestion and painted the houses progressively in dizzying variations of florescence.

To be contd….

Gowrnamentu adutising-part 2

crapjobPhase 3- The internal briefing

“What is the brief?’ The Boss asked, expecting nothing more than what he already knew. Afterall, he’d been in the business for way too long to expect any surprises. But he knew that he could keep morons like me motivated by feigning ignorance.

“They want an ad. A press ad. An ad about their achievements. The current government’s achievements, To make the people aware of what they have done.” I replied, stretching that single line in my notepad to its maximum length hoping that the connecting words will bring with itself some lightning of an idea.

“Interesting” replied The Boss ignoring the pessimism in my tone of voice. To him it was another opportunity to dispense his accumulated wisdom, that he had wasted on the previous year’s AE on this job.

“So they want a press ad?” he clarified knitting his eyebrows so close together till he was convinced that he has successfully contorted his idiotic appearance to that of a seemingly smart one.

“Yes sir. A press ad. A full page press ad. Some of the publications it will be in colour, the others in black and white.” I hurriedly rattled away again, hoping that this artful rephrasing of my limited notes will suddenly open up a universe of information needed for the job.

Silence.

The Boss took a long drag of his Marlboro Lights, stared at the ceiling, artistically clouding the room with smoke digging deep meanings out of every word that I had uttered.

“Hmmm….you know….” He muttered, and paused taking a minute more to reconstruct the sentence and make it sound more intelligent, so that it justified the silence that preluded it.

“Ok ….you know what….let’s take a look at last year’s ad….Mahadeva….” he summoned the longest serving employee in the agency, who had to undoubtedly be the studio manager. The only thing longer than his tenure at Renaissance, was his little fingernail that he hadn’t cut since the day he’d joined here. 

Mahadeva entered by putting on his happy to help face, that he revealed to only few.

“Can we get a copy of the DIP ad we released last year.” The Boss ordered reclining his seat to the maximum.

Mahadeva overperformed by returning with multiple copies of the last four years’ ads and laid out the spread on the table, and ironed out the creases in the paper with his freshly polished fingernail. “Sir…do you also want the half page adapts?’

“No” replied The Boss suppressing Mahadeva’s enthusiasm for displaying his housekeeping abilities.

The three of us clouded around the horrendous looking layout of the previous ad, but with expressions like we were watching a compile of the Cannes Grand Prix Winners.

“See….these are the key areas we need to focus on. Elecricity. Water. Housing. Education. Women and child welfare and development” The Boss pondered circling these key focus areas with a pen.

We agreed without really knowing what we were agreeing to. 

“Let me also try and call Mr. Desai, and see if I can get any more information.”

Mahadeva proactively clarifed the doubt that he had spotted on my face. “Desai is The Secretary’s secretary. Very helpful man. And a good friend of Boss.”

And Boss offered further proof by greeting Desai with a loud guffaw on the phone “Ha ha ha Mr Desai….It is that time of the year isn’t it? …ha ha ha ha ha..Haan did you find a house finally…..Oh very good….Vasanthanagar……that is convenient….close to office….yes yes, it is important to find a good house near to the place of work…ha ha ha ha ha..Life has changed ever since I have moved closer to the office……Ha ha ha ha ha…….ha ha ha ha ha…………hmmmm……….oh! ha ha ha ha ha! yes yes, you are right…we only get faster to work, not faster home……ha ha ha ha ha……”

The Boss casually strayed away into the neighboring room continuing his conversation as loudly, and instantly dropped the volume the minute he was convinced that his rapport with Desai was clearly established.

I had never seen the boss laughing so much before. Not even for jokes that were a hundred times funnier. But Mahadeva was overwhelmed with emotion. Over the years he had seen this client vendor relationship blossom into an undying friendship. He nudged me with his long little fingernail and said holding back his tears “You know, Boss used to personally service this account. Right from when he was of your age. I have been seeing him…..He knows them all, and it is only and only because of him that we still get the business.”

Boss returned looking visibly content with some vital clues provided by Desai.

“He says nobody has a clue.”

Mahadeva looked embarassed that the little flashback story he had just narrated did not get its deserving end.

“Which means that we do exactly what we did last year. Let’s focus on the same areas, and plot their achievements on these sectors for the current year. That’s it.”

“But where do we get that info from?”

“I have personally requested Mr. Desai to hand over copies of the annual reports of these departments. He is doing us a special favour. He’s going to give us an exclusive letter requesting the authorities to give us copies of these reports. You carry this letter with you and meet the heads of these departments. And soon we’ll have all the information that we need. Juicy information.” He concluded making it sound like these annual reports were some delicious delights.

The Boss scribbled “Social Welfare. Housing. Electricity. Water. Women and child welfare.’ on his personal letterhead that somehow resembled the paper we had used for printing a real estate client’s brochure the previous week.

He ripped off the page and handed me the prescription.

“Sir, by when do you want all this?” I enquired nervously, mentally calculating the enormity that those five innocent words carried with them.

“What’s for lunch?’ The boss screamed at the office boy.

Phase 4 – The search

Armed with a copy of Desai’s concise letter, “For advertising purposes I request you to kindly furnish a copy of the annual report to the bearer of this letter’, I was packed off with a huge bag on my shoulder, with scary expectations that it will be furnished with precious knowledge on my return.

The trip was to Vidhana Soudha, the magnificient building that housed the various departments of the government.

It is impossible to get your timing right when you are visiting government offices. You always screw up by walking in on a holiday on account of ‘Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar’s death anniversary’, or during lunch, tea time, coffee break, or when the official you want to meet is on unofficial leave.

As I walked across the never ending corridors of the beautiful Vidhana Soudha, I realised that it did not look as appealing from the inside.

I spotted the first department on my list…..Social Welfare Department.

A big room where all I could hear was the echo of a Remington typewriter in action. I followed the sound to the source and then realised why it was echoing so loudly. The room had noone except for the typist who had been engaged to make the room sound busy. An arrogant looking middle aged woman, who could have looked the same even without the help of her thick soda glasses.

“Excuse me maam” I politely interrupted her by placing a helpful finger on the fluttering page that was she was typing out of.

“What is it?” she scowled lifting her head, ignoring the kind act that I had introduced myself with, jabbing the last few keys that remained in her memory.

“I want an annual report. Who should I meet?”

She returned to the page, retraced her eyes back to the part where she was before this interruption, and got back to doing what she was being paid for.

I quietly slipped that letter of influence into her path of vision, and hoped that this reintroduction of mine would put her in her place.

“Mr Desai has sent me” I said strumming my fingers on Mr. Desai’s flourishing signature at the bottom.

She paused for a second and stared at the letter. And tossed it aside with such callousness that all the imagery I had built of Mr Desai came crumbling down in a second.

“You have to meet Mr. Nanjunda. He will come shortly. Till then you may please take your seat.” She said pointing towards a wooden chair with crisscross plastic wires, which closely resembled the one in the DIP’s office. I was struck with paranoia. I knew that these chairs were specially designed for long waits.

“Where is Mr Nanjunda?”

“He has gone for tea.”

“When did he go?”

“What for you? He’ll be here in some time, so wait till then.”

I folded the letter with lesser care than I had shown towards it before. And quietly retired into the corner that I had been relegated to.

After the six hour wait at the DIP’s office, I was now running short of topics to think about. Thankfully, the chair was located close to a table of an absentee with interesting objects within reach. A big blue bottle of glue. A bottle of correction fluid. A stamp pad with assorted seals strewn over and other interesting stationery to keep visitors engaged during the wait.

For the first one hour, I picked up a boring looking book and gave its cover an interesting design by thumbing my fingerprints all over it. I then analysed my fingerprints on various other surfaces. I carefully selected sheets that seemed unimportant, and randomly selected words in them that I felt needed correction. I stamped ‘URGENT’ on various documents with varying percentages of cyan. And finally took the liberty of stamping it on one document that needed it the most. Mr Desai’s letter.

I had put the stationery to every possible use. By now, I had even tattooed various parts of my body with seals of assorted shapes and sizes. But Mr Nanjunda never showed up.

“Maam, are you sure he’ll come?”

“I am fool or what? I told you no he’ll come.”

I then picked on the typist, and thought about her life. Could she ever fall in love? Did she always dream of being a typist? Does she hate her job as much as I hated mine? Is she as arrogant with her kids as well? Can her husband ever dominate over her? I spent some time constructing a little story arising out of these conflicting questions in my mind, waiting for Mr Nanjunda to arrive and rescue me from this story that had no scope of becoming any interesting.

After a long wait, a man who had all the makings of a Nanjunda arrived, ransacked a cupboard, and made a speedy exit with a stapler.

But the woman on the typewriter never lifted her head to see this fleeting guest.

I panicked that the Nanjunda I had been waiting for, slipped away even before I could legitimately vet his identity.

I called out to her anxisously “Excuse me maam. Was that Mr Nanjunda?”

“I told you no….to wait. He will come. Till then please dont disturb me.” She yelled back.

“Ya maam. But someone just came and went. I was only checking if that was Mr Nanjunda…..” I replied with immediate submissiveness.

“Was it because she hated Nanjunda? Or because she didn’t know or care who Mr Desai was? Or…..or could it be…that I am just a bearer of a letter…” I had found a new debate to keep my mind busy till the next Nanjunda arrived.

Another prospective candidate who even more resembled the Nanjunda I had imagined, arrived in a few minutes.

“Mr Nanjunda?” I enquired with the man himself, not bothering to seek a second opinion.

“Ya even I have come to meet him.” he replied. Slowly I began to recall his face. He was one of the Harijans in the DIP’s room. On one end I felt happy that atleast I was on the right path chasing the same things that others are chasing. On the other, I was doubting the edge my Boss had with the traitor Mr Desai, who had issued a similar letter that the man was proudly flashing around.

Finally a man arrived who was flocked by many other men. He resembled Nanjunda like nobody else could have. The typist smelt his arrival and stood up in stand by mode.

The man beside me promptly jumped up and showed him the letter he was holding “Mr Nanjunda…..what else…..the annual report.”

Mr Nanjunda threw a customary glance at the paper he was holding, and gave it to the typist.

“Give him our annual report”.

She ran to the table beside me and picked up a book with a brown cover and handed it over to the recent visitor.

I then walked up to Mr Nanjunda and showed him my letter praying that he wouldn’t notice the ‘URGENT’ stamped on it, in spite of all its relevance.

Mr Nanjunda looked at the letter unaffected by the sarcastic seal, and sighed “Oh God….how many more people…!!”

He called out to the recipient of the coveted book “Mr. Ananth….even he wants a copy of that. Sorry, but we only have one.” and then thrusted the book in my hands and instructed “go outside and take a xerox and give him the original.”

“But..sir…I was here even before him..” I mumbled not fully sure of the importance of chronology in this system.

Mr Nanjunda looked at the other man and said “Sorry Mr Ananth. Would you like to have some coffee?”

I strained my eyes to read the other man’s letter that Nanjunda was holding…

“For advertising purposes I request you to kindly furnish a copy of the annual report to Mr Ananth, our advertising partner.”

I felt stupid on discovering the reason for this discrimination. What felt even more stupid was that the book I was going to photocopy had my fingerprints smudged all over it. But I still couldn’t call it mine.

To be contd….