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….

Gowrnamentu adutising-part 1

work cartoon1

I have reached a stage now, where I can say ‘back then, in our days, it was so much tougher’. Well read my side of the story, then you’ll agree that I am well within my rights to claim that. 

With the same embarrassing dreams and stars in my eyes, I set foot into advertising with the hope that one day, I’ll be able to convert my stupid mad-ads jokes into award winning commercials that can sell any damn product. Write crazy Hinglish baselines, compose jingles, meet glamorous models, sport a ponytail, and walk around cursing the shit of every son of a gun, who had doubted my calibre for all those years. And prove to the world that ‘So what if you’ve only scraped through every exam all your life, you can still become an enviable icon that the world will bow down to’.

Facts about Edison setting his neighbour’s chicken coop on fire, and running away from school had always remained close to my heart, and boosted my confidence everytime I flunked. I could feel Edison patting my back and saying ‘Dont worry son. You are doing it all right by doing it all wrong’.

I was thrilled when I got to know that Akbar was illiterate. I was delighted when I discovered that Einstein was the worst in his class. Though I admire Edison more than Einstein, because I’ve used the bulb, but never Einstein’s theories. Oh shit! I’m digressing…..

I seeked inspiration from winners who were losers before. Only because, that gave me the liberty to continue being the way I was, for some more time.

I patiently waited for the world to dismiss me as a failure. Reduce their expectations. That was the only way I could make them notice and appreciate every tiny achievement of mine. 

But I guess that I was pinning too much hope on the genius within me to eventually surface.

Destiny took me to a place where the genius inside never needed to make an appearance. Simply because it had no role to play. 

I started off in an agency called Renaissance. An INS accredited advertising agency. Yes INS (Indian Newspaper Society) accredited. I know I have said that twice now.

But they said it over 3 times in their small 30cc ad. “WANTED COPYWRITER’ ad, for an ‘INS accredited agency’. I had little clue what INS meant. But like most abbreviations, I assumed that even this one must be something important enough.

I applied thinking that it would be a cakewalk for me. Atleast, certainly after I show them my bagful of mad-ads certificates that I had accumulated over the years. I made sure that my resume recorded every little accomplishment of mine. Except for the second prize that I had won for ‘Lemon and Spoon’ race in Grade III, which after a lot of pondering I decided to drop it from the resume, and keep it only as a special mention during the interview, in case the need occurred.

But with all that, I did manage to gain an entry into the big bad world of advertising. But not as a copywriter. But into client servicing. 

The guy who ran the place convinced me that there was a very thin line that separated the servicing blokes from copywriters, with the “Ideas can come from anywhere…..everyone is creative’ kind of bullshit speech. The average intelligence with which I had lived all my life made me naive or desperate enough to believe this crap as well. 

And I joined. With the grand title of Junior Account Executive. In short AE. Everyone loved the abbreviation more, because it phonetically resembles a South Indian way of derogatorily summoning someone ‘AyEEE…..baro illi’.

Forget what the title actually meant or what the job involved, I just hated the title. I hated the sound of it. ‘Copywriter’ just sounded so much more cool, maybe because a copywriter must have decided it. But an ‘AE’ didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  

But then I thought, what’s in a title. It’s what I make of it. Atleast, ‘I’m into advertising” sounded cool enough. 

“AE.”  I decided to live with this reassuringly cheap title. I instinctively knew that I was doing something stupid, but I convinced myself to keep it that simple.

And for a speedy induction to this subservient job profile, they decided to put me on an account that can quickly demolish all the attitude that I had so dearly acquired.

‘The government’.

I spent the first fifteen days in the agency flipping through the ‘never ever opened before’ volumes of ‘The One Show’ and ‘D & AD’. And the owner patiently let me enjoy this brief stint with fantasy, after which he flung me straight into the DIP office….which grandly expands as “The Department of Information and Publicity’.

Ya, that’s the client. The same chaps who are responsible for all those ‘poor people looking happy’ kind of ads. And we were one of the privileged agencies artworking those masterpieces for them.

The way it works with the government or rather gowrnamentu (the correct pronunciation of that here) is something else. This post can only be a feeble attempt to capture all of that.

It is a system that is so brilliantly watertight, that it makes sure that nothing you have ever learnt in life can be put to use (That was the only relief, since I didn’t have much to regret). To them advertising or rather adutising, was nothing but an added perk to boost their egos. A facility which they can use as they please, to publish their latest passport photographs along with some attractive adjectives (honorable…respected….Dr….) attached to their names. And also use it for recreation purposes, where they can get to explore their creative side. And the advertising agency was more or less an assembly of jobless screwballs, who are always eagerly waiting to convert their bizarre imaginations to artworks.

Gowrnamentu adutising. 

To begin with, the client sits in a building that is sandwiched between the Indian Express and The Hindu. The governmentish part in this side of town. Buildings that boasted of timeless architecture and even more timeless inhabitants.

Where even the parking attendants would use you as an opportunity for timepass. They’d open the gate for you, and patiently wait till you fully parked your vehicle, and then tell you “saar, visitors vehicles not allowed”.

Where the attendants at the canteen would pour half the sambar outside the plate with a scowl on their faces that effortlessly translated the thought behind the action “So what else do you expect for your shitty six bucks, you subsidized scum”.

Where even the peon believed that you were specially selected and sent to him, so that he can practice and perfect his role of authority, before he is found deserving enough to be handed one. 

Let me divide the entire process of ‘Gowrnamentu adutising’, into the many phases so that the agony is well balanced in all its parts. Think of this as my little bit to make you feel much nicer about what you are doing right now.

Phase 1 – The pitch

To begin with, we get a call from DIP. ‘We’ is the agency. And then an ‘I’ is picked in that ‘WE’ to entertain them. The youngest goat in their livestock that they don’t mind sacrificing is sent to the gallows.

The ‘One Shows’ and the ‘D&ADs’ are snatched and flung into a far off corner.

And replaced with a humble ‘Amar notepad’ and Nataraj pencil. And you are packed off with this sufficient ammunition to the cattle-field. 

Once you get there, you are lead into a strange room by a sniggering peon. Dressed in a ‘once upon a time white shirt’, a tilted Gandhi cap, and rubber chappals held together with a safety pin. A typical peonish uniform, thoughtfully designed and enforced by the senior officials, so that the visitors don’t end up unnecessarily wasting their respect on him and keep it preserved for the right officials who are seated inside.  He ushers you into a huge room with wooden chairs arranged alongside the walls, with an expanse of empty area in the middle, where even the fans choose to air the vacuum in the centre, rather than waste it on you.

This incidentally, is the waiting room outside the cabin of The Man who has summoned you. The Man who will bestow upon you his precious brief, the one that will enable your agency to pay you your salary, the following month.

The Secretary.

An important looking man jots down your agency’s name in a shorter convenient spelling on his scribble pad and subtly gestures you to take a seat.

You then pick your seat amidst the various fellow harijans, and patiently wait for your turn. They all belong to other similar INS agencies, who’s owners have some distant relation in the government. And if you count, they’ll roughly add up to about 40 of them. A small meeting ground of sorts, for people who performed badly, through their school and college.

An invigilator is designated to check on the behaviour of these inmates, and reprimand them accordingly.

“Spit your gum outside.” (Slip down by 4 positions in the queue.)

“Stop shaking your leg.” (Slip down by another 2.)

The same peon who admitted you to this dispensary, now reappears in a more dominating role, announcing the names of the agencies, turn by turn. And disappears quickly leaving you undisturbed to pensively regret your past doings under the noisy sound of the airless fan. 

The amount of time that each candidate spends in the room varies in extremes and the randomness in which the names are called out have nothing got to do with the order in which it has been jotted down. 

So, you patiently wait for your turn that is slotted with such suspenseful uncertainly, that it could threaten to occur exactly at that time when you choose to go grab a smoke or a bite.

So you have nothing better to do than control every other urge of yours, and instead indulge in a meandering conversation with your neighbour, where you analyse how different journeys can lead to such a similar fate. You then compare notes of your life with his and evaluate for yourself if it is justified.

Only after you have covered every conceivable form of killing time in that minimalistic room, will you hear the announcement you’ve been waiting for.

‘Renisan adutising’ the peon will call out, giving you time only till he figures out the pronunciation of the next name in the list.

The prompt respondents will then be given an entry into the heavenly gates (a squeaky half door with spring action) of ‘The Secretary’. If you were observant, by now you would have learnt that the right pose to make an entry is with the pencil tip inches away from the open note pad. A vivid display of your enthusiasm for the business. And also to jot down any precious gems that might accidently slip through the paan dripping mouth of The Secretary.

Studying the faces of the previous entrants, I had figured out the pattern. The ones who looked smarter spent lesser time inside than the dumber looking ones. The reason was simple. The dumber ones made ‘The Secretary’ look smarter. So he spent more time with them. The more confident you look, the lesser of a confidante you seem. A lesson I only learnt after the first few interactions.

Phase 2 – The Briefing

“May I come in sir?’

“Yes”

“You called us?”

“Yes. Because we want ad”

“What ad?’

That is a meaningless question to The Secretary. According to him the briefing is over. This is unnecessary interrogation. But he chooses to be forgiving in the beginning. 

“Press ad”.

The information is always disseminated in installments. The Secretary is clear that he’s not there to clear your unclarity.

But since you are still unclear about his clarity, you idiotically probe further.

“Color or b/w”

“Some color. Some b/w”

“What is the ad about?’

“About our achievements”

“What are your achievements?”

That is the final question. You have just revealed your ignorance. You are just another cliche example of a brash youngster who has turned a blind eye to all the stupendous accomplishments of the men in power, and conveniently bracketed them as bureaucratic scoundrels.

None of this is said.

It is a conversation that has transpired purely by “the way he looked at you, looking at him. And the way you looked at him, looking at you.”

“Next.” he jams the bell on his table in a manner that communicates to the experienced peon, that he want you OUT, more than he wants the next person in. 

And you walk out with that one easily memorizable line in your nice smelling notepad, weighed down with the strange pressure that the unused blank pages are adding on you.

“Ad. Color/ b/w. About achievements.”

“But that’s the deal. It works like this.” explained a slightly more experienced fellow Harijan to me, bonding over that mutually beneficial Gold Flake King, that we planned to share after we finished our respective sessions. 

“It’s like a competition, my friend. A guessing game of sorts. About 40 agencies are called. And everyone is briefed. The same ‘we want ad’ brief. And everyone is given the same deadline of 3 days.

The game is simple.

1. You need to guess what the ad is about?

2. You then need to find information that can back your guess.

3. And then you need to make an ad and present it to them.

4. All the submissions are taken to Vidhana Soudha, where a secret jury selects the ad that is believably closest to their manifesto,  even if it is farthest from the truth.

5. The winning agency gets to release the ad in Engish dailes since they are the most expensive.

6. The artwork of the winning ad is distributed to the other participating agencies.

7.The rest of them have to bargain and negotiate for the remaining dailies and release the ad.

It’s a weird system. But that is the system that they are most comfortable with. 

So the trick is to find the right people and get the maximum information possible that is required for making the ad.”

But nobody knows what is the information needed. Nobody knows who has this information. And nobody knows how to get it out from them.

DHAN-TE-DAN……the search now begins…….part 2