Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pimp my PR

Simple digital tactics which add that little extra ‘oomph’ to your traditional PR campaign

1) Disseminate press releases on free news wires

Free online press wires can prove to be a handy tool to reach out to target audiences. These distribution services offer a simple solution to generate coverage online.

A brief registration process and few hours of wait is all it takes to publish your release directly on to these platforms. The wonder of push button publishing ensures that the process is relatively hassle-free and 99% confirmed.

Most free PR wires have a respectable web reach with updates searchable on Google, Blog searches, Yahoo and other search engines along with certain blogs and websites which mirror this content. Also it can be used to increase traffic to a website by search engine optimization (SEO).

Some of the popular PR wires are IndiaPRwire, 24-7 press release,, Sane PR, Newswire Today , etc.

2) Create SMS channels

Social networking has hopped, skipped, jumped and landed on to the dazzling mobile phone. Services such as SMS Gupshup and Google SMS Channels allow you to create a SMS stream catering to a specific topic, sector or company.

So by creating an ‘IPL updates’ group or channel open to subscription, one can forward messages to every constituency of stakeholders with a mobile phone like journalists, analysts, important influencers, etc.

For instance, a day before a major press conference one can just type in the details on the platform online and send it to the entire community which subscribes to the channel as an SMS. Most journalists would gladly be a part of such groups.

3) Video / Photo uploads

This is the often repeated, much abused advice that any social media user will offer in order to increase brand awareness – “Upload your damn videos on YouTube!!”

Now the tricky part is to choose videos you want to put out there, in line with the corporate identity, open to scrutiny and acidic comments within a social eco system.

The same can be done on photo sharing websites such as Flickr, Picasa, etc.

4) Share documents

A journalist or an analyst will forever be indebted if you took up the job of managing client documents for him/ her.

Online document sharing platforms such as DocStoc, SlideShare, Scribd, etc. can act as a repository of documents, a one stop shop for press releases, backgrounders, boiler plates, profiles, etc. for a corporate or individual.

Content sharing is many times done on the corporate website itself, but web 2.0 platforms provide the added advantage of a community and a social network for user comments, feedback.

5) Cross promote links by e-mails

Most conversations which amount to an activity between an urban PR professional and a journalist or an analyst takes place through e-mail. Attaching a client dossier to every email will not only overload the journalist’s mailbox but also, and most importantly, irritate him or maybe hurt his much cherished ego.

So instead of a heavy file, paste a link to documents, pictures and videos from any of the above platforms so that they can be accessed from any location and without much load on the mailbox. This ensures that the endless wait due to limited bandwidth or document size is evaded.

These are just the basic steps that one can take to added a bit of digital pizzazz to traditional PR practices. The digital medium is limitless and the possibilities endless. The only real barrier is initiative…

Friday, October 03, 2008

Like, stuff and thing

Corporate communication on new media platforms must transcend the ‘blah’ and transform to the ‘quirky and incoherent’.

If every alternate phrase that you speak is not interjected with either of the above three words, namely, ‘like’ stuff’ or ‘thing’ you may find the following a little difficult to digest. For the rest, it’s show time!

This is not a comment on the vocabulary skills, or the lack thereof, of the Indian cosmopolitan youth who is touted to be the future leader and more importantly an active participant in the economically fundamental process of currency flow. Namely, he or she will be the future decision maker, the new consumer which makes this entity an important stakeholder.

The drudgery of going through 15 years of higher education and a B-school or a finishing school after that chips away at the very instinct that craves to exclaim ‘awesome dude’ at a job well done. These foot soldiers enter the corporate world with the pressure to suppress every impulse to talk in their erstwhile lingo and adopt a somewhat uncomfortable formal tone which is mostly and at times rightly rewarded with a pat on the back.

This is indeed a necessity, if you wish to be taken seriously in the corporate world. But with time, the habit of parroting taught speech pattern has left an entire corporate level clueless as to how to communicate with the audiences engaged in virtual markets that communicate, buy, sell and create products and ideas on new media platforms.

Every communications professional worth his salt knows the importance of adapting to new lingo and cultures to get their message across. In public relations, this skill becomes even more crucial as our bread and butter and the all too vital umpteen mugs of industrial strength filter coffee depend on it.

Amidst the corporate cauldron of formal conversations you are most likely to run into a paunchy jovial guy in mid 40s, cracking dirty jokes and discussing the latest version of Halo on Xbox with fresh recruits in their early 20s. While the rest of us wonder what makes him click with the ‘cool’ crowd, the young ones already have a ‘rock star’ to worship.

Social media platforms have changed the face of influencers in our globalized economy. Ideas are not restricted to geographies, markets are no longer a physical universe and paper is no longer the currency. In this space, conversation and relationships are the new forms of currency.

A blogger may not respond to a formal pitch note which says ‘…please publish this after due consideration…Thanking you in anticipation…’ and as such. Instead, try leaving relevant comments on his blog posts and telling him that his blog is ‘way too cool’. Engage him on a social networking site (say Facebook) about his likes, dislikes and interests. You may find that he is much more receptive about the idea of receiving your company updates and eventually writing about it on his blog.

‘Social media marketing’ or ‘conversational marketing’ is about interacting with your target audiences. The key is to make every conversation personal and at the same time relevant to a mass audience. It is necessary to immerse oneself in the community, be an active participant and then expect acceptance of your thoughts and views.

Adapting online cultures, assimilating oneself in its evolving ecosystem provides that valuable insight which lends to the communication structure best suited for the environment.

Be warned, that every individual is different and a single solution cannot be used as a yard stick for all digital communications queries. Think on your feet, innovate and be creative in your replies and posts. Importantly, be unhesitating, persistent and relevant.

So for a lot of us who spent a lot of time blogging, commenting on fellow blogger’s posts, hopping from an Orkut to a Facebook to a twitter and generally whiled time on digital and social media platforms that came to be collectively known as Web 2.0, there is still hope! The rest need to catch up.

Connect with me at:
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Social media relevance poll

Take the poll below to determine the response to social media and digital PR in branding for Indian corporates:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guerrilla PR

A form of ‘guerrilla warfare’ against big budgets and larger brands, ‘guerrilla PR’ is an effective tool to combat peer group branding activities.

The concept of guerrilla advertising and guerrilla marketing has been around for a while now. The practice essentially comprises of targeting specific focus groups through a controlled effort by initiating spurts of high intensity campaigns sporadically keeping in mind the industry scenario and peer group activities.

The result in terms of brand association and end-customer engagement has been encouraging. This is music to the marketers in a sluggish economy that a broader impact can be achieved with a minimal budget!

We see examples of this on business pages everyday where a small banner of a capital market listed company is placed in the centre of the article which talks about biggest stock gainers of the day with associated tag line ‘Biggest gainers choose …’

Contextually placing ads to leverage content for a brand is a common practice in the digital space. Google along with many Social Networking Sites (SNS) have monetized their business and made a fortune by offering user profiles and activity details which help in placing contextually relevant advertisements.

Public relations thrives on user connect and third party endorsement which makes the maxim ‘influencing the influencers’ a functional necessity. In PR target audiences and media based on client brief are defined at the strategy and planning stage.

Niche audience targeting is a more specific and precise science than the general ‘spray and pray’ method generally practiced. Can traditional PR practitioners develop messages and campaigns which can be leveraged at key moments in a company’s business cycle keeping in mind the organizations environment and arrive at a viable business proposition viable to the company?

Here, social media can be a handy tool to conduct sporadic campaigns which are targeted specifically and engineered towards maximum consumer engagement. Brand building and sustenance of perception through consumer engagement has become a flatter process for organizations as they can initiate contact with a consumer directly rather than relying on an influencer to carry forward their messages.

A form of ‘guerrilla warfare’ against big budgets and larger brands, ‘guerrilla PR’ is an effective tool to combat peer group branding activities.

The nature of the medium aids in implementing simple, tactical digital media practices to leverage a brand for a short-term and long-term, as well. For instance, during crisis when a negative link to a company appears on the first search page on Google, a new positive release is disseminated online to bury the link in older pages. This is just indicative of the broader possibility and is already practiced by many traditional PR firms.

Guerrilla PR can bring about a sweeping change in traditionally accepted PR practices and redefine the communications business. In times of an economic slowdown where advertising and PR budgets are taking a hit across the board, can the business offer customized solutions which are cost-effective and help the company to achieve its branding goals.

The change is just around the corner. Are we there yet?

Friday, August 22, 2008

As newsprint prices undergo steep rise, is digital the final solution

Business Standard has carried a story today which says that due to rising newsprint prices leading publication houses are deferring their new edition launch plans and increasing their advertising rates.

Newsprint prices have risen by 50% over the past 6 months which mirrors the global scenario of the print sector. Until now, India was an anomaly to the global trend of decreasing newspaper circulation and ad rates. India, a booming media market, with market projection predicting bullish trends for the next two quarters may undergo revision.

Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has asked its members to reduce its newsprint usage by 20%. This downward trend puts a serious question mark over the proposed plans of many mainstream publication houses in India, as the report suggest.

It has been long suggested that the newspaper in its current form will soon be extinct and be replaced by other digital mediums like mobile, internet, digital kiosks and tablets, etc. This may be an early sign.

Technological innovation has changed the media business time and again. As Marshal McLuhan famously proclaimed, ‘medium is the message’.

Social media, the much abused yet little understood term, may be the next big wave to define the way we imbibe and consume information. This virtual congregation of masses to connect and share thoughts, ideas with each other will perforce necessitate that news dissemination also undergoes a change to cater to these new media audiences.

With these changes inevitable, the business of engaging with the media will also change. This is where specialized new media practitioners will enable entities to engage with a tome of dynamic, coagulating yet disintegrated mass.

The writing is on the wall, it is time we start preparing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Continuing the debate: Todd Defren says...

I was reading Brain Solis’s Essential Guide to Social Media this morning where he emphasizes the need of being immersed in a social community to be accepted and become a part of it. Only this would eventually lead to a sustainable relationship.

To further the observer and user debate, Todd Defren posts that those who are using social media tools to monitor brands, influencers and conversations (in that order because for most that is the priority hierarchy) must be empowered.

I agree with this view, even though deliverables in social media can be measured effectively, is widely considered an ‘all fart no shit’ exercise. So the need is to find that connect with consumers, the end-users, which is must more often than not due to decision levels and dependency which delay the process of engaging.

But you can take it further, into the realm of “Actionable Listening.” The difference here is that the folks doing the listening/responding are empowered to effect change within their organization, on customers’ behalf.

Read on: Actionable listening vs. active listening

Brain Solis, Todd Defren

Friday, August 08, 2008

Social media divide: User versus observer

In the ever expanding social media space, there is an inevitable chicken and egg question? Do you need to be a social media user to devise online brand strategies or would suffice being an online media observer?

Public Relations practitioners in the traditional media space need not be active participants. Most PR firms are keen to have ex-journalists on their roll, as they have the real world knowledge of actual practices in media. It is easier for an ex-journo to conjure all possible story ideas and sector updates which could be carried in news during lean news days. Also, a media relations as a function becomes relatively easy as most of them share a level of camaraderie and bonhomie with the media.

But, this is not the case with most PR professionals. They are merely observers or at best consumers of mass media with no active involvement in the process of creating content or the real world experience of working in a media firm or a publication house.

New media professionals can merely observe and implement brand strategies by imbibing dispersed knowledge across the web. But is it necessary for them to be active participants and users of web 2.0 tools?

Being an interactive medium, it is relatively easier to be involved with a broad spectrum of platforms and tools in social media space. So, PR persons can acclimatize to the new world order by engaging their audiences themselves.
Also, being a part of the community would help in greater acceptance amongst peer group, communities and potential influencers making PR component an extension of the online persona.

One is clued into new technologies and emerging avenues of message dissemination by being in the know rather than merely accept redundant tools which are no longer effective.

The benefits of being an active participant rather than merely being an observer are obvious. At the same time it is very simple to be a poser in new digital space as the general discourse is easily available.

What defines the two is quality. This will differentiate the posers and pseudo practitioners from the real users and knowledge experts who are clued in. The quality will determine the eventual pay out and survival of the lot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Big Pharma f*ck-ups

Amidst the chaos caused by serial bomb blats in Bangalore and Ahmedabad over the weekend along with the continuing onslaught of torrential rains in Mumbai, the lead story in Mint today completes the trinity of morose news here in India.

The headline reads ‘India fails to report drug side effects’ with the following summary - No adverse reactions to any drugs reported from 2005-07; govt concedes drug makers aren’t reporting either.

This may not come as a shock to those tracking the Indian Pharma story beyond the high profile deals and the ‘immense growth potential’ which most media and analyst reports harp about.

With a severe talent crunch affecting the so called booming Indian Pharma industry, knowledgeable gatekeepers of good policy are few and far between. The Indian judiciary system and policy makers must be credited with the fact that they have held up the independent nature of Indian Pharma Co’s at crucial junctures (the Glivec patent challenge is a case in point).

But, the fact remains that we have not invested enough in resources or infrastructure to ensure that all drug manufacturers adhere to what is known as ‘Good Clinical Practices’ in industry parlance.

India might be the most lucrative opportunity that overzealous Big Pharma is orgasmic about due to its huge population which makes it a thriving petri-dish of a multitude of diseases. To conduct clinical trials in this geographic constituency is the most lucrative business option that Pharma companies have.

But, isn’t it a reason more so for the governing bodies to protect its citizens from the most obvious harm. What we are talking about here is merely a side-effect to drugs not being categorically reported and documented. Such adverse reactions are believed to be the fourth largest cause of mortality and morbidity globally and that simple act, as the report suggest, could aid in saving millions of lives.

‘Drugs typically throw up newer side effects than were known during clinical trials once they begin to be administered across large groups of patients. Collecting this data is crucial for patient safety as well as fine-tuning medical research.’

It’s time that the DCGI takes cognizance of this fact and adequate measures, processes are put in place to correct such a gross oversight.

Mint article link

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The purpose of fragmented opinion

Voices in MSM (Main Stream Media) seem to rise in unison on issues which may be acceptable to a social dynamic.

Various opinions surface on blogs, which may be nebulous in their understanding, but within those limitations dare to transcend beyond convention. A bastion of rebellion, or so it may be perceived, descends into opinions which may not be purposefully relayed in the mainstream space.

Hunter Thompson famously said, “There is not enough room for dissenting voices…” May be this medium can offer that elusive outlet for a thought which may change the world.

P.S. Small post, think at will

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thought for the day

There is nothing more tragic than the silent demise of a dream

Monday, June 30, 2008

Thought for the day

'In a developing free market economy, an intellectual is someone who prefers Camembert along with his scones and freshly brewed coffee even if he can't make rent.'

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Urban Wars: Revenge of the cockroach

With growing economic independence, the urban landscape is being continually altered. This leads to an interesting subset of micro issues that add to the idiosyncrasies of living in a chaotic city.

Urban warriors awaken at the crack of dawn, preparing themselves for the struggle that lies ahead. They step forward with steely resolve to survive another day. The blue sky above bears witness to this haloed battleground where each individual is left to fend for oneself.
Darwin is redeemed everyday as in this battle only the fittest survive.

The sound of rubber grinding away at asphalt brings a new found hope to this bemused tribe. The open road provides enough traction for the common chariot to halt at a mild signal by the lone trooper, which is commonly agreed upon to be an indication of shared camaraderie.

But alas, the trooper is left waiting, staring into the horizon, longing for another chance. The sight of white smoke rings glowing at a distance bring with it new possibilities.

Travel travails

In Mumbai, an average person travels at least for one and a half hour using a broad spectrum of transport options to earn a livelihood. This dramatic scene fairly describes the plight of the urban trooper who is dependent on a rickshaw to get to his next mode of transport.

The local trains are bestowed upon with the title of being the ‘spine’ or ‘lifeline’ of Mumbai and with good reason. The monstrous metal organism spews millions of rodents on to the streets of this congested city. Lugging them from far flung places and scattering the load in all directions.

The humble bus service run by the BEST is the backbone of road based public transport in the city. But, it is the auto rickshaw which is witnessing a new resurgence and wielding enough clout to leave a person stranded and perplexed.

The auto rickshaw known by its many names like ‘auto’, ‘tuk-tuk’ or just simply ‘rick’ is anointed with a very apt title by the urban dweller, ‘cockroach’. Like the roach, the auto is unruly, ugly to look at, spews grotesque waste and has an uncanny ability to survive even the most devastating swats inflicted upon it.

They are everywhere, infesting roads, taunting the bystander with their yellow and black hideous exterior. Unlike the majestic taxi, which has come to blend into the fabric of the city, the rickshaw sticks out like a sore thumb.

It is relatively easy to romanticize about a cab ride on a rainy
South Bombay day, across the washed, splendid streets and overlooked upon by beautiful facades of age old structures. It is equally difficult to withstand the rickshaw. The taxi is the loved daughter while the rickshaw is a bastard child.

The roach strikes back

With economic confidence comes the aspiration of a better, comfortable and seemingly seamless life. The new converts benefiting from their interactions with the market perceive the rickshaw to be a symbol of this initial upgrade in lifestyle. The contention is that we haven’t arrived yet, but sure are on the way!

This is wherein, lies the rub. Disposable income has made such ‘comforts’ seem mandatory for better living. Of course, you are better with your own car, but if not, this is the next best thing. It is the Indian middle-class’s noble chariot.

Even though riding in these three-wheeled cantankerous beasts is hardly a comfortable experience on pot holed riddled roads, a true rick addict will tell you that it beats traveling by the bus by a mile.

This results in those endless battles in peak hours for a rickshaw to get to work or jut to the railway station. The entire focus is to get the driver’s attention by any means possible. And you are left at the mercy of the rick guy to pick you!

In the last few months, I feel the situation has worsened. Hordes of angry workers during peak hours throng the streets of
Bombay in search of this affordable and yet elusive mode of transport. The BEST buses on the route I travel are almost empty.

This ungainly sight of a mass of people trying to outwit each other with their different strategies to attract a rickshaw for themselves seems ridiculous, especially when witnessed from the window of an empty bus with lots of room to accommodate these tiresome troopers.

In an urban jungle personal space is a rare commodity. This may be one of the reasons that drive people to travel by a rickshaw, as opposed to a bus, so as to have his or her own personal space. Each pore on a body is aware of the existence of its counterpart on another while traveling en mass via public transport. The thronging masses seldom leave an individual alone.

Whatever may be the fate of the humble rickshaw in the coming times, its position in history is assured as the chariot of the middle class. It is the bastion of personal travel and enterprise, the symbol of an individual’s initiation towards economic prosperity.

As the cliché goes love them, hate them but you sure can’t ignore them.

Perpetual state of flux tends to equipoise social order

Most of the polity is in a state of constant flux in a socially conscious robust evolving economy. The ensuing chaos may be the key to functional social order

Even as the unbridled romp of free market philosophies ravage through this vast wasteland, a new breed emerges which brings with it hope, faith, compassion and social consciousness. The select few who chose to abhor consumer instincts in a vibrant economy and want to do right by the less fortunate. Social justice must prevail is their vehement demand and pledge to fight relentlessly towards large moral goals.

Economic liberalization has not broken the spirit of the urban few who truly believe that social parity is of prime importance. Amidst increasing disparity there seems to be a new voice of compassion which attempts to uphold the core values of humanity.

But there is a huge gulf between the presumed utopia and ground realities. The stark contrast could not be more apparent and yet they say we are on a ‘sustainable growth path’ which will bring us prosperity and ‘economic freedom’ to every individual who walks this ‘haloed land’.

If the new conscious is emerging then why are these voices not being heard? Or is there a need to consider a more plausible possibility of those presumed voices being non-existent? Are we delusional and beginning to hear imaginary things?

Do we perceive what they want us to perceive? Are we content in not questioning the systems beyond a point which would make it uncomfortable for us to face the answers?

The newly disoriented enter this environ with naïve hope. The noises made are right. These may be inclusive of all reasoning that must be considered before making broad assumptions.

With economic opportunities on one hand and the will to contribute to socially relevant issues on the other, the choice is fairly an easier one. The ensuing conflict is difficult to navigate.

It is in this state of constant flux that most exist. The odd humane gesture that one may come across in this largely callous, individualistic society emanates from this Kapraesque complexity.

Those firmed up to either rhetorical consonants of thinking are vying for the triumph of their agenda. The disoriented merely swing from one side to the other, feeding the frenzy that ensues in this perennial battle of ideological supremacy. The accepted norms are interchanged along with the ever changing mind space. Distorted reality becomes the basis for future corrections rendering them inviable, non sustainable.

The crucial role this polity plays in defining the destiny of a society cannot be ignored. At the same time, the human race may benefit at large from this critical mass of populace in constant flux, as this would ensure enough space of constant systemic evolution.

So, those confined in this compounded state of confusion may revel as the newly disoriented will remain so until the paradigm of direction changes. The voices may not be heard but their existence is proven by the dynamic nature of the system.

This may not be Utopian, but it tends to a state of balanced governance and systemic social parity. In chaos, clarity reigns supreme.

Blank noise

You can run but you can’t hide. They entice you to buy or sell something or go somewhere or just want you to know that they exist. They relentlessly pursue your last buck and even when they have it, it’s not enough. Then they want to give you their money for a while so you can go ahead and feed the system. They want their money back, of course, albeit with an interest.

It is not only the corporates or even a common advertiser that I am talking about. Also, the conversations which revolve around the same damn thing, the disturbingly stupid get who insists on testing his mobile phone ring tones in a miserably crowded train, the constant chatter about issues that nobody really gives a damn about and so on and so forth. I could go on, but I guess you get the point

The concept of individual space is completely lost in a city like Mumbai. Before you scream bourgeois elitist, let me tell you that I love the city and its crammed trains, just spare me from the incessant bullshit!

The constant messages to which a common person is subjected to are multiplying by the minute. Like a virus replicating till the entire space in infested with the disease.

The entire expanse is riddled with bullet holes on a clear canvas of lush green tress under the canopy of the bright blue sky.

We are to blame ourselves for it. The obsession to keep oneself entertained has reached its crescendo. It begins from television for all, a book for the discerning kind, an i-pod for the young yuppie, the internet for the socially challenged and last but certainly not the least a mobile phone for the perennially bored. The entire objective is to keep oneself occupied so as to stop the possibility of thought at its inception.

‘The century of self’ as Adam Curtis would put it, is truly evolving into a heightened social chaos promulgated at an individual level. And to a great extent it is all self-inflicted.

The natural environs are cluttered with hoardings, blaring noise, LCD screens, posters, a discourse on the public announcement system, advertisements on vehicles, blinding neon signs, etc. The shared commons are defaced by this irreverent abuse.

Who gave them the right to scar my landscape with such grotesque imagery meant purely to extract a premium for a service offered? I certainly didn’t! When did we as a society decide it was alright to put up blatant propaganda instead of conserving the scenic beauty which nature has to offer every living species on this planet?

This may not go down well with my ilk but am suffering from severe media fatigue. I don’t want to read another paper, watch television, surf the net, plug in to my i-pod or answer my phone.

Silence has become a rare commodity and so also natural, uncluttered scenery.

I delve deep into my soul and look up, only to realize that the world has changed and they call it evolution, progress, better living. You decide.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The President of India DR. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam 's Speech in Hyderabad . *

Below is a reproduction of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's speech meant for everyone here in India, who at one point or the other asked 'What has this country done for me'

Why is the media here so negative?Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?We are the first in milk production.We are number one in Remote sensing satellites.We are the second largest producer of wheat.We are the second largest producer of rice.Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self-driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news.

In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE? Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign T. Vs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology.

Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance? I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied: I want to live in a developed India . For her, you and I will have to build this developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation. Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance.

Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.YOU say that our government is inefficient.YOU say that our laws are too old.YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage.YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke,The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.

YOU say, say and say. What do YOU do about it?Take a person on his way to Singapore . Give him a name - YOURS. Give him a face - YOURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best. In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground links as they are. You pay $5 (approx. Rs. 200) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity... In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai.

YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, 'see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else.'YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop,'Jaanta hai main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost.' YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand.Why don't YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo? Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston???

We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India?

Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay, Mr.Tinaikar , had a point to make. 'Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place,' he said. 'And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with a broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels?In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job.Same in Japan .

Will the Indian citizen do that here?'

He's right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility.We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick a up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms.

We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity.This applies even to the staff that is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, and girl child! And others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? 'It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry.' So who's going to change the system?What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbors, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU.

When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr.Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away.Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.

Dear Indians, The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too.... I am echoing J. F. Kennedy’s words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians.....


Lets do what India needs from us.

Thank you,
Dr. Abdul Kalaam

Gems from the Train

Somehow, the daily morning commute affects me more than the other trivialities i experience all day. It has such an impact either because its the first assault in the morning on my (somewhat)sleep refreshed brain or maybe because it is rather profound (only no one realises it except me of course). Anyways from this week onwards I plan to share these gems which I see, hear and experience, most mornings in the ladies first class compartment virar to churchgate, 1 and a half hour of uninterrupted cacophony and mindless laughter coupled with a few unmentionable things which will spoil the spirit of my blog so i choose to let them be.

I dont know if there ought to be a corresponding section on 'Travails in the Gents Compartment', but the ladies are hilarious in their own right. Call it naieveity, or pettiness, the bottomline is undivided entertainment if have ur funny bone in its right cant help getting ticked. Tho tickled is a mild word to use in context if u can call being squashed till ur ribs interlock in a mass of heaving scrambling humanity ...bein tickled...well...good for u. In addition to being assailed with all kinds of perfumes, deos and talcum powders, gajras and assorted hair-oils, ur also bombarded with every variety of senseless humour and yes, also other banalities which make u cringe. Also unherd of beauty treatments and a healthy dose of gossip and snide comments, some sotto voce and some not so discreet. No sense is left unassaulted.

So here are some of my own experiences heard in real-time...recounted

Gems from the train:

Lady !: Aye, Sujata ur wearing black today!!!!
Sujata: Haan re…ur wearing white…
Lady !: We are black and white today. (Squeals of helpless laughter)
(I fail to see the humour in that)

Lady !: (To the lady in front of her) Take your hairs that side no..
Lady 2: (sweeping her hair onto one shoulder) Its not that big ok…
Lady !: But its still hurting me…
(Hairs??? Big hairs??? Hair capable of hurting ppl?????)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Inner sanctum

The constant flow of thoughts in my conscious mind represents an existential paradox. The desire to detach from the external grows stronger with every shred of thought which necessitates one to align with it.

The conversations I have are my own. They are not required to be shared, deliberated, pondered upon, endure eventual judgment or require any justification. A world isolated from the vile realities that attempt to abrogate innate voices.

The chaotic influx of random thoughts compels an individual to make a choice which is immediate and correlates with the external environment. At this juncture, the irreverent chaos does not subside but is actively subdued into oblivion. A selective cognizance of reality leads to skewed perceptions forming notions which may not be truly rooted in the universal reality as opposed to an individuals contained reality.

The instinct for survival in a dynamic universe necessitates that such decisions are deliberated upon and consciously taken to surmount any given situation in the smallest amount of time. In totality, a layer of such choices define an individual’s course of existence. The summation of momentary choices is the life that we live.

The chaotic voices still exist and will continue to do so ad infinitum. Also, the circumstantial subjugation of these free, unfettered voices proves restrictive in terms of original thought. The scope of an individual to interact with oneself is restricted to determinate choices and mostly underscores a gross falsification of perceived commonality with the external environment.

The sequential ignorance of the inner sanctum leaves a void within, widening the space between an individual and the perceptions that one holds as a result of external influences. A dialogue with oneself is necessary to align the basic cognitive processes responsible for a balanced understanding of the internal and the external.

These conversations laced with unbridled truth and ample influences expunged from interactions with the environment are the sole witnesses of a cognitive function on progression. To abandon it for an obsession with conformity in order to circumvent situational demands may deter the long term thought process that every individual is capable of.

The sanctum sanctorum exists as a premise to converse with life. A poignant reminder of intellectual existence.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Around

My world is a better place
Because you are around
Somewhere in the future
Though you're making no sound

Brightening my sunshine
Stretching horizons so
Adding mellow lights to
Fading dusks and more

Youa are around and I can hear
Sounds of seas in their shells near
Velvet soft and passion bright
Adding lustre to every night

You are around and thoughts abound
Of sun-swept bluffs and bright blue bells
Of tumbles rough down snowy mounds
And rushing to ur waiting arms

You are around and sights abound
Of eyes at once light and deepest brown
Of ringing bells and white-washed towns
Of smiles always and just no frowns

You around and me with my feet
Planted firmly on God's own ground
Can feel my spirit soaring high
High up among the soaring clouds

Its a case of lost and found
With you around
I seem to have found
The beginning of a circle round.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monkey see, monkey do: Death of an opinion

The internet is in a state of frenzy. After the dust has settled down on the general euphoria surrounding ‘social media’ and the ‘blog’ revolution in India it is time to take stock of the situation at hand.

The blog is supposedly a tool to revolutionize thought, message dissemination and freedom of opinion. The panacea to unbridled thought, free expression at its ridiculous best!

But the irony is the fact that most bloggers, including some bastions of independent opinion, regurgitate the same repetitive fare dished out across the board. The concept of individuality which the haloed blog is supposed to uphold is drastically convoluted to function as a generic voice which reflects all other noise absorbed randomly.

The boon of technology is replication of data with a miniscule effort, somewhat like an organism which replicates its genes to form new characteristics. Individuality revels in this unique progression. Evolution ensures survival.

But, this very fact can become a sorry excuse to mirror someone else’s thoughts, concepts and ideas and pass them off as one’s own.

Original work, I feel, is quite an overrated commodity. Derivative work forms a major chunk of all new developments, thoughts that appear. These may seem sporadic and unrelated but the genesis of the same could be traced in a primitive form to a source. This hindrance of reaching the right source is what most bloggers bank on to reach deep into their pits and spew the most generic bile that one could muster on to their blinking pretentious screens.

I do not claim to be any different but yes, I do give due credit to the source.

The medium is at crossroads. Its evolution is largely dependent on the unbridled freedom that it has enjoyed till now. But, credibility has remained a contentious issue. Should we have some sort of gatekeepers to mind this space? Is regulation in the offing to make some sense of this chaotic environment? Or should the message never be controlled, let the ravaging romp of words, ideas continue to pierce through a cross section of cultures.

I am not quite sure whether aligning your self with a blog search, or a group or a creative commons license is the best approach for this medium. Aren’t we evolving through similar systems which exist in current
MSM space?

The tendency of a human being to congregate, to form groups, to exchange ideas, to share thoughts and accept different perceptions lead to a more complex system whose dynamics could change the way we think. But, is it safe to assume that those aligned with certain groups or have some form of certification or validation from a more ‘experienced’ blogger is reason enough to tolerate mediocrity.

There are still many questions which plagues this space and its eventual resolution through exchange of opinions and consensus will significantly change the models of messaging and thought dissemination that exist. Nonetheless, the system will perforce lead a revolution that will redefine the ideas that threaten to stifle innovation and stagnates dynamic process.

Until then, there exists a void which gnaws at the very foundations of this medium.

On Mothers...comment by Shubha K

The State of the World's Mothers report is there on the net. Have you read it? Perhaps not. I haven’t either. But I do know certain things.

While it is acknowledged that the (hated) Americans do have extraordinary talent to commercialise and commodify anything under the sun, we also need to acknowledge the horrendous hypocrisy that thrives in the name of `Indian culture.’ To give a simple example, it is quite common in India to blame the influence of `western materialistic culture’ for female foeticide and dowry deaths. Edward Luce in his highly acclaimed book `In Spite of the Gods’ points out with brutal clarity that neither problem exists in the west.
We all know that in India mothers of boys are treated differently from mothers of girls. Does that happen in the west?

A `culture’ that discriminates against the female of the species right from the time she is physically conceived, and continues with the injustice throughout her life: can it be logically expected to suddenly wake up one day and give to a mother due respect? No, we can only expect loud and shrill glorification of motherhood that is designed specifically to camouflage the inglorious truth.

Renowned journalist and author from Bangalore Amu Joseph in a scathing and well researched article in October 2005 highlighted the miserable plight of senior citizens in India, where the shrill hype about `respect for elders’ is unparalleled anywhere in the world. This article too is accessible on the net.

There have been plenty of news reports in the Marathi press about how people take their aged parents on a pilgrimage and abandon them there in the crowd. Old age homes are thriving in such pilgrimage centres, and a large majority of the residents do not wish to go back to their children.

Narayana Murthy of Infosys spoke some time back on `What Indians must learn from the west’. It is a sizzling eye-opener on how easily we turn a blind eye on our own shortcomings.

The speech is available here:

Nobody denies that celebrating a Mother’s Day is nothing more than tokenism, sometimes grotesque. But if we wish to fight this trend, the least we can do is to take our blinkers off. It will be a good beginning.

Friday, May 16, 2008


According to the State of the World's Mothers report, brought out by an American humanitarian organisation Save the Children, India is ranked a dismal 66th among 71 less developed countries.
What should we do for mothers?

Celebrate Mother’s Day?
Which is yet another addition (like the World’s Mothers Report??) to the long list of marketing gimmicks brought out by the West to rape Indian culture of its origins and emotional sincerity.

The way Mother’s day has added one more to-do item in lists which we never bother to follow or fulfill; this report does it in a subtler way. India has traditionally been a land where mothers are second only to God. (Think Mother India, and think of your dad's answer the last time your mom tried to crib about her mom-in-law).

Probably the Italians give Indian men a fair competition, when it comes to being mama’s-boys, but Indian mothers have been right up there (or at least used to be) commanding a position of love and respect, and all surveys be damned.

I don’t think anybody in Rural India knows or cares about Mother’s day, but yes they do know and care about their mothers, thank you very much. So do the millions of middle-class and lower middle class families that dwell in our cities and metros, till now.

They are yet to join the rat-race, of city-dwelling, west-aping, wannabe yuppies and will soon take to purging their guilty consciences by the once-a-year ritual of a fancy restaurant (whose cutlery confuses mom) or maybe a movie in a multiplex (whose escalators probably make her nervous as hell) and consider their duties as adoring children done.

So instead of American Humanitarian Organizations telling us we rank dismally I think it is we who should look within us and wonder why. And this is exactly why. Don’t do anything for mothers, children, do something for yourselves. If you can.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News depresses me

News depresses me. Its content is either a mind boggling array of every atrocity conceivable to God and humankind, or the most puerile, dumbed-down, recycled entertainment scum imaginable.

Picture this.....
Shutterbugs' delight: Hollywood actor Eva Longoria (left) arrives with actor and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai to the opening night ceremony and the premiere of the film Blindness at the 61st International film festival in Cannes.

Next to….this:
Terror group releases video of Jaipur blasts: After the serial blasts in Jaipur on Tuesday that killed 60 and injured hundred other people, several news channels have received a video footage through email from a little known terror group called Indian Mujahideen.

What sane person, in his right mind cares a rat’s ass where Aishwarya Rai is when hundreds of her countrymen and thousands of fellow human beings elsewhere are devastated, left with festering scars for the rest of their lives?

These people whose lives have been whacked out of oblivion in an instant, changed completely and irrevocably, will never be the same people they were before. This morning when I woke up my first thought was as frivolous as wondering if I will get a seat on the train today. That’s how fickle the human thought process is. But the point here is not how callous or unthinking people can be, nor is it to slam the media for being the puppets miming trifling news that they have turned into of late. Neither is emphasis laid on grabbing a spade and rushing off to China to dig-out the destitute.

I’ll come around to what the point actually is in a minute, but first:

To be fair to the media, any entertainment news per se has a degree of empty-headedness, an attribute easily transferred to us once we open the entertainment section. If only to scoff at the excesses of the rich or the narcissism of the famous, we do devour, with unfailing appetite the rehashed trivialities fed to us day after day. I often wonder, if others wonder at the news worthiness of this unconnected uselessness called celebrities. Facts about complete strangers who just happen to be slightly better-looking than you or me are so not news, are they?

In the same way as the devastations cause a few shaking heads and tut-tuts for a while, the trivialities succeed in rousing a smirk or two. Then it’s back to the complacent, chalta-hai, when-will-I-get-a-raise daily grind we all live in, live for and can’t live without. The thought here is not to revolutionize or reinvent our attitude, it is to pause and think. If only for the extent of time it takes to read this. Look to the east, those thousands of homeless, displaced, shattered people with flat noses and slanting eyes filled with an emotion; anger, despair, hopelessness, I don’t know…. Courtesy- God.

Closer home contemplate a people rooted in history as a proud, fearless race and an exotic barren tourist destination today, think of their ruined businesses, torn limbs and the tourist influx that has every chance of becoming barren in the real sense of the word….Courtesy- Man.

Cynical, ranting, venom-spewing naysayers like me say, there is so much pain in the world. And it is so easy to inflict more. And so little goodness, equally difficult to come by. While the governments point fingers, and the police blames terrorists, media has a field day the minute news breaks and doesn’t give a damn the next and we, the common people sit on the fence and twiddle our thumbs, let us think. Painful as it may be…and no I am not talking about the fence, let us think for someone other than ourselves. Chinese, Rajputs, whatever. Think.

And you know what; I gave up my seat in the train to a perfect stranger.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Random thoughts

Misery can be a potent motivator. The struggle to cope and move beyond mundane realities of life decide the course which attempts to justify futile existence. Lost in melancholy can be profound and insightful at the same time. The resistance is from within, the external being irrelevant.

It is this constant battle with misery which circumvents the truth that precedes life itself. By the factors which determine reality the conflict overpowers factors which are rooted in sublime existence and unrelenting.

Obfuscation of presumed reality with simple truth becomes the sole nodal thought that provides a semblance of existence to morose inconsistencies that govern life.

The channels that separate the 'obvious' from the 'non obvious', 'truth' from 'untruth' are known yet unexplored, infinite and illusory.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Face It, We All Aren't Going to Become Vegetarians

This is an interesting write up on the state on food security in Britain by George Monbiot. He argues that we need to take some urgent measures and as the header suggests explains the impracticality of the Utopian vegetarian dream! In your face PETA... I only kid, it's quite a informative read. Dig in..

Thanks for an interesting read Shubha!

Following is an excerpt from the same:

Never mind the economic crisis. Focus for a moment on a more urgent threat: the great food recession that is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch.

You have probably seen the figures by now: The price of rice has risen by three-quarters in the past year, that of wheat by 130 percent. There are food crises in 37 countries. One hundred million people, according to the World Bank, could be pushed into deeper poverty by the high prices. But I'll bet you have missed the most telling statistic. At 2.1 billion tons, last year's global grain harvest broke all records. It beat the previous year's by almost 5 percent. The crisis, in other words, has begun before world food supplies are hit by climate change.

If hunger can strike now, what will happen if harvests decline?

There is plenty of food. It is just not reaching human stomachs. Of the 2.13 billion tons likely to be consumed this year, only 1.01 billion, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will feed people.

Article link:

Click me

More by Monbiot

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Food shortage may lead to GM acceptance

This is with reference to a news article which appears in Mint today which informs that there may be a gradual acceptance of genetically modified (GM) food products as the scarcity reaches a flash point. The lead paragraph reads as follows:

Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops.

and concludes ...

With food riots in some countries focusing attention on how the world will feed itself, biotechnology proponents see their chance. They argue that while genetic engineering might have been deemed unnecessary when food was abundant, it will be essential to help the world cope with the demand for food and biofuels in the decades ahead.

The question to which most GM baiters do not have a logical response to is "If you are dying and there is no "non-contaminated" food left on earth will you consume GM food?"

The replies vary from 'obviously not' to 'it's obvious..i will'

Those who rally against the genetically engineered do have a point when they say that we just don't know enough yet, which is a position I agree with. But at the same time there are a millions of hungry mouths to feed with not enough food to go around. Even if there is plenty, it may not reach the poor due to its abysmally inflated pricing.

Traditional methods of farming may not have a sufficient answers to these problems.

The article suggests that Europeans, considered to be the most conservative on this issue, are also opening up to the prospect of using GM foods as cattle feed or even for human consumption.

The chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, Neil Parish, said that as prices rise, Europeans "may be more realistic" about the issue of GM crops: "Their hearts may be on the left, but their pockets are on the right."

Well, the real concern here for me is that Agri-MNCs may use this ruse to promote and project GM foods as the panacea to food security and world hunger. An overrated solution which is not well understood can only lead to a hazardous, far - reaching consequences that may not be reversible in time to come.

The propaganda which will decidedly follow on this issue will be determinately one-sided. Splinters of which can be observed in the thinly veiled opinion pieces and analysis in the Indian media.

Although, the Indian policymakers have erred on the side of caution and taken very reserved measures in this direction, the temptation to align with a convenient option may prove to be too irresistible.

Article link:

Global grain shortage weakens opposition to engineered crops