Saturday, October 29, 2005

Esquire on outsourcing...

I used to love reading the Esquire. It fell somewhere in the penumbral region between Playboy and Time. I still love reading it, if I can get hold of a copy, that is. But this terse article by one of Esquire’s pontificating editors methinks is too tongue-in-cheek and critical of the work I do as an outsourcing papi-pet-ka-sawal-walla in a BPO unit. So go here and read what A. J. Jacobs has to say about the growing Indian outsourcing boom.


“The next day I email Brickwork, one of the companies Friedman mentions in his book. Brickwork — based in Bangalore, India — offers "remote executive assistants," mostly to financial firms and health-care companies that want data processed. I explain that I'd like to hire someone to help with Esquire-related tasks — doing research, formatting memos, like that. The company's CEO, Vivek Kulkarni, responds: "It would be a great pleasure to be talking to a person of your stature." Already I'm liking this. I've never had stature before. In America, I barely command respect from a Bennigan's maître d', so it's nice to know that in India I have stature.
“A couple of days later, I get an email from my new "remote executive assistant."
“Dear Jacobs, My name is Honey K. Balani. I would be assisting you in your editorial and personal job. . . . I would try to adapt myself as per your requirements that would lead to desired satisfaction.
“Desired satisfaction. This is great. Back when I worked at an office, I had assistants, but there was never any talk of desired satisfaction. In fact, if anyone ever used the phrase "desired satisfaction," we'd all end up in a solemn meeting with HR. And I won't even comment on the name Honey except to say that, real or not, it sure carries Anaïs Nin undertones.”


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Friday, October 21, 2005

The Aspiration Disease!

The Aspiration Disease!

A dangerous disease is sweeping Indian mass media. I won’t call it greed but it is something all advertisers use – aspiration.

Have you lately watched how many shows there is on television that just dangle money in front of people and make them do crazy things, yes, even eat worms? Yesterday I saw a show where a movie star brandished a check for Rs five hundred thousand and the crowd went wild.

Bachhan does the same in Kaun Bangega Crorepati – the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The check is prominently displayed with the figures on it and the crowd goes, “Oh, if only I was there to get it.” This in advertising parlance is called “aspiration.” Because if people aspire to become something, say, fairer, or, beautiful, or sexier, they will go and buy the products advertised.

I think the advertising industry – if I can call it one – and the online media is taking this aspiration thing a bit far. So imagine all those people who have never in their life held a check for Rs three hundred thousand in their hands drooling, “Oh, if it only was me. I want to be the one.”

I saw another serial in which the compere gives away cash, yes, you heard right, CASH, to people who answer questions such as, “Which finger do you wear your wedding ring?” Confession, there was a time when I wanted to be on the show till I saw one in which everyone in the audience was dressed in their wedding finery.

But why wedding finery? Seem the show organizers wanted to bring some color and asked the audience to wear wedding clothes. So there were paunchy, aged men and women awkwardly dressed in shining sherwanis and elaborate turbans and from the looks on their faces the air-conditioning wasn’t working and, they were sweating to glory.

People would do anything to bring them closer to their aspirations. The media company and the producers know that. Right now they are after television rating points.

But isn’t this aspiration bit going too far? I know, everybody likes to have a lot of money but to flaunt it so shamelessly before the deprived masses in public? For all I know most of them may be below the poverty level gazing at a small television inside a cramped hovel. Why torture them?

To see so many garishly dressed men and women winning so much money to answer stupid questions as, “What color is Bachhan’s beard?” would send the wrong impression wouldn’t it? I mean, isn’t there something like the US Federal Communication Commission to take up such issues?

Can I complain to the Press Council? I guess, with the problems they are facing, I would rather not. As for the Advertising Standards Council, well, I headed it for some time so I know What Lies Beneath.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005



When she smiles she sends happiness
A million pleasant thrills of the heart
To parched souls thirsting for love
In the vast desert of human affairs.

Oh, is there in this world such a heart?
So pure in its expression of joy, smiles
I know not how to thank you dear God
For this wonderful creation of yours.

What makes Muskan’s smile so beautiful?
Is it the deep pain and hurt she is hiding?
Wringing the joys from the sadness of life
Throwing away the bland fiber and rinds.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Good English Anyone?

Good English Anyone?

Yesterday’s TOI carried this report:

“So, while an examinee will be penalized for spelling errors in essays, letters or specific English language tests, if he writes horror as “horor” (note: even my word processor rejected this and corrected this word automatically without my knowing) in a literature exam (hear, hear!) or his comprehension passage has a couple of crooked spelling, marks will not be slashed. The same applies to science subjects and other social sciences.”

“Pavnesh Kumar, CBSE’s controller of examinations, told TOI, “This year, we’ve devised a scientific marking pattern. A history exam shouldn’t be treated on par with a spelling test.” Kumar says today’s children are “extremely weak” in spelling and blames the “change in the mode of teaching at schools” for this. Spelling and dictation classes are passé, and the focus is on developing communication skills. “It is therefore wrong to penalize kids for spelling goof-ups if they have the right answers,” he says. “Too much usage of computers is also causing this.””

Joking right? This in the land in which Gandhiji said good spelling and good writing was to be inculcated from childhood, a land where Nehru’s letters to his daughter are cherished as literary works.

I was told to recruit some writers for a writing project that I was working on. I tried and tried and tried, without success. Can you believe it? There aren’t many writers who can write Basic English left in this wide country. None. Reports like the above confirm it. Technology companies are searching desperately and compromising with writers who can at best write, “Me good, you bad,” kind of writing.

Oh, Mr. Pavnesh Kumar, do you realize what you have gone and done? You have pushed us brave writers sermonizing about good English, grammar, and punctuation in literary forums into the very nadir of despondency. Oh, why have I lived to see this day?

On the writers’ network that I am part of there was (there still is) a big debate about this and the English purists say English has to be written the way the Englishmen write it. I – being a moderate, and a fence sitter – said we should evolve an English of our own with our colloquialisms and our own sense of humor rather than imitate Englishmen. But, honestly, I absolutely didn’t support Internet Chat lingo and SMSese. I would rather imitate Englishmen than the herewith mentioned.

Now Pavnesh Kumar makes me assume that the Internet chat and SMSese genres are okay. Then we can go ahead and have our place in history as the country that voted – knowingly – for bad language.

But to give up all pretensions of writing good English and to admit openly that, “No, you need not write good English, spell correctly, punctuate,” is like giving the house keys for safekeeping to the robber before going on a holiday.

Is that right Mr. Pavenesh Kumar-ji?”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Jean Story...

The Jean Story….

Come to think of it, this generation — Johnwriter means the young generation of his time — would be remembered for the way they wear their jeans, i.e., well below the waist. Johnwriter doesn’t know where this fad comes from, but he just doesn’t like it.

Every girl or boy is wearing jeans below their waist. Some of them can be seen desperately pulling their tee shirts that stop just above their navels down to cover that small strip of exposed flesh.

Then why on earth wear those jeans and tee shirts if you aren’t comfortable with it? Why undergo this torture for some godforsaken trend set by some idiot designer? Or, has this generation plain lost it?

Johnwriter means no offense but can’t see the point in wearing jeans if it has to be worn well below the intended place it is to be worn. Might as well not wear it. Nowadays, the fad seems to be to wear jeans so that the dirty underwear is exposed. Sort of, dirty laundry in pubic, ummm, sorry, public.

There was a time when we used to laugh at dirty underwear. “Shame” “shame” we used to holler as children. The wearers were mocked even if the elastic thong of the underwear was visible. Nowadays showing of the underwear is called “attitude”. Yes “attitude” it is, but the wrong “attitude”.

In Kerala, the native land Johnwriter yearns for, the “cheela” was the underwear of the older generation, the “langot” of the north. If a small bit of the “cheela” would jut out of men’s mundus and we children would laugh. “Appoopante cheela kande!”

But now with the change in couture preferences grandpas and grandmas can proudly display their “cheela” and their “attitude,” and not be the butt of jokes.

Funny thing happened the other day in a restaurant. A pretty young thing at the nearby table dropped her keys. She bent down to pick it up. And horror or horrors, Johnwriter glanced, Johnwriter has to do such stupid things.

The jeans had slid well below the waistline into forbidden territory. Disgusting to say, she was not wearing underwear, and Johnwriter – tortured soul that he is – could see well beyond the limits that decency would allow.

Though I admire the female derriere in its clothed form, which comes in various attractive shapes and sizes, this was too offensive, unattractive, and made me feel like throwing up!

Please, please, if you are wearing low-waist jeans, wear clean underwear for decency sake.

If it was sexual attraction that the pretty young thing was looking for, she clearly missed the bus!