Tuesday, December 26, 2006

K's Honest Car Reviews Part 4 : Zen Estilo

When you get a free car, you learn that you should not crib, even if it is Pink! Now, while I am fairly confident about my sexuality, driving a Pink car (or using a Pink phone, for that matter) is a bit much. Pink is the new Blue, creative folks in advertising might argue (referring to Hutch, which might not remain Hutch for too much longer), but a Pink car is a bit too much even for me. Maruti countered, that it really isn’t pink, rather it’s a nice ‘Mauve’ or ‘Light Baingan’ (that’s what it is!) or as my friend Sam kindly put it, ‘Fushia’. I don’t care, any which way, it was Pink, not a glorious Baby Pink or a stunning Magenta, but still an affront to my masculinity. I think.But, that isn’t the point. The point is the new Zen Estilo. Honestly, can can dismiss the driving dynamics bit with the following words – ‘Remember the Alto 1.1?’ Because, underneath that it what this car is, the underpinnings of the Alto with Maruti’s 1063cc engine which is frugal, not terribly rev-happy, but it gets the job done, with a bit of harshness, but that could be put down to the fact that the car still hadn’t been broken in. On the whole, the old Zen was a far, far more involving car to drive.

My mother had one till she upgraded to a City, this was one of the first Zen’s off the line with the then new MPFi engines and my god, that car rocked. The new car, while not sharing the unsteadiness of the WagonR at speed, is not as much ‘fun’, but ‘fun’ is a subjective term here. The old car rocketed off the line, push it hard off the line and you could go with tyre smoke and throw it into a sharp bend , or throw it into a handbrake turn, it gave you its all and there was no better small car at that than the old Zen. I loved that little car and I was sad to see the thing go when it did. The new car, as I said, gets the job done, it can go fast if you mash the gears, maybe even contemplate 150k’s on the speedo, but it doesn’t feel like fun, like the old one did
However, the monovolume shape, which imparts the car a part-Matiz/part-Innova/part-Honda City look, doesn’t do much for me from the outside, however, the insides is where this car scores. Big time. Even though I used the top-of-the-line four lakhs or somewhere around thereabouts VXi model (without optional ABS or the driver-side airbag) and even though this seems to have borrowed liberally from the WagonR parts bin, the two-tone brown-beige interiors, with a not-so-bad silver touch to the centre console and unbelievably good plastics (for a small car!) it felt nice. Honestly, there were times I really didn’t care that half the people at the Zakir Hussain Marg red light were staring at this guy wearing a button-down shirt and tie driving a pink car!
The problem with the Estilo, even though it shares the WagonR’s platform, is that while interior space is better – luggage space included (best in class, maybe, I don’t have figures though!), the tapered shoulder of the car means that there is no way you’ll fit three grown men at the back. Three grown people is a bit of a stretch in a WagonR, but this car, like the Alto is a four-seater, even though Maruti markets it as a fiver.
This car will not compete with the Alto (which is cheaper) or the WagonR and Santro (which pretend to be family cars) but maybe puts more pressure on GM (if bad aftersales and a bleeding bottomline wasn’t bad enough) to market the Spark, because this car suddenly killed that car’s value proposition. It has also given a decent alternative, thanks to its ‘interesting’ colour choices for those of us who have alternative choices in life. And if you’re single and you don’t want a boxy tall-boy, you got this ‘monovolume’, which isn’t a family car, it isn’t a fun car, but as a city runabout and maybe on the small off-days with someone (not the whole jing-band) this felt sensible even.
Just don’t buy it in Pink if you're a guy!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

ToI's Edit Page

I'm not a member of the legions of desi bloggers whose sole purpose in life is to hate the Times of India. The cynical among you can say that this is because I'm an opportunistic idiot who lacks any moral code (who doesn't by the way?) or because of the fact that I know a lot of people who work there, which I do. Nope, I think the ToI is just as bad as the rest, and in fact when it comes to Metro reportage, most of its editions are far superior to the competition - in Delhi I think the ToI did a better job on the Anant Gupta kidnap, Jessica Lall murder trial and the sealing fiasco. In fact, there is no one ToI you can pillory and they make mistakes - a few too many one has to admit - but then again, I don't know, I can't quite do without the ToI every morning.
However, one page is common to the Times across all editions - and that is its Edit Page. Now, EchTee in its rebranding avatar has revamped its edit and oped pages and allows us to read more silly and pointless Arundhati Roy vitriol (like today), but Times' edit page has to be crowned winner in the peculiarity stakes. I must admit, I am not a regular Edit Page reader of any paper - most Edits are boring and throughly pointless and three days behind the news. But, sometimes there appears an article on Jug's page which catches your eye.
First there was a crazy 'Devil's Advocate' yesterday which said - no need to exercise, eat as much as you want. While, I personally almost follow the advice (even though I should not), this is not a Devil's Advocate piece - this is crazy writing. I might as well write that Safe Sex is a bad practice also. The second article is something I would never imagine I would ever see in the Times of India of all places and I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the paper. But, that doesn't mean I'm not flabbergasted at it!
I'll have the Zen Estilo review up by tomorrow, but for my initial opinions, I must admit it is a really nice car!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

K’s Honest Car Reviews Part 3 : The WagonR Duo

I haven’t written a car review on the blog in a while, so I’ll post two in rapid succession. This will help in two things – first I admit I’m a ‘hit whore’ so, writing car reviews get in a lot of hits as I discover on Google Analytics (as do references to jiggly-wiggly objects on Mallika Sherawat’s chest). Secondly, my post count has taken a tumble recently, so two quick posts on matters completely unrelated to the media should help.

I have spent a considerable amount of time in the past three months driving the boxy WagonR. I’ve never been fond of the WagonR’s dubious aesthetics, even though the new redesign has made it a wee bit more appealing. But the reason I happily drove a car I don’t like for so long was because of the sheer economics of it. This was the WagonR Duo, which ran on LPG – cooking gas to you and me by another name.
Now, everytime someone does a story on LPG you hear the sob story of how much the oil marketing companies lose subsidising it. Nobody writes about how restaurant owners have milked the government by taking huge numbers of multiple connections, but that isn’t the point. Even without the subsidy and actually with a slight profit margin, LPG costs Rs 25.44 a litre in Delhi. Even with the new petrol price hovering at Rs 46.50-something, that is cheap. (LPG actually cost Rs 29.16 at the pump till a month and a half ago). Anyway, you do the math, the WagonR gives a maximum of 14km to a litre of petrol. On LPG, it gave me an average of 11.5km per litre. Factor in the Rs 20 discount on the price of the fuel, and you’ll work out just how cheap it is. The LPG fitted WagonR costs Rs 24,000 more – so if you drive 18,000km a year, you’ll be breaking even in around the same time.
The downside to this economy? Maruti has detuned the engine by around 10 per cent making the car feel very sluggish at times lower down the revs and you find yourself mashing about the gears a lot more than you expected to – so instead of notching back to third, you end up on second, and if you hit a flyover not carrying enough momentum, you’ll have to go back to first. But then again, inside a city you rarely get a chance to open up, when you do, the car does take some time to deliver the power – so there is no surge, but it can go fast if you really want it to.
So the car is cheaper to run and because this is a factory-fit it might cost more but you do not void warranties, the chances of blowing up on the DND are much less – many of the cars going up in smoke – all of them Maruti vehicles coincidentally were running on do-it-yourself CNG kits.
The only problem is that the car has next to no luggage space. Because the LPG tank sits in the space meant for the spare wheel, the spare wheel has gone above the floor and that means half the already meager luggage space vanishes. And the car continues to look just as ugly. So, buying this as the primary vehicle is not a terribly good idea – because fitting a roof rack to the vehicle is not the smartest thing to do since centre of gravity moves even higher. This is a great vehicle as a daily commuter car – but read on because it does have one major failing and that isn’t the fact that it looks butt ugly. That said, the interiors, though dull, aren’t bad – I liked the new look to the speedo, and the inbuilt system though a bit too dhin-chak for my liking, go the job done sufficiently well.
The other major problem is LPG pumps – even though I read a story in BS I think it was that the government might allow the private companies to sell LPG at the pump – because it is not subsidised and they actually make money on it – it is available at very few IOCL pumps across Delhi (and almost none outside the metros) and the small tank that Maruti have fitted has meant range on a full tank of LPG is around 180-200km. Though you can switch over to running on petrol at the flick of a switch, meaning total range is an impressive 700km, that isn’t the point really, but even the 5km detour I had to make at least twice a week to fill gas still makes sense when you look at the price of fuel. Therefore, the WagonR Duo makes sense only in large metropolitan areas where there are LPG pumps – however if you live near an LPG pump, or one is on the path of your daily commute this cars makes immense sense. The LPG kit only gets fitted in the LX and LXi versions, so the pic is a bit misleading.
End of the day, this isn’t a racer, it isn’t pretty (even the inclusion of pretty girls in the advertising can't help it), and because luggage space goes for a toss, practicality does too. But it is cheap to run, and that is what matters - inside the city and that is it. I really liked the car by the end of it, but since it was replaced by the new Zen Estilo, I didn't mind. I'll write about that in a few days.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Becoming judges?

We are all armchair judges all the time, pronouncing people innocent or guilty of several acts because of our perception of that person. I mean, how many of you have called a girl names in school because she happened to be friends with a few guys. But to go out and pronounce someone innocent or guilty in a pending judicial matter is something else altogether. While I think that Manu Sharma is guilty and I thought that Santosh Singh was guilty as well and I'm pretty sure that Vikas Yadav will latko as most people think he should, subverting justice by emblazoning it across front pages or the nine o'clock news is a different matter. In a weird sort of way, while I think Ram Jethmalani tried to subvert justice (again) he does have a point, a person is entitled to a fair trial and the media must not hang him.
The media has a role to play in exposing a sham trial - like they did in the Jessica and Priyadarshini cases, and there was clearly a miscarriage of justice there, but I think some people did go overboard. There are very few of us in the profession who are constitutional or legal experts - heck, if I knew the law well, I would have been a lawyer, it is booming like any other profession you know. The problem I have with the media is clear double standards - I do not think Sanjay Dutt should have been acquitted - because people who 'helped' him have been sent to prison, but the media celebrated the man's acquittal, then again, this is my opinion not the law of the land.
Bombarded as we are with irrational and sometimes irresponsible journalism from all sides, it is difficult for a trial court judge to be objective, and judges fall prey to the lynch mob that is the media at times, but then again why is there this lynch mob in the first place?
I really believe that as usual, we are missing the point over here. There was a gross miscarriage of justice in both murders, I do not doubt that. But now that you have fixed that and now that we will end up hanging three men, no matter what people say - I'm a bit ambivalent about the death penalty - after all I've debated on either side during school and college level debates and that can explain a bit of it. It is the legal system here that needs prompt fixing - judges in this country - and I might be committing a crime by saying this - have ethical issues - I won't put it down in black or white what those ethical issues are, but once a judge, you become a judge for life. There is not system of checks and balances and judge can hold me in contempt just for writing this - but some very senior judges have said it too. The Jessica Lall, Priyadarshini Mattoo and Nitish Katara cases are clear indications that we need to fix the legal system. Otherwise, we will spawn many, many more 'trials by media'.

EDIT : Manu doesn't hang, he only gets life and this is before the appeal in the SC. Vikas Yadav, the man accused of murdering Nitish Katara is going to be in jail anyway, and he just got four more years. But the decision by the court to pull up 'hostile' witnesses is tremendous, while I feel for Shyan Munshi, I'm sure the lad came under tremendous pressure, but the habit of witnesses going 'hostile' is endemic and resolving it should be part of the judicial reform process.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blessing a plane!


DSC00163
Originally uploaded by Tripping in India.
No matter what people say about Indians being secular, the fact of the matter is that most of us are still quite happily Hindu and majority-ism rules. I mean, look at the picture, I took this picture, (which is actually quite a detailed shot of the front undercarriage of an Airbus aircraft) when Indian (formerly Indian Airlines) got their new Airbus plane from the $2 billion order. Praful Patel, the man I hold personally responsible whenever my flight is delayed, which is almost everytime I fly, came to perform this puja when the plane arrived fresh from Hamburg. Look at it - Tika, garland, coconut, flowers and there was the whole shindig! This plane is quite Hindu I guess now!
These are some of the silly things you notice on the job but never write about, after all who on earth will give you column centimeters for something as silly as this! Oh and before a bunch of ignorant Europeans come in and accuse me of being a 'Nazi' thanks to the swastik, the swastik is an ancient Hindu symbol which was appropriated (in a slightly altered form) by the German Nazi's, and we still use it out here!
EDIT : I guess this will be all over the papers tomorrow, and I've heard of some funny cases of slippage myself, but no wonder Indian men feel so inadequate! But seriously, if 'Regular' rubber is too big for so many men, I've got no clue what will happen to them if they went to certain parts of the world.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Publications I miss.

One of Dhirubhai Ambani's nicer experiments, or well rather one the times he let his younger son have his way with the loose change was The Sunday Observer. Now, I don't lament the passing of the Sunday Observer as a journalist, I was far too young to have worked there during the good days, but the paper, whatever you say about it - even call it the Ambani's propaganda rag - much like a certain television channel is today was usually - particularly during the time of the first two editors, very good Sunday reading. And for me, as a pre-teen kid those days, despite going through a fairly troubled part of life (my pre and early teen years were more screwed up than most peoples, thanks to my parents' marriage going haywire) was fairly good reading for children in the 12-16 age group in a regular newspaper. And that is something I do not see in ANY Sunday newspaper today.
None whatsoever, because they try to outcompete each other in being cerebral and lifting ideas from GQ. Talking about lifting from GQ, this month's UK edition has an article called 'Absolute Insanity' about chillies and 'hotness' (of the chillies not of the models in the Kingfisher Calendar), a few days after I read the article in my bosses cubicle, the country's self-proclaimed 'best' food writer does an article on chilles. Now, this gentleman is a great writer (no doubt about that) and no part of the aforementioned GQ piece was 'copied' per se, but information was copiously used. I was not the only person to notice the timing, at least three other people I know who read the UK edition of GQ mentioned this me, just finding the timing a bit ironic. Anyway, inspiration can come from anywhere and I am not making an accusation of plagarism - that is exclusively the terrain of two-bit and half-wit movie reviewers.
You might argue that DNA makes an attempt - but DNA is going after the Cartoon Network crowd, not 'TweenAgers'. A year or so ago, maybe less, a former colleague had done a story on this market in India and how it is booming, but somehow, despite the massive explosion in the media, there seems to be almost no reading material - rather daily or even weekly reading material targeting the 8-18 market, and that seems to baffle me.
I'm fairly sure that I am not alone when I say that the early years of India Today's Target magazine were brilliant. Of course, the magazine did lose it towards its later years and its second avataar as 'Teens Today' was one of the Group's more colossal publishing disasters - because it tried to go after both the early-teen and late-teen market. As any marketer with half a brain will tell you, the 13-14-15 age group is quite a different proposition from the 16-17 age group and the 18-19 age group is a different kettle of fish altogether. target actually had value propositions that appealed - thanks in no small part to Ajit Ninan's great cartoons and I hope that Times of India asks him to restart some of his strips - or maybe start something new altogether - to a wider variety of readers. However, in a fragmented market like today, such a scenario is not possible.
Now, the reason many magazines and newspapers don't start publications for this segment of the market is because they feel that the market is either too small or that they will not get advertising. The latter reason is more crucial - publishers will tell you that they're competing in the age of TV and the internet and people don't read. They don't? That is news to me, I read when I was young, and by the time I got to middle school, cable TV was in India in all its glory - I mean I had MTV with VJ Nonie and 24x7 of Rock n'Roll.
Yet, by the time I got to that stage I had finished most of Gerald Durrell and started out on Wodehouse and I was still buying Hardy Boys Casefiles books (I discovered much to my surprise I still have a lot of my Hardy Boys books along with their impossible and improbable plots - but they were fun, and in a cupboard in Calcutta I still have some old Target and Indrajaal comics lying about). Those were good days!
But young people read, maybe less nowadays because of blogs and the internet, but I've said this before, a well-produced and well-written newspaper or magazine will give you in half an hour what most people take half a day to find on the internet. I mean, the printed word or page, whichever way you look at it still has the ability to surprise. After all, I plonk down a significant amount of money to read GQ, even though I can find a lot of the content online, because I want to. I like Nerve, but Nerve would be cooler if I could hold it. And no matter what you say, a Playmate in a three-fold foldout in Playboy, looks a lot nicer than scrolling down on a monitor, even if you have a 19-inch LCD. Maybe I'm old-fashioned or maybe I'm like this because I get my genes from a journalist on one side and a publisher on the other, or maybe I'm environmentally callous and like the feel of paper.
Maybe I'm just growing too old! I have to drive a car at 200 ticks to put a smile on my face nowadays! But thats just me!

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day!


But first - Even though I was in Bombay on Tuesday morning (I was too busy following the Sanjay Dutt mamla on TV and didn't read the papers other than the Mirror which I have been sorely missing in Delhi), I had no clue about this until a friend texted me saying that I was famous. Well, thanks to Kushalrani Gulab for the mention, I always appreciate any ego boost.
OK, it is World AIDS Day today and while I don't care two hoots about most this day or that day, almost everyday happens to be some shitty day or another, today is important, particularly since India happens to be in the midst of an epidemic whether we like it or not. Our honourable Health Minister is more concerned with governing AIIMS than even looking at the problem, and at least this guy mentions the word 'Condoms' without flinching, the last woman we had in the Health Ministry would say 'Chee' if you even said the word.
And it isn't just a lower class disease. Kids in call centres and news organisations are banging like there is no tomorrow, after all this is for many Indians the first generation of 'free' Indians where sons and daughters have been allowed to do their own thing and well, they're doing it. And sadly, many of them are not using condoms.
I recently had a fight with my friend Doc because he hates using rubber, "Feel nahin aati" he told me. Well, to be honest, I've only done it once without a condom and that was when I was 17 and even though I will not continue the story - it got very complicated afterwards - no there isn't K-spawn somewhere in the world, but lets leave the story for the novel, right! But, to carry on, an indescretion made over a decade ago, and that's it. There have been weird and dangerous sexual adventures since, and this is not the place to talk about them, but there has always been rubber at my disposal even when I had to spend one Euro buying one in Paris. Condoms are expensive out in the west!
There is no excuse for not using a condom, my friend Bob the Rockstar did a lot of wild things, but always used rubber. God, I remember walking into a pharmacy with him when he bought a box of 100 condoms, and since he is a Rockstar he had this insane swagger about it. I have never seen so many jaws drop at the same time! Bob was going to Spring Break in Daytona, and he did manage to finish them all in his four-week trip to the States. Or so he claims, we dodn't know if all he did was jerk off in them, but I'll grant him the benefit of doubt. The reason he bought them in India is because rubber is a lot cheaper here.
The anecdote is a bit weird, while it highlights sexual insanity, it also shows that people aren't completely reckless. Unlike Doc, who was doing two women at the same time, and only corrected his ways when one of them freaked. I got tested back then and have gotten tested every once in a while since - usually whenever I end up donating blood I tick off the optional AIDS test option, but I'll be honest I haven't had a test in a while. Talking about condoms Ultra-thins are a bit weird, but this isn't a post explaining condom performance, I'm no expert at that - read FHM or something like that. But please, don't take a chance, have sex, but use rubber. Life is too short to be that careless.
While I will admit that many of us in the media, particularly in India hate talking about sex, let alone AIDS, we should start. But, I hope some of you read blogs and hopefully not all of you are stupid. Now, I have to go get drunk.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Direct-To-Home TV rocks!



A few months ago, my editor suddenly asked me to change the type of gadget reviews that we had been doing, "They're too geeky and read like bloody press releases. You're cheating the user, why would he read a review if he can get everything online." Sadly, he was right. And of the first product shootouts in the updated column was a Tata-Sky vs Dish TV comparison. After a couple of months, I still have both systems, I bought Tata-Sky and the DishTV folks are dithering on taking back their system, and unlike other gadgets I can't just pack it up and return it because it does need to be manually dismantled.
If you want my honest opinion, my money spoke, I actually bought Tata-Sky, because it is the better albeit more expensive system. Why? Reason one - while I can play around with the settings on DishTV and the system also tells me signal strength and all that, the Tata-Sky user interface and remote is eons ahead in terms of sheer usability. Secondly, and I started noticing this after a while, is that the picture quality on Dish TV is inferior to that of Tata-Sky. When did I notice this? While watching soccer - to be more precise, the Champions League on Ten Sports when I started to notice obscene amounts of pixellation. The adverts promised DVD quality images, what I was getting was VCD quality images with great sound.
Then, I started to keep a sharper eye out during more mundane programming on AXN and Discovery Travel and Living and started to notice 'artefacts' like you see on a badly encoded DVD. To be fair, I noticed that even on Tata-Sky the picture quality leaves a bit to be desired, but I only noticed that on my friends brand-new 42-inch LCD TV. In addition, the program listing facility is also much better on Tata-Sky.
Somehow, I also have the funny feeling that Tata-Sky will also be the first to offer HDTV capabilities on their channel, but given what HDTV will do our news-anchors exposing their physical flaws (though not their false accents), I doubt I'll be seeing that anytime soon. And since Tata-Sky doesn't show CNN-IBN for some strange reason (not that I mind, very honestly but this means that I doubt TV18 can give Tata-Sky a 'honest' review on any of their shows) I don't really care. In fact, I don't really care for news channels anyway, they're quite boring.
At Rs 3,999, the Tata-Sky system is quite expensive, DishTV comes in far cheaper at Rs 3,190, so you basically get what you pay for, in addition the monthly charges aren't much off your cable bill if you subscribe to a 'premium' package - which if you're reading this you probably will - those will cost upwards of Rs 300 a month, but look at it this way, that is still under Rs 10 a day and really thats nothing much. Plus chances are you're already paying around Rs 300 for cable, so the only investment you're making is for the dish and the set-top box - but you get better picture (even on DishTV) and stereo sound. I mean, really!
So, and now let me use a line I used to in high school debating, in conclusion, if you can afford it, just go in for DTH. Conditional Access Systems (CAS) won't really change anything unless the stupid coaxial cable being used to bring TV to your house is changed. Put simply, this is very good and I like it and you only get the 'Active' systems on DTH. I'll tell you why I like DTH, it has made TV viewing fun again, and that in itself is reason enough to get it. And thae fact that you are finally free of the neighbourhood goon who runs your cable TV system.
A colleague and a fellow Stephanian warns me that Anil Wilson, Principal of that hallowed institution has a blog! Well, I'm linking it here. Enjoy!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Childhood fantasies...

When you are an adolescent teenager you have these wild fantasies. Like making about with the women in every issue of Playboy magazine, damn making out actually. Of course, to be more honest, it was Cindy Crawford in my case. That mole is all there was to it. The other thing I wanted to do was fly on a fighter plane, which is why I'm particularly jealous of my good friend 'JetBoy' who works in UndieTeeVee and recently flew a F/A-18F Super Hornet - damn bugger!
Anyway, the reason behind this post is that I'm finally being able to fulfill one of my myriad of fantasies next week (fingers crossed and hope I am not crushed to death by the mob at Rajiv Chowk and not run over by a bus at one of Delhi's roundabouts). What the fantasy is obviously I cannot mention, but it doesn't involve wicking candles here and there nor am I paying good ol' Hugh a courtesy call. But, it does involve a lot of testosterone and unburned petrol and smoking rubber on a airstrip. Yay! JetBoy of course, was not impressed, after all when you've held the control yoke on a Sukhoi and a Mirage, do you really care. But then again, I doubt I will exceed the 250k's I hit on the Audi A8 (on my secret stretch of road).
Talking about childhood fantasies, has anyone noticed the massive decline in that rag called Debonair? Not that it was anything major to talk of ever, but the women there look too big to even be in a Bhojpuri film. But that said, Bhojpuri films are getting quite risque, I saw one on cable the other day in which there was a song sequence reminiscent of Mandakini in THAT sequence, though the actress was not Mandakini-hawt!
Shwangy talks about how the Delhi Auto drivers are getting all weird.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What happens when drives hit media moguls!

While the Anant kidnap case was making all the headlines, HT came out with a flyer on a survey it had conducted which showed that 59 per cent of Delhi-ites were against 'sealings'. Quite against the usual pro-professionals and Delhi-improvement stand the paper has been on. Of course, while this possibly was because HT decided finally to pander its own readers but I just found it peculiar that barely a day earlier HT Media's VC's house in New Friends Colony had been sealed (not under the SC mandated residential area anti-commercialisation drive but under another Delhi HC mandated illegal construction sealing drive).
Lately ToI has been on the Delhi Traffic Police's case for bad traffic management but expect a mad rush of stories from tomorrow and even worse. BCCL's VC has actually filed a case against the Delhi Traffic Police because he was not able to leave his (completely legal, by the way) residence on SP Marg because of President Hu's visit. However, this move unlike the suffering in the above case, I fully support. And because the elder brother is one heck of a determined guy expect this to escalate to quite a level, maybe going all the way up the courts (till the SC) and I'll like to see how the Home Ministry and Foreign Ministry's react to this, because I doubt they'll get a very favourable ruling.
Why will I not be surprised if another media mogul soon starts railing against the new Delhi airport because the new runway the GMR consortia plans to build will send planes straight over his (not very legal) farmhouse in Ghittorni. Fun, ain't it! The things you can do if you own a newspaper or five and a couple of TV channels to boot!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Brilliant...

Investigative journalism isn't all about going with hidden microphone cameras and then pretending to uphold democracy while not thinking twice about mailing CD's with mobile phone conversations recorded on them 'anonymously'. It is all about the 'impact' after all.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is doing a fantastic series on how a 'Doctor' from Agra became one of the biggest internet drug pushers in the world. OK, the references to India seem very quaint, but my god these guys were running a multi-million dollar operation. Very well-written by the way. (via Turbanhead)
And by the way, democracy isn't about killing your daughter-in-law and your daughter and then feigning to be holier than thou while not thinking twice before ripping off your elder brother who lives off his army pension (I have the last bit from a colleague). And importantly, nor is democracy about religion-based quotas, I don't care what the Sachar committee report says, if this government allows religion-based quota's, I'll vote for Narendra Modi for Prime Minister no matter how much Mr Sardesai screams and shouts.
I might have reservations about the concept of reservations after seeing the way St Stephen's College put it into practice - because over there, the concept of a 'non-creamy' layer didn't seem to exist, reservations it seemed will go to only those who were 'privileged' enough to get them, so what if their fathers had made it without a quota. I don't like imposing views on anybody, but for crying out loud, if a Muslim-quota was implemented, the only way the BJP could lose is to put that idiotic wife-beater up for PM.
And then there is this wonderful article on 'Being Paris Hilton' - the wonders of technology I tell you. I mean, this woman has used a grainy night-vision self-made porn film to catapult herself to greatness!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More news/rumours

By now everybody knows the sad tale of the Express office at Qutab getting sealed, operations have moved to the (also illegal) building at Qutab and my friends at the Express lament that they will be moving to Noida - but even that building does not have space full up with Jansatta and Loksatta people. And Times and StanChart have taken over the Express uilding at BSZ - which is a NDMC certified fire hazard. Other media offices under the spotlight are Media Transasia who are also shifting out of their building in Safdarjung and also moving to Noida. Some smaller news channels which were operating out of houses - and even TV channels have also come under the scanner - these guys do not fit the profile of 'small traders'. Anyway, everybody has decided to move to the badlands of Noida because Mulayam needs all the help he can get.
What is up with EchTee? I really thought that a new editor would help the paper back on its feet, but the place is more confused than ever before. Anyway, on the Vir front it seems even more rumours have emerged. One of the projects that Peter Mukherjea is doing in his pruned-down role at Star is looking at the possibility of another English Variety channel alongside Star World (Star World 2, Star Boring, Star Let us run another series two seasons behind the US and hope the audience hasn't discovered BitTorrent) and this might mean a reprise for Vir's boring show from the TV production company that Vir has just started. Of course, Vir's boring show is nowhere half as awful as Simi Garewal, but at least that allowed MTV to make the spoof show - which is better than the original.
Anyway, I do have one small question from the political side, why are Express and Tehelka trying to promote reservations for minorities and why are our ministers talking their mouths off? I don't understand the 'Let us help the BJP get itself back on its feet' syndrome. Even though the BJP is a house divided today, at the rate things are going, these guys will be coming back to power before you know it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vir to quit EchTee?

Sorry, I've been so snowed in with work that I really haven't had the time to post anything here. Anyway, this little item of news has been doing the rounds for quite a while - but of late I get asked this question by the strangest people. My answer is that I have no freaking clue what Vir is doing. But why is this question doing the rounds so much?
Ever since Vir was bumped up in HT to Editorial Director there has been this constant rumour that he will leave. But then he headed EchTee's foray into Bombay, which was backed by the monies raised from the poor sods who bought HT Media stock and Kumar helping his aunt out a bit with lots of advertsing support. People who've seen EchTee Bombay would agree that it is a rather mediocre product, I won't call it bad - but business and entertainment coverage borders on the awfully unintelligent. And then there is the fact that Vir could not save Avirook from a maelstrom. We still don't know what exactly happened, but let us drop that.
Anyway, the earlier rumour was that EchTee and EyeTee would see a straight swap at the top - God took over the reins at EchTee House and Vir at F14/15. But EchTee just got a new Boss (and God is God-like as ever), for better or for worse. I still don't know what to make of the few bylined stories of CK - how is the trader in Karol Bagh worried about his shop being shut down care about the British Foreign Secy I do not know and even the lamest idiot will tell you that people have forgotten simple page layout skills - and crazy stories are being carried - the worst in the section run by my former bureau-mates - have you seen HT's Business Section - I hate to say it but Times' business section is possibly the best business section in a mainline - by a country mile or hundred.
Anyway, the latest rumour - and I must admit that this is fairly unconfirmed and comes from idle gossip at Dilli O'Dilli at the Habitat is that Vir is going Counterpoint and all to Times - where ToI will pay him not to be in HT. Since Bennett's new business model seems to be hiring journalists all over the place just to suck up the market - look at ET (where however competent journalists are rarely to be found) this would not be implausible. Pay Vir a huge amount of money (the rumours of Vir leaving 19-20 KG Marg stem from the fact that CK and RN have been brought in from abroad with gazillions of rupees every month, much more than the man and Vir doesn't get a SUV, which he wouldn't drive anyway).
Anyways, thats the rumour, now I'll go back into hiding for a few more days because I've got some amazingly insane deadlines to meet.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To hang or not to hang!

See, I'm not Arundhati Roy who will claim that India is not a democracy or that Afzal is a PoW in Outlook. But, after the Santosh Singh decision yesterday and the Afzal issue in Kashmir, there is a new debate on the death sentence. This is not a debate in School or College debating the ethics of capital punishment to win a prize. This is real life, and both men who are being hanged are fathers with small children (though how anyone let their daughter marry Santosh is beyond me). The other irony is that while sections of the more liberal media are clamouring for Afzal to be freed, the same people want Singh to hang. I however, even though I have little to do with the issue and will not presuppose any legal judgement see both cases under a similar lens. A lens obscured by a hangman's noose - and there are 400 other cases under the same scanner.
Should people die for their actions? Can people really change in prison - do you believe in Dead Man Walking? I believe some people can change, and some people can't, but sometimes judging a person by some structurally defined rules is doing them injustice. Then again, unrepentant murderers should maybe be executed, but wouldn't putting them away for life without parole also serve the purpose? I don't know. A part of me thinks that society would be better off without some people - I mean had Hitler been tried in a country without capital punishment how would the situation been handled? Then again, these two cases are serious cases - these are not drug smugglers on the Arabian peninsula - but as I mentioned is it right to deprive a child of a father? A woman of her husband?
Weirdly enough, right now, I believe that both these guys, sadly for their familes, deserve the punishment they've got. And not to presuppose anything, but what are the chances that Manu Sharma will also get a similar punishment as will Vikas Yadav. Thankfully, these people will face justice (even if their sentences are commuted later) - not everybody does - The Times of India carried this a few days ago and in the media hype of all these high-profile cases some gruesome cases get forgotten - I was told to highlight this case and I am. Scary!
Just another reminder - the new blog is functional - http://delhiadventures.blogspot.com

Friday, October 27, 2006

Connections

Maybe I'm being a bit cynical about the country's national security issues, but I really think there is a connection between this story and this story. I mean if I am a ethically suspect CM whose son, who also happens to be the grandson of someone who loved bullock carts, goes on a rampage, what do I do. Or is it just lucky? I mean is there any better way to bury a story than wagging the dog? So, lets not forget India's latest juvenile delinquent in all this terror!
I'm serious, whenever something is going wrong, it seems the government either at the centre or at the states foils an ISI/Naxal attack. But, it never gets to seem to catch the big attacks. As I said, maybe I'm being cynical. But, this reminds me of one CM who used to get people arrested under the NDPS by sprinkling Heroin all over their homes. Sprinkling heroin? Why? Well, don't ask me, I don't run the country I just see it.
Still debating the point of going to Mohali, can we beat Australia? After yesterday's brilliantly inept performance I doubt it!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back again!

I'm back to the warm polluting embrace of the the capital. I already miss the mountain air, even though whoever it is who has the thermostat in office is trying his or her best to remind me of the hills. Won't be stuck here for too long, since I will be venturing to Mohali for the India - Australia match. Anyway, one more picture from the trip of me walking back from Dharamkot. I'll post about my experiences after some time. There is a lot of stuff, compelling content one can call it coming up in the next few days. And some bitchy media posts as well. Heh!
And I have started another blog, currently postless, at delhiadventures.blogspot.com which will have stuff about movies, music and that sort of stuff.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trioon


This is a picture of the Trioon peak that my colleague snapped from our hotel, beautiful ain't it? Click through for a larger view.
The sun came out today morning, so the cold, depressing feel of yesterday is gone. The conference I'm attending has too many NGO's who somehow refuse to realise that sometimes things need to be commercially viable. Maybe I've become to spoiled or too cynnical, but I really hate the 'Holier than Thou' attitude that some people from Western NGO's still have towards India. Maybe the fact that they see cows, camels and elephants on the road and attach the 'backward' tag. Fair enough, we have a long way to go in income equality and even quality of living, but spare me the attitude. I still believe that NGO's can have a crucial role to play in the upliftment of India, a vital role in fact, but doing 'projects' especially on the technology front for free without any commercial viability does not always work. Well, it never works. What would happen if the people providing the free or subsidised service pull out. Talking about things are fine, but I haven't heard the term 'viable' spoken as yet. I think some Western NGO's need a serious reality check about 'India', a step towards that is to comprehend the concept of 'India'.
Maybe I'm growing too old and too cynical.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's cold!

I'm sitting 7500 feet up in what the geography books in class 6 taught us were the middle Himalayas in a place called Naddi, about 10km and 500 feet above Dharamshala. This is where the Tibetan Childrens Village is headquarted. I'm here on work, what work I can't say exactly, can never write about something here until it appears in print. What I can tell you is that it is freaking cold. I had one of the most uncomfortable bus rides ever last night and arriving in a strange hill station - Mcleodganj in my case - at six in the morning isn't always a great idea. And its cold. Wait, didn't I already say that?
Thank god I picked up my arctic survival jacket just before I left home, thank god I did. Whats weird is that I was sleeping in an airconditioned room until the middle of last week and right now I'm wondering if any future progeny is getting frozen. I'll upload some pictures tomorrow, I believe it has been snowing in the higher reaches, which possibly explains the cold. Anyway, now its back to work, and man I need a brandy.
Stay warm people! And I'll be sure to say prayers for all of you when I get to the temple! Cheers! Now, where is that Brandy!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Diwali!


Have a great and prosperous Diwali folks! And wish me luck while playing cards, I've had a rotten season so far!
EDIT: Some photo fun on the roof with firecrackers, I had great time blowing up things, not too much, after all not as young as I once was. The view was spectacular, but I thank my lucky stars I do not have asthma!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don’t trust readership surveys.

Whenever someone from within journalism writes on readership surveys the first response is to accuse the writer of having an ‘interest’ in the piece. Your result was very good or very bad, otherwise you won’t write. But, I am not because our results are bad but because surveys are extremely flawed, and I will use the example not of the publication I work for but for the publication which claims to be our ‘biggest’ rival.
Let us call this magazine W. Now, in the first survey that came out a couple of months ago, W had a readership of around 650K. They promptly proclaimed themselves #1 in their space (albeit by a very small margin) and didn’t give a damn that deeper digging into the results showed that almost three-quarters of their readers didn’t ‘own’ their copies. Anyway, it has to be said that their product is better than what it was earlier, and they had made significant gains. That said, the organizers of the first survey claim that there might have been a sampling error regarding us.
But, the surprise came in the second survey. My publication, which we will call T saw readership quite similar to the first survey, in fact more or less the same, which kinda works. W on the other hand saw the second survey give it a readership of 240K and a third magazine, which I will call I saw readership go from 300K in one survey to 500K in another. Now, these two results made me become very skeptical of surveys, not that I wasn’t earlier. But a 400,000 variation is a bit weird for anyone.
I mean, there are broad trends can be sensed from reading survey numbers – magazines are steady (slightly down), ET is declining even more (which says a lot about the product) and at least one business daily claims to have a circulation higher than its readership in BOTH surveys – now that as someone described was akin to someone shutting their eyes, buying the papers and then cleaning their bums after a shit. Even though, I can pretty much testify from personal experience that newsprint is a very bad substitute for TP.
Anyway, the problem therefore is what can you trust? Which survey can you trust? I mean in Delhi, one survey says ToI leads by 100K another gives HT a similar lead. The problem is that surveys tend to be conducted by a bunch of idiots, who put up logos and ask you if you have read that particular publication at all in the previous XX months. While that works for a magazine, even if I happened to read a particular paper once in three months, and that too not out of choice, I will be counted as a reader, I don’t think that is very accurate, would you?
Anyway, at the end of the day, my publication pulls in two-thirds of all the ad-revenue in the segment, so really readership surveys or not, we make a ton of money and as someone said, that is what really matters right now. But, honestly, there needs to be a significant overhul in the way readership surveys are conducted in India, firstly I believe that we should have one independent survey rather than two 'competing' surveys and there also needs to be a major overhaul of the methodology, so that large widespread marketing and advertising campaigns which are timed to coincide with surveys get negated. Anyway, these are just my two little itsy-bitsy paise on the topic.
On another note, traffic has collapsed all over Delhi today, I'm still sitting in office too scared to face the traffic.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Conspiring to Win!

The last time I watched a cricket match it was at Wankhede when Flintoff and his team pulled off a great win against Chappell's lab rats. Since then some of things have changed, not too many things, England is still a crappy one-day team and we still have no clue about the game, but know how to make tons of money out of it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my friend had organised very good passes for the game - India vs England at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur. The reason most of the Champions Trophy matches are being played at the non-Metro centres (other than the CCI in Bombay) is the entire ambush marketing thing, and many stadiums such as Wankhede and Kotla have previous long-running naming contracts and also some of the associations backed by Pawar wanted to play hardball with the ICC - even though two of the BCCI's chief's biggest supporters Lalit Modi and IS Bindra are getting a lot of matches.
Anyway, I set out at seven along with my family - my first 'family trip' in several years.
The drive to Jaipur was not easy because it seems that Maruti must have dispatched half their stock off to Western India yesterday. There were very few stretches where I could open up the car and it took us an unusually long five-plus hours to get to Jaipur, and even though it was a Sun=day the old city was open, Diwali is next Saturday after all. Because it is tourist season and there was a match going on, we ended up staying in a fairly downmarket, yet not uncomfortable hotel called Hotel Neelam off MI Road.
We made our way to the stadium soon afterwards, my friend had gotten us some really swank tickets - in the Rajasthan Cricket Association President's Box. Lots of glass, airconditioned, Plasma TV's, free food and well soft drinks. The aircon was great, but the place had. Not bad. But then the match started, and my god I wished I was in the heat and not in a sound-proofed room, I just did for some strange reason, this is not a good way to watch a game, but there was no lack of enthsiasm among the folks inside, hey even I did my fair share of jumping around. We were pretty much on top of the wicket and though the sightscreen did cut out our view a bit, it was a pretty good place to sit. Much better than the Vithal Divecha pavilion at Wankhede.
England put up more of a fight than they did. All out for 125, in fact once Pathan got Strauss and Flintoff, the game was pretty much over. Freddie Flintoff is like the talisman of the team, once he goes the team collapses. Kevin Pietersen did provide some fireworks with a few fours, but 125 was pathetic. Great bowling by Patel and Pathan and even Romesh Powar, though Bhajji took an awesome catch!
Then we started the innings, and Sachin, Sehwag and after the latter departed for 9, Pathan started hitting the ball everywhere in an eight over burst before dinner. That was fun. But why it took us 30 overs to win is beyond me. It was crazy, as if someone had taken a side bet if India will take 30-plus overs to win, I even heard murmurs of such side-match 'arrangements'. But why did we lose six wickets. I mean 126/6 is not a great score by any stretch. Anyway, net-net it was fun. Fun enough for me to decide that I will go to Mohali to watch India play the Australians, that should be a good match!
I still don't understand what the scene with the fireworks in the middle of the innings was? It was just surreal. Anyway, I got back to Delhi earlier today, traffic and speeds were a lot better on the highway, but Gurgaon traffic in the middle of the day sucks, it took almost an hour to get from Gurgaon to Delhi. To be fair, the traffic pile-up starts at Dharuhera, 40kms before Gurgaon. But driving is still the fastest and most convinient way to Jaipur. And I got a great pic of the Amer Fort while leaving, the morning sun was beautiful. I should really go to Jaipur again soon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Greg as India's Sven

It seems that the Indian media's general hostility towards Greg Chappell of late has spread to ESPN as well. Has anybody been watching SportsCenter of late, its like an anti-Greg polemic, at least the first fifteen minutes are accusing the Australian of everything from messing around with a fairly well established batting order (why is Dravid and not Sehwag opening, like I can read another article on that) to playing with careers (Pathan's) and not including certain players (Zaheer and Kaif - it could be that these two boys' disciplinary issues - bonking anything and everything during tours - might be a factor, at least thats what scribes on tour have said after several drinks. After all regular sex during the WC screwed Ronaldinho).
However, I prefer to think of the Indian cricket team in the same vein as the England football team - at least in terms of media coverage. Look at it, overhyped and occasional performers. They do well and everybody lauds them. But at least the Brits have a decent football league, we only have one team. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that Greg Chappell has become our Sven-Goran Eriksson. The media hates him and criticises everything he does. Fair enough, unlike Sven, Greg doesn't have an unnatural fondness for a certain player (Beckham) nor does Greg lead a more active sex life than his players (as I've said before, the big ballers with the exception of the Punjabi have been eliminated) in fact, it seems doubtful that Greg gets too much action, just look at the guys face (in that pic, it seems that must have been taken after a session with Ms Alam). At least, Sven had that silly smile that schoolboys have when they've been caught with their pants down.
Anyway, I'm going to watch India play in India for the first time since the Test match fiasco at Mumbai where Flintoff, Strauss and Pietersen trashed us. Now, I have a very weird feeling with England playing Flintoff up the order. Anyway, I get to spend Sunday in Jaipur and hopefully we'll win.
PS : Have you seen the Pepsi advert with Dada? I really liked it. Kudo's to him for doing it and the copywriters at JWT, I didn't know that they could come up with such an advert.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ruining the brand experience!

I’m on my fourth mobile number and umpteenth mobile handset, wee considering that I also test handsets on my day-job I must have gone through at least 50 or 60 of them by now, I’ve honestly lost count. But, that isn’t the story, the story is about how bad customer service has completely ruined one brand experience for me, well after Citibank that is.
I’ve been a fairly loyal Hutch customer. This is my third Hutch number, I had one earlier in Delhi, another for a year in Bombay and now a third when I’ve returned. I came back to Delhi around two months ago and got a new number. Not without screaming and shouting though. First, Hutch promised me I’ll get a triple-digit number on my phone as I previously had. Then, since these numbers are usually taken by jerks who work at the Hutch call centre, they tried to back out, “Can we give you a double-digit combo instead?”
I stuck to my guns and then they screwed p again. I got one number which they had already given someone else, then I got a second number and before you knew it they called to say if they could take it back. But I had already activated it and told them to take a hike.
But, Hutch would have its revenge.
Which was two days ago, when my SIM card started acting up, not because I had fed it alcohol or bunged a handset up, but it just failed to register. I tried on other handsets at home and it still didn’t work. Now I call up customer care, and ask them to send me a new SIM card since this one wasn’t working.
“Sure.”
Nice.
“But you will be charged Rs 250 for it.”
But why? I hadn’t messed around with the SIM card in my underpants after all, they provided me with a bum SIM card.
“No sir, that’s the rule.”
So, the way I see it, these guys screw up by sending faulty hardware and I have to pay to get it replaced. No way.
“I didn’t do anything with the SIM card, why should I pay?”
“It’s the rule.”
What? I don’t mind paying if I physically damage or lose a SIM card, but pay when a service provider screws up, I don’t see the logic.
“Transfer the call to your supervisor.”
Supervisor was a bigger asshole than the first guy. A complete and utter clown, made me lose my cool and I blurted out, “Why are you f***ing up.”
“No, we are not f***ing up.”
Wow, a supervisor with attitude.
Anyway, I could live without a phone for a day or two, even though I really can’t. But, on the other hand, I knew I could short-circuit the system as a journalist, but I really didn’t want to. But the second call was even more idiotic. But, here was the deal, the only way to not pay Rs 250 was to take a one hour detour to find a Hutch shop in a congested parking area and register your complaint in front of a dolt who you can see. Unlike Bombay, where Orange/Hutch had conviniently located shops, the only Hutch shop in South Delhi is in that black hole called Ansal Plaza. In Central Delhi they have one in CP, which is parking hell. And a waste of time and money. So the only way to not spend Rs 250 is to waste an hour in the middle of the day, spend petrol and parking charges to save some bucks. These guys know that most sane people, including me won't do that and would succumb to the charge.
Really, it isn't about 250 bucks, that is barely two bottles of beer, its the principle of the thing. I mean I hadn't done anything with the SIM card and I've paid for SIM cards before when I've lost phones. Even though, you should know that a SIM card, even a 64k SIM costs only 50 cents to produce, with all the features loaded in so a 10x markup is a bit much.
I then called up Hutch’s corporate communications guy in Delhi, who was surprisingly understanding, and said that a new SIM will be dispatched by the evening.
Now, why didn’t I think of this earlier. But another part of my head was thinking, what if this happens on a nationwide basis for guys who don’t have the access I do, the telecom companies get away with murder – Hutch for example has the most godawful coverage in Bandra Reclamation (oh and if you can try and make a call on the WR between Mahalaxmi and Lower Parel without a drop, you’re a blessed being!), how I survived my last month in Bombay running from room to room in Doc’s house so that I could talk on the phone. That was until I got the 6708 from Nokia which has tremendous signal pickup.
Good, I got the SIM some time ago and was told to call up and activate it.
I did.
“Sir, there will be a Rs 250 charge on your next bill!”
Argh!
The hand doesn’t know what the head is doing.
Hutch seems to spend all their money on killer adverts by Ogilvy, they really should spend some of that on the clowns at their call centres. Anyway, about the charge on SIM cards, I still have the SIM which Hutch sent me two months ago, and I believe a trip to the Telecom Regulatory Authority may not be a bad idea.
Anyway, my user experience with this brand has been completely destroyed, and I have become what in marketing they call a ‘brand terrorist’, a person who will go out of his way to talk a brand/service down at any opportunity he/she gets. I hate Hutch right now, and since I’ve switched numbers so frequently before I don’t mind doing it again. Airtel, here I come. Does this mean I will lose objectivity as a journalist, nope, I’m not that unprofessional, but I’m freaking pissed!
That’s why I’m blogging about it!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The adventures of Uncle B

I wanted to write more about self-congratulatory papers in the world like the Economic Times which believes that news about ET is more important than news, and when they write about news they address people Mayawati as Ms Mayawati. Give it a couple of months and we will start seeing copy which says Mukesh sir.
But no, today's post is a slightly bitchy one about my current favourite colleague who the resident office Naxalite (OK, thats a bit harsh, but still...) has dubbed Uncle B.
Uncle B is a new colleague, not exactly new, but I've been working with him for two months. Unlike Uncle A, who a friend says will look cool as an uncle – bowler har, cigar in mouth and a glass of scotch in his hand, Uncle B defines the term kharoos. Which is not a good thing. You see, I prefer to see Uncle B as the Pointy Haired boss from Dilbert comics, but unlike the pointy haired boss, he is not a boss, and god save journalism if he ever becomes one. Uncle B, I will however define as 'Pointy-Haired Wannabe Boss', a PHWB. PHWB could really do with a hat, or maybe a toupee.
Given Uncle B's tremendous people skills which involve at various times calling people fat/ugly/knickers or North Indian (the 'scum' bit I think he leaves unsaid), you can imagine his large friends circle. Sadly for all involved he also thinks he has a fabulous sense of humour. Methinks he lost that when he quit the bottle some six years ago – I'm given lectures on the dangers of the bottle. And food. And the BJP. And sex. And drugs. And, lets see now...
After a long time, I'm working with a delightfully obnoxious character who thinks he is God's gift to journalism/mankind/bureaucrats/politicians/drivers/take your pick. God knows, but I think he considers himself to be part of the Hindu pantheon of Gods also. After all, what is another god in a list that goes into the billions?
So, Uncle B/PHWB/God, this new colleague has made bitching fun again. And no, as far as I know he doesn't read this blog. As yet!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Maxim-ated

Yours truly has written his first article today (as the pseudonymous 'K') in this months Maxim. Sadly its only the Indian edition. Maxim India isn't a horribly bad product, but somehow after the UK edition you expect the Indian edition to be more, but they're getting there. Anyway, don't pick up a copy if you don't want to.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bastard child!

On Late night with Conan O'Brian which used to air on CNBC before that channel became press release TV there used to be a regular vignette on what the child of a celebrity hook-up would look like. So, how will this - the unlikliest hook-up of all look like? In fact, a distraught friend from Hong Kong asked how this could happen - the temperature in Hell it seems has falled to 273 below zero and pigs are growing wings!
Well, lets see now, what do we know so far? Kamlesh Singh and Soni Sangwan will be the RE and DRE of the venture which might be called the 'Delhi Mirror' which if it is like the Mumbai Mirror, Times' alternative paper in the other city will be a vapid and completely pointless newspaper and it knew it. But then again, I loved the Mumbai Mirror, it was the best potty reading, and don't get me wrong a good potty paper is extremely important. It also means that I will get to read Shekhar's movie reviews, which finally will mean that Delhi readers will have decent movie reviews to read and a reviewer who has the balls to give movies half a star.
The problem is simple, where on earth are they going to get writers from? I mean look at media world in Delhi - the very worst journalists/writers are earning pots of money rehashing press-releases. So, where will these folks hire from and what is the competition like?
The hiring aspect I can't answer since I assume that the new paper can't hire from HT or ToI. Unless of course, the entire purpose of the paper is to serve as a shunting house for discredited journalists, of which there are several both on BSZ and KG Marg - even though I hear that at both places there is some serious shunting going on or plans of serious shunting. I mean there was a furious email from the new boss at HT asking why a senior bureau chief's copy had 'long sentences' and this after another bureau chief was fired some time ago (well, thats not the official kahani, but you know). And it seems people from both places are looking for oppurtunities elsewhere - according to the grapevine half of them want to join my organisation, leading to Bossman, much to his amazement getting some very incredulous emails and SMSes.
And then there is the competition - namely a new-look Mid-Day in Delhi (run by the Bombay Mid-Day guys), not the sad one we have here and a rehashhashhashed Today Morninger. Well, Today is very honestly time-pass unless you want to look at retuarant reviews which is all it seems to carry and well, it does have the best comics of all the papers but a five-day a week product won't cut it because their entertainment coverage is quite poor - too little TV and movies. Both the Mirrow and Mid-Day will eat it alive because of Bombay linkages, however, Today's ace up its sleeve is the India Today Groups Media Mart plan across the Delhi Metro system - currently they have two at CP and one at Kashmiri Gate but 14 more are coming up at high-density stations and that distribution edge could be a massive advantage. I mean, after all and I'm sorry to say this, great editorial content (even though I can pretty much guarantee you that all three papers will have pathetic content) counts for nothing unless your distribution structure rocks. But then again, the new paper will have the benefits of Bennet and HT's distribution, so Mid-Day is the one which might need help. But unless either of the three papers launch it will be impossible to say who wins.
But, I would really like to see this bastard child grow up, because its gonna be one heck of a kid one way or another! What do you think?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shubho Bijoya!

Shubho Bijoya to everybody, hope you have a had a great few days. I know I have despite having spent a great amount of these 'holidays' in office. heck, I'm writing this post from office.
I tried going to the CR Park Pandals yesterday, but I saw the crowds and ran off. However, earlier in the day I thought it would be a good idea to take my Mom to the more distant Puja's in the city, so we went to the Mandir Marg Kali Bari Puja and the oldest running Puja in Delhi at Kashmiri Gate. Also caught up with the nice, small family puja that happens in Gulmohar Park and the Puja at GK-2 M-Block market where we even caught a Arati - Dhunuchi and all, sadly there were no cute Bengali girls around anywhere.
I wanted to go see the Puja at Charmwood Village which won awards (Aztec Pyramids, et al) but my friend Vikram who stays there wasn't home so I shelved the plan. Sam has been staying over at my place because he also wanted to do the Puja thing. Its been fun the last few days and I plan to hit a Ravana-demolition today (Happy Dussehra also, and Happy to you too, Father of Nation), there is one walking distance from my place.
Anyway, Shubho Bijoya and have a great time!
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Interesting news item, I wonder what happened? I would not put such an incident past fellow school students, but maybe the lack of stoners (and their general lack of violent behaviour) is leading to too much alcohol fueled rage.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can you write such things?

I read The Economic Times more out of 'having to' rather than 'wanting to'. Occasionally during the daily story scan I come across prime examples of language abuse. But these words in Thursday's edition scared me, and I quote...

"LIBERALS , who display flippant approach towards internal security , and pusillanimous social workers on Wednesday came out in defence of Mohamamd Afzal."

Afzal is a terrorist, and he has been punished. However, Nandita Haskar has saved one innocent man (SAR Geelani) from going to the gallows before. This time, I don't think she is pleading for Afzal's release she is just protesting against the death penalty. I've mixed thoughts on the death penalty. Just because Mehbooba Mufti is saying that he should be spared doesn't mean we do a IC-814 again. I do not usually agree with the death penalty, even though I do have problems when it comes to child rapists. However, keeping Afzal alive can lead to another Azhar mahmood type of situation, and I agree with Greatbong here, Afzal's being alive is more dangerous to India than Afzal dying.
However, that does not stop the right of anyone to protest the death penalty. And more importantly it does not give a paper as mainstream as ET the right to write words like these because some misguided RSS-nik writes there. I'm no leftist in capatilist garb, I'm fairly liberal but for gods sake, that doesn't mean I'm not nationalistic or that I don't support our troops fighting a proxy-war against Pakistan, this line makes it seem that just because I have liberal social values, I'm anti-national. How could they let such a line pass! Even more proof in my eyes of ET's nose-dive to mediocrity and beyond. By the way, I guess most of the younger readership that Rahul and his team are targeting at ET is also 'liberal'.
I know people in Times House both in Delhi and Bombay read this blog. If someone could explain to me what such a writer is doing in a BCCL publication and is allowed to give copy unedited, it would help.
EDIT : It seems that now ToI is also entitling other people to silly, animated opinions opinions, and not just their advertisers. But, as I pointed out above, its not that Indian newspapers have a through editorial process running, Honey! I mean other than one or two places. This bloggers are bad will get you so much publicity its not funny and thank god you used a byline, because now I know who to send that letterbomb to. (Hey, she does say the blogosphere is being by half-wits and sociopaths.. how did she ever figure out?)

Friday, September 29, 2006

gaming, India, et al.

Now, for a second I will remove my "Oh my god" expression I had while playing the XBox360 for the past seven-odd weeks and do a slightly serious post about gaming in India.
Microsoft told me they were launching the XBox360 here almost six months ago and told me they would fire a console over to my place almost three months ago, since I knew I was coming back to Delhi by then, it made sense to wait till I got back as well as time any review closer to launch date. Anyway, I've had a console lying around for a while now and it feels nice to be gaming aggressively again, something I stopped once I joined EchTee which coincided with my driving my Dreamcast to the ground.
Now, the XBox360 is the latest in a long string of attempts to sell consoles in India, there was the Atari 2600 which was imported, the Nintendo Game System brought here and branded the 'Samurai' (I had one of those) and then 'Media', some local company reworked the NES with different catridges which were cheaply avilable in Palika. Then Stracon, a company headed by Siddhartha Ray, a discredited former businessman (He ran a company which defrauded the government telcos, some claim it was a front company for a recently murdered politician) launched the Dreamcast. There was next to no support for the console, and even controllers had to be bought from the bustling grey market in Palika Bazaar. Then last year, a company called Milestone entertainment finally 'legally' released the Playstation2 in India. Again, there is almost no support, and if you want the latest games, you should just go to Palika.
Now, stories on gaming in the Indian media talk mostly of shady Java-based games, which are not very cool at all. In fact, most of them suck and are only good for time-pass, not serious, involved gaming. You really can't do that on a Nokia 3220 can you? And the games are awfully 2-D, I'm sorry but the tripe (even written by former colleagues) hyping up these companies is mostly cock and bull. Come out with a serious title, even for the PC with good graphicsand then we're talking. Until then, stop trying to fool idiotic peers of mine. The Indian gaming industry does not exist, it is just a bunch of silly companies making stupid games for phones.
That brings us to the XBox360, which is rather unique in many ways. Firstly, this is the first time that the company making the console is actually marketing it in India. If you ignore the Samurai-Nintendo business, which was virtually that, but anyway. Secondly, replicating (ie: pirating) games on the console will be near impossible, please note the word 'near', but I wouldn't put anything past the guys at Palika. But, MS is desperately trying to keep the prices of the games down, and that would be crucial, but even then (and even with region locking, which the PS3 will not have) how low is low? Would you pay Rs 2000 for a game?
More importantly would you pay the price of a low-end computer for a console. I would, but would you? See, even if the market for the console crosses 50000 in six months, and I hope I'm wrong, is that a sustainable market? I mean, gaming moves in the millions scale globally and it is worth over $50 billion according to some studies, which usually other idiotic peers of mine, who think gaming is for bachchas don't realise. Gaming is not for kids, a significant, actually surprisingly large amount of gamers are not kids, they are adults in their second or third console. How many PS2's would have been sold in India, quite a few I assume, but not more than 150000, maybe 250000 if you stretch it and that isn't because it wasn't available through official channels, but because even at Rs 12000 and Rs 100 games (pirated), it was seen to be a bit steep.
So at Rs 20000 and Rs 24000 and with shitloads of money in the Indian economy will the XBox360 rock. I really hope so, it is a really good console and I hope that the online gaming through XBox Live also takes off, I would really want to bash up buddies in Bombay and Bangalore, virtually of course. But, there are a couple of issues here too. One, while the XBox360 is a console targeting 'young adults', parimarily 'working young adults' elsewhere, in India, MS will have to go after rich kids and that is still a limited target group. Many kids might be able to afforda XBox360 but would rather still go to a cybercafe to play games because they would want upsupervised access to games (that is important, how many kids have a big TV and a broadband connection at home, ignoring big overgrown kids like me).
This is a great console, and since BillyG started giving money to cure AIDS, the guilt that some folks might have buying a MS product would diminish a bit. But still, I do have my doubts. Not that it would stop me from playing the one in my house though!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Photographer angst...

Who are the most abused people in a news-organisation in India and you will invariably find that it is the people who take the picture or shoot the video. As a reporter I don't think its fair. While many older generation photographers and camerapersons were guys with literally nothing better to do in life with a few very notable exceptions who today run about carrying some of the most pointlessly expensive equipment in the world - I met this clown the other day from some local neighbourhood thingjammy with a D200 and was amazed, many of the younger kids, guys my age, in the profession are trained to do this job and trained to do it well. And they do it very, very well.
My problems with photographers is not that, even with many of the younger and better photographers, especially those who work on feature stories and not news stories should do more boot work. My job as a writer is to write, I can visualise some of the images that might look good in my story and I can also help in organising photoshoots, but like what has happened to me this week, I spend too much of my time organising photoshoots. Especially when you are stuck doing a story which covers a rather large sector and you have to shoot lots of people in various parts of the country, this becomes a energy-sapping chore.
And I don't get it! I speak to my peers from international publications who do much stories and their photographers never travel with them on such a feature. They operate independently, however the writer/anchor tells the photographer that these are the people and these are the sort of pictures that need to be taken. The photographers are usually good enough and have brains enough to take and even create some unique shots.
However, in my publication where we pride ourselves and rightly so on our visuals, sometimes just doing the shots and conceptualising the shots that really you should not, takes time away from my reportage. A photo-journalists job is not just to click, it is more and I don't understand why so many of them don't think, and I'm lucky that I have worked with one colleague who is very good. I still believe that they sometimes get derided by reporters who think of themselves as superstuds and divas, "we suffer so much." I know for a fact that in one national newsweekly after the blasts in Mumbai on July 7, the reporters didn't move their asses, while ths phtographers ran to the scene. However, it was the 'reporters' who were praised. Bullcrap, because I saw what happened, and that wasn't the only example.
But, I'm scared sometimes of sending photographers alone on big shoots, because my editor will end up screaming at me, "Its YOUR byline." I'm paranoid of letting photographers completely loose, because I get screamed at if something goes wrong, and this applies particularly to some guys I've worked with. You suddenly see what they shot and you're flabbergasted because I can shoot better pictures on better settings. There was one guy I worked with who had set his DigiSLR to Auto-ISO and the ISO readings on the photos were all over the place, and the best part was that the guy didn't know. This is your livelihood, you should know what every button, switch and knob can or cannot do, you are not an amatuer, buddy. Another guy didn't even land up for a shoot because he was busy somewhere else and never bothered to inform me. I had told a colleague long ago, written down, "This is the story I am doing, this is who you have to shoot." He forgot.
And thats why you need photo editors here. Someone I can call and brief and help him out organising stuff, but not someone I need to micromanage. Its just that I'm a bit angry right now because I'm pooped getting things done. Things that are really way beyond my job profile. But then again, I guess it comes with the territory.
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Someone has entered a Wikipedia entry about me, I cannot edit it because I remember meeting Jimmy Wales, the 'benevolent dictator' of Wikipedia back in early 2005, in fact, I was the first Indian journalist to interview him and he himself that no-one should edit their own profiles. It is ethically incorrect. Little wonder that half of India's corporates get their PR firms to edit their Wikipedia profiles.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The grass is pretty green still

On the right side of 30 that is. Two more years to go before I hit the dreaded three-zero. Damn, I feel old! Oh well.
The gambling season has started with a bang! I lost money on Saturday, quite a bit of it and made it all back yesterday. Heck, I even got a dealt trail yesterday. It was past twelve, I so I discount that to birthday luck. My disaffection towards alcohol is surprising me, on Saturday there was a bottle of nice Islay Malt doing the rounds and I only had one drink from it. This growing old and the associated responsibility around it is getting me down. No parties planned for now, maybe will take the folks out for dinner and buy a cake for office. Lets see.

Friday, September 22, 2006

There is so much happening...

I didn't say it first!
But I had heard about it, I'm not so sure about the Delhi Mirror part though, because that might actually be the brand they use to launch the baby. So is this like that stupid 'No Poaching Agreement' that they signed - the story goes that good ol' Sammy paid Shobhana so many compliments that she got bowled over and then he pulled out a sheet of paper and got her to sign it. Of course, it wasn't HT, because sammy didn't want a bunch of deadwood, but the fantastic 'no-poaching' agreement, after of course decimating the City Reporting and Sports bureaus as well as the Desk (thankfully, they didn't touch the Business Bureau, ToI does have more akal than you think). Therefore, HT has been forced to hire people 'removed' from Times or people at fantastically huge salaries from videsh.
Plus, the Indian Express has launched blogs!
And I had even more debates on the internet and media coming ahead, but before that I'll try and remove the gawky 'Oh-my-Gawd' talk from the XBox360 coverage, given that me and Snakeman are the only two desi journos to have been given the consoles to review and not played them at some random event. I'll do a low-down bit on gaming and India. And no, I will not make the cardinal error of treating shady mobile games as full-fledged games that everybody else seems to do.
But since that will take time, this will have to do for now.
By the way, the girls you see below are the new faces of Lakme India Fashion Week. I'm really surprised Anurita made it though, given well.... forget it! Hey, and anything for cheap hits! No really, this was lying in my inbox, even though I have never covered fashion, and well, since half the Google searches are for silly 'sexy' things, I might as well put it up.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

100,000 visitors, 450 posts!

This is the 450th post on the blog and the other day, the blog steamrolled past 100,000 visitors since I installed the Statcounter code back at the end of June 2005. That is an average of 222 page hits a day, which is quite a lot even if you exclude my own visits. Not bad, if I say so myself!
Adjusting back to Delhi has been a bit weird, I've been bored more than anything else. After all how much can you possibly play videogames, even if it is on the new XBox 360. Since my self-declared semi-sabbatical from drinking, rather a sabbatical from out and out 'lets see what drinking fifteen whiskeys does to the human body' experiments every second night, life feels strangely empty. I don't know what that actually means, if that really means that my life had degenerated to the point that I was on the verge of alcoholism, or maybe even was an alcoholic. Well, I am reading a lot more all over again, and really should start watching more movies.
Office on the other hand has been strange. One of my editors and a man who despite the fact he constantly took my trip, I genuinely enjoyed working and writing for, is leaving. I've been in this organisation for three years and had become really fond of the guy, I mean as a journalist you like working for some people and I enjoyed working for him. He is taking up a big new job, and I'll miss him, anyway there are another two weeks - basically for me to think up what I should give him as a farewell gift. And these words are not being written because I know that he reads this blogs, I genuinely mean them. Well, even though when he does go, office seating will be juggled and I will be brought back from the Kuiper belt seat that I currently have and I hate.
Other colleagues - office has changed a lot since I was in Delhi last and despite the unexpected churn at the top, things are more or less same there, but colleagues on a more equal footing. Well, I don't know if they read this blog but I really want to use this service on one of them. I'm fairly thick skinned, but badly timed jokes are really not appreciated. And when you have the hairstyle he does (like the Manager character in Dilbert, seriously) I would refrain from making jokes. Anyway, I don't want to get started on everyone else, including psychotic young female colleagues, which is enough said.
Chalo, I have to work now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What next?

I wonder why this was not the anchor story in the papers today? It did get a mention inside, but it really boggles the mind doesn't it? Not enough people donate eyes, kidneys, livers or hearts, and I'm fairly sure despite my new and improved 'drink less, east out less' lifestyle, I might need some of those. But really, hats off to the Chinese docs who pulled this off.
And what is with the TV channels all focussing on the occult - I just saw a story on Headlines Today (of all channels!) where farmers in the village of Mainpuri where a small plane carrying former Union Minister Madhavrao Scindia went down claiming that the fields are haunted with the spirits of the eight people who died in that crash. One farmer even claimed to be beaten up by all eight ghosts for having the temerity to have tilled the fields.
Methinks too much country alcohol is being consumed by people.
On another note, me acquired a new Che t-shirt (I would wonder what Mr Guevara would think at his visage being used to make lots of money) all the way from Cuba. Nice. But I prefered the Havana Club Rum more.
EDIT : Swati sent this picture of Che and Fidel playing Golf. Nice. Plus, when we are talking about the leftist icon whose image must have visited most upper middle class kids wardrobes at least once (even if they were not psuedo commies) you must read and watch The Motorcycle Diaries - Che's diary of his travels through South America initially on a Triumph motorcycle and then just hitching it. Fascinating.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Civic sense!

You can argue that in India today, the most attractive car available in India right now (without going through the duress of importing it) is the Mercedes CLS, ideally a CLS 55 AMG (Isaw one at Phoenix Mills a while ago). And of course, the Murcielago is also avaialble in India. But lets be practical, I can't and I doubt I ever will be able to afford those two cars, or even I could, by the time I've scammed my way to so much money, I would not have the time to enjoy them. Therefore, the most sensible and technologically most advanced car for a 'nice price' is.. the Honda Civic.
I spent quite a lot of time inside one just falling in love with its blue glow and the digital speedo. For someone who has grown up on a steady diet of car racing video games - notably the Need For Speed series and doesn't have an European sneer towards Japanese cars, the new Civic with its Katana inspired headlights and its cabin is the first car built for the Playstation generation. And it costs a bit over ten lakhs, too much for me just now, but hopefully in a few years time, I know what I want!
This post was also an excuse for me to show some brilliant adverts from Honda which we never see India. Honda does some of the best creative work of any of the car companies.
Impossible Dream

The advert for the Civic in the UK

And there was 'that ad' for the old Civic

Brilliant no!