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


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


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.
“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!”
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


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!
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.