Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Random thoughts..

With so much politics on this blog over the past couple of posts, I thought it was getting too boring. I can't really think of something funny to post because my caffeine-addled head is working on writing something about mobile phones or something like that. So, this is just a stream of consciousness post, it will make no sense whatsoever to anybody, but it might make sense in bits. Read it, if you feel like it!
EDITED : Boo-Hoo, people cry! Chalo, I have never bitched about office here because I have never felt the need to, and I shouldn't have started. But you call a spade a spade and people with inflated assumptions of themselves and spreading canards (to all the wrong people) shall not be missed. Need I say more?
Office affairs aside, a couple of my dearest friends had a baby recently, and to steer clear of this chacha/mama business, I've decided that I'll become an uncle. But while I am congratulating my friends on their baby, I'm really unsure that I would want to bring in a child into this world right now. Not that I have a the requiste other ingredient for a baby - a woman - anywhere near-by, but the world today sometimes does freak me out. Global warming, rising sea levels, crazy displays of luxury, I think everyone has lost it. It is as if someone spilled a gallon of LSD into the world's supply of drinking water (But forgot Africa as usual).
One day you read about 25,000 people marching to Delhi protesting against the SEZ scheme which is being used by a bunch of Congress-minions as the most organised land-grab in history, and then you read this. Honestly, I saw a picture of the house to be in this month's UK edition of Esquire (their website doesn't work), it is frikking insane! I'm no admirer of Che or even Communism for that matter, but such insane, ostentatious displays of wealth is leading India on the road towards its own 1789.
I think I'm worrying too much, I need to go home and spend some more time on my Xbox360 and smoke a bit more. But, really, it is a bit crazy this world, isn't it?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crazy Conspiracy Conundrum...

Pretty much the exact transcript of a conversation I had last night...

"Tell me something", a friend asked, "what if the Narendra Modi planned this entire 'sting' fiasco himself?"
"You crazy or what?" I replied.
"Think about it, the Congress gets blamed for being cynical and planting this story, the BJP rebels lose their agenda and Modi manages to polarise the Hindu vote in Gujarat. All while looking like the victim."
"It is a bit crazy, more crazy than the Indhira Gandhi had Sanjay Gandhi killed story."
"Ah yes, but that is true. Of course, you do know that there is one theory that Rajiv Gandhi never died, but that is too far-fetched, too Elvis-y."
"Anyway, why do you think Modi engineered this entire thing?"
"Think about it, nobody is arguing what Modi did or claims he did not do in 2002 is defensible. Shit happened back then, lots of people died, but the guy has been under electoral pressure from the rebels not so much the Congress."
"So what does this 'sting' do to them?"
"Name me one of these rebels who are nothing more than political opportunists in the Amarmani mold who did not lead a mob. Just like all these small time Congress leaders led mobs in 1984 to prove their loyalty, the same happened here. These guys lose their agenda."
"Yes, but Aaj Tak broadcast it, c'mon, it wasn't Rajdeep's channel or something."
"Yes, but think about it, what if the sanghi high-command already knew and ordered Aaj Tak to play along..."
"For fuck's sake, you're losing it dude!"
"And Tehelka?"
"Taken for a jolly old ride. People don't talk about such things to even their closest friends, so they would not tell a stranger unless they were in the loop. And this story isn't exactly cutting-edge journalism is it? It is your same old Tehelka journalism, only this time they didn't need to honey trap anyone..."
"This isn't crazy talk after one too many glasses of Scotch, I really do believe this is a classic set-up..."
"I need another glass of that..."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why do I get cynical?

Listen, I never said that nothing happened in Gujarat. There is and actually has never been much doubt that there was a systematic murder of individuals from a particular community. Yet, I still believe that the timing of the 'sting' is awful. Plus, back in 2002, soon after the riots there were elections too, and Modi was voted back into power. We get the leaders we deserve, unless of course, you're a communist where you can just win a JNU election once in your life and thus become an expert on global geo-politics, because Hu Jintao says you are.
Why did Manmohan Singh lose South Delhi in the Lok Sabha in 1999? After all, isn't the South Delhi LS constituency one of the more rich, urbane and better educated constituencies in India, next only to South Mumbai LS perhaps? Because he denied 1984 and tried to claim that the BJP caused 1984. I didn't vote for him, and I am pretty certain I won't vote for the Congress going forward either.
Yes, the awful truth in India is that we make leaders out of rioters. This isn't just true in Gujarat, look at Jagdish Tytler and that murderer who was given a life-term yesterday. Despite the case on him, the guy did win election to the Legislative Assembly. See, at the end of the day, no matter how 'explosive' and how 'shocking' any revelations are, if we keep on voting these people to power, we, as a people, only have ourselves to blame. I do not believe that the Tehelka 'sting' will have any impact, because the people of Gujarat will most likely vote Modi back. They care about the more money, nice roads and development (as do most voters), in Ahmedabad actually that depends on which side of the river one stays.
We get the leaders we vote for! he problem is that everyone who stands for election is a crook or a son/daughter of a crook, so we're in a damned if you do or damned if you don't situation. Anyway, this blog isn't supposed to be about politics, it is supposed to be about the crazy antics of the media and nothing will be crazier than the massively overhyped Fortune 'Global Forum' taking place at The Imperial next week. The only Indian journalist invited as a participant is Ms Dutt (she of the Kargil fame), I am pretty surprised that Mr Sardesai isn't there, because isn't Fortune part of Time-Warner and isn't CNN a part of that?
Anyway, India Today's and Daily mail's new paper - Mail Today is expected to hit stands sometime towards the end of next week and INX is also going to starting soon judging by the billboards... Weird advertising campaign though!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I am gradually realising that I am not the only cynic about Tehelka's expose of 'The Truth' in Gujarat. Elections around the corner there so let the BJP-bashing begin. Somehow, I am just not convinced about the story, people have points to prove and I know of very few individuals who would talk the way some people have. If something was to go wrong, and I have a very bad feeling that people might get killed for having flappy mouths, 'sting' journalism might die, and at the end of the day, its the timing. Though, this attack could strangely enough solidify the BJP vote in Gujarat.
I'm sorry but I'm a cynic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A very delayed shubho bijoya!

OK, I'm Bong, ergo, erm... well.. Anyway, Shubho Bijoya everyone! Hope everyone had a great weekend, unlike me, who was relatively lazy, and here is to Kimi Raikkonen who proved that Formula 1 does not have to be predictably boring.
Have a great festive season!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


When the Times of India (finally) got rid of Dilip Padgaonkar as a 'celeb editor' and then removed Pradeep Guha from his perch as a 'celeb manager', the Times Group has been running very smoothly with most editors and managers following their boss Samir Jain's extremely low-key style. And while others cry out that commercial interests have prejudiced Indian journalism, and while I agree with that contention, I tell those guys who cry out, that listen, the Times is as bad as the rest and honestly as long as you are charging a person one rupee for a newspaper, what on earth do you expect? The Economist? Though that said, the recent revival in the quality of the ToI product has been rather self-evident, and again while bloggers cry out against 'big media' and how the Times sucks, the recent Indian Readership Survey figures make for really interesting reading.
The Times already led Hindustan Times according to this survey last year, but a lead of 230,000 readers is no joke! And it isn't just Delhi where the Times has managed to break into such a strong lead, even in Kolkata, the Times is a strong #2 and I believe since the Kolkata market includes the North-East where The Telegraph has a strong position, the Times is poised to take a lead over there as well - especially since a Guwahati edition is supposedly in the wings.
So with the Times now on the verge of starting to carpet-bomb the country with new editions (with Delhi and Mumbai continuing to be the 'mother' editions) the question is why not Chennai so far? Is it because, as a journo-friend in Bangalore once speculated that no self-respecting Tamil journalist stays on in Chennai, since The Hindu group does not employ journalists rather it employs ideologues, or was (in true Times' style) a deal struck with The Hindu?
Now, before I begin a large (and subsequent) post about the continuous decline of EchTee, I wonder if the Times guys were aware of this upcoming disaster at 18-20 KG Marg. I mean, Delhi's #1 paper is quickly being relegated to a has-been, and with editorial content still recovering from the Kalbag imposed disaster, and the ludicrous 'no-poach' agreement with Times, I'm sure it was felt that award Shobhana the ET 'Businesswoman of the Year' (or the 'Liberty Tea' award for smoke without fire) would help. I mean, it does also help that your nephew sits on the committee, but you do suppose that this was Times' way of saying 'Thank You' for letting us screw your organisation over!
Man, I can be funny at times! And just wait for the National Readership Survey to confirm these results! And there are some surprises on the lower end of the spectrum too, but more on that later!
Have a great Durga Pujo everyone! And 104.8FM has to be the worst waste of the airwaves in history!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The lack of updates...

Apologies to two readers who actually cornered me at recent Press Briefings and asked me, "K, what the hell is up with you? The lack of updates at your blog disappoint us." Sorry, sorry, sorry, but I really have been busy!
Anyway, moving one beyond grovelling...
Other than making fun of the random ET journalist that I meet about how they're enjoying Liberty Tea, someone was pointing out that since the arrival of Papermint and its close ties with the Aditya Birla group (nephew's company after all!) the Tata's which were not on speaking terms with the Times (the small affair of Dilip Pendse, and no history lessons here) have suddenly started cozying up to them again (though this case indicates otherwise). That said, one senior PR type tried to convince me that this was a 'deliberate' plant to just see if someone could pull off such a stunt. I must admit, whoever the PR type that thought up the story, hats off!
But that leads us to another issue, while the quality of the best journalists in the profession has improved, the sudden boom has meant that there has also been a dilution of quality somewhere down the line. A cursory look at byline frequency will make an observer think that 10 percent of the staff of a print news organisation produce 50 percent plus of the content. Of course, this could have two reasons, either that this ten percent sucks up to the Editors the most or are genuinely good, sometimes both.
Anyway, but how easy is it to get a story through in a newspaper? Pretty easy is what some PR chiefs tell me, once you mollycoddle journalists enough. I do know several senior folks in the PR world, many of them from way before I became a journalist, some through school, college and South Delhi networks. While many of them hold their drinks well, sometimes, just sometimes they blurt stuff out and my god, some of that is entertaining. But, its not what they say, and I do believe them in many cases, just because I have known some of them since I was a pre-teen, but the stuff I have noticed myself.
In one organisation I worked at (guess, guess?) a colleague whose English skills required him to redo his entire secondary education to improve suddenly submitted a perfectly written article. Something was fishy, so I confronted the chap, he denied everything. But if you read the piece it read suspiciously like a PR spin, so eventually an Editor did confront him and he admitted that he had done this before. And if this guy had done it, I'm pretty sure other people had done the same.
Voila, they had! I know of at least three other senior editors who have had entire articles written for them by PR executives, or worse still, policy types in large companies. One large edit page article for a newspaper despairing about the state of the power industry was written by, or lets use the word inspired to an extent that is unethical, by a certain official we'll call Jesus-Man.
But going to companies and listening to their PR spiel is cool, I do that all the time, but copying Press Releases is borderline lazy, and taking either market-gossip or what PR types tell you as the Gospel Truth? That is bad reportage. This is the age of Google and Wikipedia, it really isn't THAT difficult to cross-check basic info, like if a company exists or not! I mean, the above-mentioned websites might have made journalists doubly-lazy, but c'mon?
Is action ever taken against such lazy types? Not that I have heard of in an Indian news organisation. But really, how is this story any different from the 'non-sting', both are examples of fake reportage. Papermint is slowly improving, and once they get their breaking news bits right, with the competition publishing 'fake' stories on a dateline that does not read 'April 1', everyone is in trouble.
By the way, readership is down across the board, well a couple are up, but mostly down. And I'm sleepy, and I drove a lovely car today. I need a drink! Oh yeah, if someone can make sense of the Indian capital markets please let me know.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fun story!

I read this story in yesterday's Hindustan Times and thought since so many words were once wasted on IIPM (almost exactly two years ago), it deserved a link!
The crux of the story is that Ponytail's institute has been served a Service Tax notice of Rs 17.5 crore. This is the interesting line - "According to the service tax law, commercial coaching institutes providing education or coaching leading to any qualification not recognised by the government are liable to pay service tax." Hmm, I guess plans to upgrade the Continental GT will have to wait a while.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Changing times.

And this has nothing to do with the ToI. I really thought yesterday was a fairly newsy day - you know with India beating Australia in a proper-ish game of cricket instead of a slam-blam game of modified baseball after three years. Then there were governments falling left right and centre with the two national parties deciding to call their partners' bluff and stand up for themselves, and I am glad that the Congress and BJP finally showed some aggression and did not cow down to politicians who think they're too clever by half, or as in the case of Prakash Karat, serve Hu Jintao.
Nope, according to Aaj Tak, India's Sabse Tez channel, the ups and downs in John and Bipasha's relationship was more important on a day when the government of the country was on the verge of collapse. Which brought me back to a conversation an old friend had with me the other day, "What the hell is wrong with TV News?" And frankly, after searching high and low to find news on the Hindi channels (save two) I had to switch to the English Channels. But this is not the only time TV News has lost touch with reality, I know that P Sainath sounds like a grumpy old man with no clue of the changing times when he complains about the vacuousness of journalism, but sometimes even those of us two generations younger wonder what the hell we are doing in a profession that seems to have lost all sense of what it is supposed to be doing.
It's not just TV, in my last post I highlighted how even a large print organisation didn't do basic fact-checking and ran a story which was comically put down by a large international media organisation (and from what we have heard shit is already flying with at least one PR agency head pointing out to me that it was only a matter of time before someone got caught out in that paper). Stories are born in edit meetings where a reporter, or editor will say, "I know someone who does this.." and a social trend is suddenly created where none exist, and journalists have lost all touch with their readers - and thus reality.
So when the older generation of Editors whine and complain about where news is heading, they do have a point. I may not agree with them about everything, but I do feel sympathetic towards their opinions. And so do a lot of my friends, where are we heading? And what on earth will this profession look like in ten years time?

Friday, October 05, 2007


Short post. A commenter on the last post pointed this blog entry on one of the Financial Times' blogs. Here is the original story in the Economic Times. Quite a put-down, FT is essentially saying that the ET reporters.. ahem.. made up a story! Don't know who the anonymous commenter is, because most of my sources were surprised at the story, and quite taken aback. Globalisation has a cost!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Travelling with journalists!

If there is such a thing as the travelling companion from hell, I would not be surprised it that thing mutated into the form of a desi journalist on a junket. After spending the greater part of August and September writing more words than I knew existed in the whole wide world, my office decided that it might be a good idea for me to spend some time in the bosom of our great, big neighbour to the East, or as Prakash Karat calls it, home. I have been to the land of the Dragon before and must admit I really enjoy travelling there, not just because I have a soft spot for Tsingtao beer, but I genuinely like eating good food. I mean the non-spiced up bastardised stuff we get here, which is a great cuisine in its own right, but you know proper Cantonese grub.
But, here is the funny part, you always get stuck on the trip where the folks see the food and decide that they want good old ghar ka khana out in the Peoples Republic (and what a Republic it is!). There are time you don't know what to say, why on earth would someone want Cantonese Roganjosh? But, then again, I thought I was being the prick out here, because I was the twit with an open mind and open mouth. And I know I can find my way around a city, its a city after all and I always end up going to the seedy part of every city I visit, though in the Peoples Republic, there were no seedy places - though there were a lot of hookers. But on that front, I believe I'm a good boy, plus my mother and assorted senior journalists also do occasionally read this blog.
Anyway, its not just about food, but sometimes the level of intelligence of some journalists completely befuddles me. Prejudiced and occasionally judgemental and sometimes purely racist, I could never get their logic, they insisted on certain things and of course, the food played a major part. Language was another, bemoaning the fact that no-one spoke English too well (not that my friends had great English either and screaming out doesn't usually help people understand any better). It wasn't me imploring that you need to travel with an open mind, you just can't seem to get through to certain people. It doesn't help when the person accompanying you has the IQ of an ant. What worries me is that, journalists of all people should have the most open mind and at least be slightly erudite, but in this era of mass-factory produced clowns, god knows what the profession is ending up with. Well, its ending up with illiterate idiots and liars.
Usually on every trip I travel on, I scout out one person I can get along with, this time there just happened to be none. No-one interesting or intelligent enough to hold a conversation with, no-one I could drag along into the city and say, lets have a drink. I didn't mind going out alone, but I'm a slightly gregarious person and because roaming rates were silly expensive out there, I didn't even try texting home too often. But then again, I had a decent time, my credit cards are wrecked and the booze was good, and heck, the squid balls and braised octopus on the streets of Hong Kong was fantastic!
Anyway, I should be a bit more regular over the next few days...