Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Blogging...

One of the tragedies of recent years has been the shifting of the funnies to the supplements. Since I am usually too rushed to read just papers every morning, I rarely pick up Delhi Times or HT City to read the comics and even with comics, you get the same old, same old. Not that I would pick up the supplements anyway. Very few new comics ever get printed, like one of my favourite ones Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine. So I often thank the big guy/gal up there for the interwebs so that I can get my daily dose of the funnies. And this was his strip yesterday which I thought was hilarious.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I'm part of the lower-middle class malaise that afflicts Indian journalism today! I really haven't heard a funnier joke in a long time, but really, other than having a weird desire to defend my snob cred, which I think I don't need to do, because that will lead to accusations that I typify the elitism that ails the English media in India today. Damned if I do, damned if I don't! But to defend myself, the conference I feel asleep was in my previous job (which automatically puts it half a decade ago) at was on a Saturday and after a mad Friday bender, I was fairly sleepy as is.
And attending some conferences are a recipe for curing insomnia! You see, I really don't give a damn about some press conferences and there is a perfectly good reason why I avoid them nowadays. Most press briefings are a waste of time and worse still, after making me rush through traffic and parking my car in a no parking zone in a rush to attend some presser only for said executive to saunter in after one hour. If you don't respect my time, I will not respect yours, as simple as that. I will fall asleep if you keep me waiting, and I really don't care what you think. If you think I'm scum, so be it.
But anyway, I've keeping a photographic record of some of my more recent assignments, and now that things have appeared in print, I can share some of my pictures with everyone. I guess anonymity isn't much of a priority anymore, since 'K' is a bit of a joke now.
When i run into folks from my college, who promptly inform me that they've all been following 'My' blog, like one told me the other day, "Dude, only YOU could have written this blog, but anyway you don't leave much to guess. You advertise you're from college, from a obvious set of batches and a fairly successful print journalist. Since almost everybody else ran off abroad or got into Bollywood, and then there is 'K' itself, you're a sub-set of one. Damn nice blog though."
Hmmm... I should have really been a bit more inventive with my pseudonym. You don't suppose I can change it now, do you?
Anyway, really if you don't like my blog, don't read it. And while I don't have any issues with anonymous comments, I would really appreciate it if you did leave a name. And to the people who subscribe to this feed, do drop by and comment once in a while.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quoting some clever dude doesn't mean...

That you are clever, so when I see the wildest signature lines on emails in my Outlook inbox, I do get a bit horrified. See, I've become pretty accustomed to ignoring terribly long legal disclaimers about why I shouldn't read the PR email that I have been sent about some terribly fascinating launch of a washing machine which washes clothes but promises to remove the skid marks from your undies. And then I read some line from Bernand Shaw or worse still, I saw a line from Neruda recently on some pointless PR email. Here is the problem, PR emails are technically not spam, but they're just one level below it, I really don't want to get most of them. Of course, if the PR world stopped emailing they would call me, and given that my phone number is known to half the living universe, that won't really help matters.
Anyway, I was just tagged by Nikhil to describe the funniest thing I have ever seen at a conference. Now I have to state up front, I've been a journalist for over six years and I must have attended close to 1000 press conferences in that time, because for a lot of those six years I was at the bottom of the food chain. So I've seen a lot of funny things - I've seen Richard Stallman (funny), Steve Ballmer (funnier), Nandan Nilekani (sleepy), assorted Japanese and Korean executives (hilarity), naked women (not in India, but I have seen almost naked women in India), very drunk senior executives slurring on stage while trying to grope the hostess' ass and the hostess making a monumental boo-boo and watch my big boss squirm as she did that.
But the funniest thing I have seen at a conference was completely my doing and technically I didn't see it. Several years ago during a particularly painful Powerpoint, I fell asleep and started snoring. Pretty loudly I was told. And when the PR chiquita went to wake me up I supposedly didn't use the nicest language with her. Best of all, a colleague with a camera caught a lot of the said event. There goes my budding political career. Oh yeah, there was also this time when Richard Stallman dressed up as an angel/god at the AirJaldi conference, but thats Stallman for god's sake. What else? I've seen senior executives with their flies undone, people who desperately need to go to language school and Shah Rukh Khan being Shah Rukh Khan and many of the women journalists losing all objectivity (though that was worse at a Abhishek Bachchan event). I've gotten pretty drunk at post-conference parties and a lot more... but this isn't the place for such stories.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Going online...

Every once in a while we get a disgruntled subscriber call up the editorial office and because the receptionist loves me, or possible because I'm the most patient person I get these calls on my extension. So interestingly, I had this one call a few days ago, where during the course of the conversation I mentioned to the guy that we were revamping our online site, and opening up our archives (eventually) online as well as putting in a e-magazine, a full copy of the magazine online down to the adverts. Now, this is actually live right now and it is a lot better than any e-paper there is and none of the competition has a clue. But then again, our real-life competition barely has a clue anyway.
Now, back to the story, this guy then tells me 'Why should I buy the magazine then?', and honestly other than mumbling something to the effect, 'Well, it feels nicer in your hand and the e-magazine needs a good internet connection to work.' Now, this conversation actually got more interesting, 'But am I not subsidising the people who read it online?' this guy asked me, and that weirdly enough is a terribly valid question. Though I did tell him that the amount he pays for the magazine barely covers the costs of raw paper, let alone printing, distribution and the cost of maintaining an editorial and sales staff and this magazine like many others was ad-supported, but his point was well-taken.
The internet is going to change the way we will consume media, now as long as the current minister is in charge and busy raising funds for the DMK's electoral kitty by making bizarre decisions, there will not be proper broadband in this country, because I pay equivalent to $20 a month for shitty speed, albeit unlimited data from Airtel, and in the US with Fibre into the home, people can get 10mbips speeds for not much more. But, we will get those speeds one day, at ridiculously cheap rates, and just like the internet has changed the music and movie business (though the music industry refuses to change) we will have to change as well. 'Performance' media? Or will we all be slaves to Adsense revenues? You can't even say, let's wait and watch, because change will happen so fast that you'll be too far back if you wait.
That said, why are the sites of all of India's major newspapers so awful - ToI and HT both suck and are far too heavy and cluttered and their e-Papers are both rather shady, but Times' in problem requires a colour change on the e-Paper background page before anything else.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just where is Brinda Karat?

I was watching Mamta Banerjee on NDTV last night asking "Where is this Mao?" Well, Mao is kept at a mausoleum in Beijing, so she could take the (delayed) Air India flight from Delhi to Beijing if she wanted to see him. But, I was wondering where India's #1 protester Brinda Karat has disappeared? Coincidence? I'm sure she was upset that her husband's Bengali goon's beat up her comrade-in-arms Medha Patkar. Somewhere out there, Narendra Modi is laughing. Very loudly!

Monday, November 19, 2007


The best way to get of travelling high to to spend the greater part of a day weaving between tractor-trailers, though there were points of time when you just saw lovely long stretches of empty tarmac stretching out into the dull grey haze. I was driving down to Jaipur to watch the final one-dayer between India and Pakistan, and yes, we lost, but I had a fairly good time none the less, even though flag-waving patriotism really isn't my thing, but what the heck, flags were bought and they were waved. Great deal of good they did! What was also peculiar was that half the crowd wearing gloriously bad fakes (sorry to be snobbish but 'Channel'? For crying out loud?) wanted to see Shah Rukh and Deepika, not to watch the Pakistani batsmen whack our bowlers to various corners of the ground.
That said, the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur is lovely little stadium, as against the hell-hole that is Wankhede and the disaster zone called Kotla (though I will like to see the new 'Kotla' during the First Test starting Thursday). While Cricket is a great sport, I think TV has just taken over the 50-over game. The breaks between overs are ridiculously long and you suddenly realise just how much time the advertising takes up. So no matter what the purists think, the reason Twenty20 is becoming popular is not because India pulled off a fluke, but because the game is just so much easier to watch in a stadium.
And don't you really think India needs some other sports to develop really fast? Something fast-paced without a break every four minutes, like football for example. hey, its easier and better to play football on a game console than it is cricket (Have you even tried Yuvraj Singh Cricket on a 360?). But if that oily nut PRDM keeps running the sport, nothing is likely to change anytime soon. Anyway, I think I'll confine myself to Delhi for a couple of weeks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ek aur newspaper!

It's been raining raddi in Delhi for the last few months, three new papers in under a year - PaperMint, The bastard child and now Mail Today which came out today. First impressions, nice paper, nice size, nice layout, but I can't seem to find any content inside. Forget the business pages which began with a pointless story, even the lead story was rather pointless. This is a paper that is focussing on the Delhi market, so why don't they give me local news, not something about some bureaucrat. Tell me about the weird High Capacity Bus Service (HCBS) Corridor which has brought South Delhi to a screeching halt or even something of national importance. Or then be a tabloid. Proper tabloid.
That said, I think that PaperMint is only finding its feet now, with some really interesting reportage and it took MetroNow a few months to get cracking and go after that 'model on the streets' story, which was a great tabloid story. My honest opinion about the newspaper will be misconstrued, but it is difficult for a paper to be too many things - DNA proved that dramatically in Bombay and only now after getting some single minded focus and getting rid of the marquee names is the paper finally waking up.
A focus on 'women' is what was mentioned at a recent press briefing, and honestly I couldn't find anything that was focussed on women or at women. There was no story that came out of the paper and hit you, it was just several pages of well-designed blah, and with some of the senior editorial staff there right now, I doubt it will migrate from being more blah. PaperMint, for all its worth did always have some strong batsmen in the line-up, as did MetroNow. Anyway, first day, first show has been slightly disappointing, lets see how the paper progresses!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dear Mr PR rep...

Since I have been alternatively travelling to various outposts of the Republic and getting drunk out of my skull on various types of whiskey thanks to some lunatic or another (don't worry, I haven't been driving drunk, with the Delhi government making all of South Delhi a giant construction zone you doubly need your wits about you nowadays), I missed this delightful post by Chris Anderson. Yes, while I'm not as high up in the food chain as Mr Ansderson, I feel his pain! And more.
I have received calls from dimwit PR types asking me 'We are updating our media lists, what is your name?' My mother taught me that banging phones down was impolite, but for chrissake! Other idiotic questions - 'What do you cover?' (Read the frikkin thing!), 'What is your designation?' (we have a tombstone!) et al. I would figure after six and a bit years, people can figure out what I cover and also figure out that calling me after sending a fax or email to confirm if I have received it is stupid, really frikkin' stupid! If you are in PR, don't get me wrong, I know we need you as much as you need us, and dealing with dumb journalists isn't pleasant, but calling me after an email which is some dumb press release is like asking me to scream at you. It won't make me any more disposed to carry it than not calling me. If you are pitching a story, fair enough, but use your brains there too - I know some of you have pitched to clients saying we have a good equation with so-and-so and we can 'guarantee' you XXX column centimeters / airtime of coverage in XXX publication or channel. I know who does this because I do happen to have friends who happened to go to IIM and have had to listen to these presentations. One friend who happened to sit through one of these presentations by a fairly well-known PR firm, laughed so loudly when my name was mentioned, that the PR firm got the hint that we murdered bottles of scotch together.
But will I put on a blacklist, Mr Anderson style? Not yet anyway, but my pet peeve isn't with useless email, my office filter is pretty good because I have set it up pretty well, but the problem is that I work in an organisation which is rather stingy with email server space. Of course, it is a wonderful organisation, but on some IT issues, it needs serious help! Anyway, what I hate the most is when PR emails come in with multi-megabyte images attached - the image invariably is of some horny manager trying to fondle the boobs of some $10,000 a night B-grade Bollywood actress. I really don't want to know, if I see a mail larger than 300kb I tend to delete it without opening it. If I need an image, I will call you, and if you folks have done your PR advocacy well and told your client that he/she should build some semblance of a media website where I can download product shots, I would very grateful. I don't want to approach you if I need an image, because it needlessly adds delays to the process and the images you hand out suck, because no matter how many times I try to explain '300dpi', a good 90 per cent of you think that if it looks decent on a computer screen it must look good in print! Most western corporates and some Indian companies have understood this.
The problem with PR here at times is that it still works on a 'contact' system, and while I know I can work the system pretty well, but getting basic information out is still sometimes such a pain. But I must tell my much harrowed boss about this, but the next time I get a large email from one of TV channels explaining in large pictures the happenings on the latest talent show or another, I will post email addresses online for spambots to pick up!

Have a great Samvat 2064!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


A friend told me a very weird thing yesterday, "You know, you probably have one of the best jobs in Indian print journalism today, K. You travel like a maniac to exotic locales. You cover just about anything that takes your fancy. Your life is like a constant blast."
Sometimes, I really wonder how I wandered into the job I have, not journalism per se, because I know how I wandered into the profession, but the job profile that I have. I mean, some of the assignments that I get boggle me, and sometimes sometimes the assignments that just land on your lap are even more puzzling. I just spent the weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the country on a story that I doubt I enjoy the 'qualifications' to deliver, but then again, I guess writing is a skill and if you were born as a straight bloke, you don't need qualifications to stare at good-looking women.
But I have to admit, my job has been very good to me, in terms of travel. Sure, my passport still has empty pages, but when it comes to going wild and whaky places inside India, I have travelled to some really crazy places, seen stunning natural beauty and environmental destruction, both in scales unimaginable and experienced both abject poverty and gross oppulence, sometimes within hours of each other. But I guess in the process, my ability to get shocked or 'feel' pain or even enjoy a bloody good single malt has taken a hit. Sure, I guess I say all the right things when I have to, feel sympathy with those I have to, and I've probably attended enough alcohol-tasting sessions to blab out all the nasal and palate notes by rote.
Can you manage to see eye to eye with a widow whose husband killed himself over a Rs 20k loan one day in Wardha district and attend a champagne lunch with starlets snorting coke next to you two days later in some South Mumbai joint and feel equally comfortable doing both. I can, I know because I have, and I don't know if that I can possibly be proud of myself because of that.
I sometimes try to rationalise everything by saying, 'It's a job, if I didn't do it, someone else would', and that is exactly what I feel. I have always felt that one should experience a multitude of experiences, high and low in their lives, and god knows, I've had both, both professionally and personally. Totally natural too, but yes the acid did help out some years ago, but the drugs are a thing of the past now other than the occasional smoke.
But my life isn't a constant blast. I don't have a life, I just bounce around from one experience to another. It is fun alright and I really enjoy it, but I'm also killing myself doing this. This is my drug of choice now, I need it, I need the rush and I don't think I can cold turkey. Shit!

Photo : Vijaynagar Beach, somewhere in India!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Roti kyon nahin ho?

A very close friend of mine who works as a photographer with a daily, or rather used to work in a daily as he has just shifted to a national news magazine, came over last night and was narrating a strange incident. As all Dillivasi's are aware, Blueline buses have been mowing down a person every two days on average this year, so my friend was at the scene of one such event. The family of the victim, a small child, four or five years old was still coming to terms with what had happened, the mother was still in shock. That however, did not stop the TV crew of a local channel from Delhi.

"Aap toh dukhi nahin lag rahe hai?"
"Roti kyon nahin ho?"

What can you say to that!
This is not the only incident where Television cameramen/reporters have been known to get a bit too over-enthusiastic and manipulate the images they show. In the hyper-competitive world of TV journalism today, even though no-body might be watching a particular channel unless they have relatives working there (which kind of guarantees viewership nowadays), I think boundaries are being crossed a bit too often.
In a related story, despite eveything, 'Live India' has managed to get away scot-free from the 'Non-Sting' incident. I'm appalled at the decision by the court, but in India's lower judiciary, anything goes, I guess!
I'll be far, far away in a distant outpost of this Republic, so excuse me till I return!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Winning the lottery...

Sorry for the baseball analogy, but I actually tracked the MLB post-season and was really happy that the Red Sox won. Basically, I am a sports junkie, though I do have some teams to whom I'm ferociously loyal - Arsenal (they're good, aren't they?), the Indian Cricket Team (despite everything) and Williams in F1 (though I was unashamedly a Lewis backer this season) . Anyway, back to the story, sometimes life throws you a curveball and you manage to catch it by the corner of your eye and slam it out of the park. For a Grand Slam!
That is what happened at three today afternoon, I got a phone call from someone I didn't expect to be calling me right now, and to cut a long story short, I'll be on an island beach in a couple of days. Sometimes I don't know how I end up holding certain things in my hand, but I am really not complaining!
Life is good, though I should not really count chickens before they hatch. That job is a for 'management guru's'!

Falling asleep!

While I have fallen asleep, and quite soundly too, during Press Conferences, which is a major reason why I sometimes go into some briefings with my ears snugly plugged into my iPod, I recently found myself very close to dozing off during a 1-on-1 interview. It wasn't so much the fact that I was bored, yes, meetings full of technology jargon can bore me, I still usually manage to stay up. I mean, have a semblance of life, not roll my eyes and let the sandman take me from behind.
But, as I mentioned, I almost did doze off, and honestly, it wasn't so much boredom as a combination of boredom and tiredness. I had caught a flight at some obscene hour in the morning and coffee can only do so much when you are already tired and to make matters worse, this was that dreaded 'post-lunch' meeting. See, there is a reason I usually skip lunch. Eating lunch, no matter how good and how healthy the biological types insist it is makes me completely useless for an hour. Of course, there are also good sushi lunches which leave me awake, but that is because I'm still tasting Otaru in my mouth, and that is a wonderful feeling. Sadly, daily sushi lunches are not an option.
Anyway, I did not actually snooze off in front of the guy I was meeting, even though the thought of attaching my eyelashes to my spectacle frames did strike me. What is worse is that in my semi-stoned state I managed to make complete sense in what I was asking. I surprised myself by asking stuff, I was even comprehending what the person I was meeting was telling me, though my eyes could barely focus on his face.
Anyway, I doubt I'm the only one who has had to face such a situation, but I would like to know if there is anybody who has actually dozed off during an interview?

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Now, now, immature maybe, sladerous? Me? I don't make up stuff.
Anyway, I read this earlier today and am still laughing.

To quote...

" Pleading for a judicial intervention in the matter, the former Director General of BSF Prakash Singh, who is one of the petitioners, contended that children of the country were exposed to the uncensored obscene pictures adversely affecting their mind.

"I have collected the papers from all over the world and no newspaper publishes such obscene pictures," Singh contended while placing the copies of the newspaper before the Court."

Evidently, Mr Singh does not read The Sun at all, or did not submit it to the court, lest it ruin his case. But, I do contend that busybodies like Mr Singh should close his eyes, or stick to the Hindu group of publications! And this is my blog, so give me a frikking break, if I don't like someone, and I think someone is a cunt, big deal! So what if so many of you know who I am, I guess we are all allowed some venting time occasionally.
Anyway, evidently, the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) has held up the application for a media group's new daily paper, which was supposed to have been launched by now. While, looking at some of the people that the paper has hired (has-been's) you might doubt its shelf-life, it also has some pretty smart people. But I wonder how long they will want to stay on board. Plus, competing with the Times of India is a pleasant prospect!