Thursday, January 28, 2010

Padma controversy!

Unfortunately, this is not about who might be the father of Padma Lakshmi's baby, because honestly I don't have a clue. Though, I guess one can safely assume it isn't Baldie Rushdie (what is it with guys called Salman anyway?) This is more in reference to the controversy surrounding the Padma Bhushan awarded to Sant Singh Chatwal. After it seems a piece appeared in a paper (it seems the US publisher of the paper in question is a rival of Chatwal's and is miffed about the award) a senior Editor not in the employ of the said paper but today more of well, lets not go there, is equally miffed and claims that the award is an insult to the Padma awards. The BJP, which gave out its fair share of very dubious Padma awards during the NDA regime (one Padma Bhushan in particular) is backing the claim.
Sadly, this is what I think. The person, who will rail against blogs again, of this I'm pretty sure, has his claim stink of sour grapes. You know, vinegary and all. I'm sure Sant Singh Chatwal is no saint (but then again, nor is our Telecom minister) - but he does give access to the second-most important person in the US administration and well is a very influential NRI. Nobody claimed that the office of the President of India was sullied by the allegations against the current occupants husband? So the argument being put forward, and I would put money on the fact that a column this weekend will talk about this, is extremely facile. Just because you didn't get a gong, doesn't mean that you bong the gongs.
Just my two cents - and bong the gongs. Hah! I made a funny. I should also now get a book deal. Plus, from what I hear, Mr Chatwal is a rather vindictive man, and while most Padma Shri's might escape below the radar Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awardees are usually cleared at the highest levels. Hmmm.... There are several other interesting threads here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This brilliant post on the LabRats blog over at Mint which a day before the paper skewered Rajendra Pachauri explained the issue at hand excellently. The Google analogy can only be described as f***ing brilliant – one of those that really make you go ‘Damn, I wish I had thought of that!’ See being green is quite a money-spinning venture for many Indian media organizations, though no-one is quite as shameless as NDTV which along with Toyota does this ‘Green-a-thon’ business. But I doubt the network will even question Pachauri. But, while most other papers and channels are laughing a bit at Pachauri, Mint is miles ahead.

Frankly, after the University of East Anglia incident and now this, Climate Change science has received a body-blow and speaking as a lay person, it seems that the votaries of climate change are speaking the same way that the ‘World is Flat’ and ‘the Sun revolves around the Earth’ folks spoke several centuries ago. I’m not doubting that mankind is impacting the earth and that temperatures are rising – though after this miserable winter in Delhi (where I’m a lot luckier than friends in Western Europe) people might question that. The last few times I’ve flown out of Delhi, I’ve looked back and seen the city covered in a grey gloom – try it next time – on a morning flight choose an ‘Alpha’ window seat (if you take off in a westerly direction) and look back at the city.

Frankly, here is what I think, Pachauri believes he is being hounded by the media – but what is the old adage again – if you ride the tiger you bloody well ought to be ready to get eaten alive. Frankly, ‘one mistake’ is not an excuse. This sloppiness is going to be used as a stick to beat not just climate change but also Indian science, already reeling from the 'Ten dollar laptop' screw-up. The longer Rajendra Pachauri stays as the head of the IPCC the more he will damage climate change science and worse, Indian science. Even though the ND Tiwari incident was a precursor of things to come, it hasn’t opened the floodgates, the western media does not live by the same rules.

As for the IPL not choosing P players - frankly big deal! That said, given that most Pakistani players will be well-rested for the ICC T20 World Cup in the West Indies, they'll probably win it again.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Jyoti Basu died on Saturday. West Bengal died several years ago. I know that picking on a dead man is "unethical" and is in extremely poor taste. But, this is a slightly personal post. I was born in 1978 in Calcutta, a year after the Communists came to power. Several years after the exodus of Bengal's best and brightest began. And while I was born in Calcutta (but I will always, always treat New Delhi as my home, I've studied here, I've grown up here), my parents had already moved out of the city, my father ran away the first chance he got - it was the era when if you were in La Martinere, you went to St.Stephen's if you could not Presidency. Let me qualify this post, I am no student of contemporary Indian history (I'm a student of Literature - one who fails to see the point of a lot of poetry, fiction any day) but the Naxalbari movement was not much different from that of Pol Pot a couple of thousand miles to the south-east.
The country will celebrate Jyotibabu as a great leader. He ruled West Bengal with an iron grip - the ruse being that the Commies were 'democratically' elected. What people forget is how the CPI(M) cadre were, at least in large swathes of rural Bengal little different than the Stasi. Yes, the Communists liberated Bengal from the feudalism that still plagues parts of Northern India. You can argue about the rights and wrongs of land distribution (I reckon hundreds of acres of arable farmland have been lost to the furrows between fields) but in a country where 'Do Bigha Zamin' makes a difference, it was a big deal. The issues were never on the fields but in industry. As their brethren in China embarked on a 30 year journey towards the Olympic Games, Bengal's communists were retrograde. Industries in the state were not allowed to grow - and taking the Rajdhani to Howrah as a child you could see the vast industrial wastelands of central Bengal.
People (keep in mind these 'people' are almost always Bengali parochialists - and that is not a breed that is in any danger of going extinct, especially in the media) and say that it is a tragedy that JB never became PM. We got a sleepy and foul-mouthed HD Deve Gowda instead. But the Deve Gowda - IK Gujral interregnum in Indian modern is better best forgotten (and not as the Congress would like - Narashima Rao's - but history is the best judge not 10, Janpath). I'm not arguing that JB would have been worse, but if we are the growing economic powerhouse that we are today, it isn't thanks to the Communists. We can debate a lot of 'What If's?' in history - I mean what if the Indian Army hadn't won the decisive battle in Imphal against the Japanese? Would we be ruled by the Forward Bloc (scary bunch of people). But you know what? I thank my lucky stars that Jyoti Basu did not become Prime Minister of India.
Not that Mamta will be much better for that state, little wonder my cousin sister wants to run away after graduating from school this year. Shed a tear for the state, not the man.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Follow Friday

Small-ish admission, I've become addicted to twitter - not to read the pointless mutterings of Twatteroor (though he has 600x the number of followers I do and he is really India's answer to Ashton Kutcher) but Twitter is an amazing content discovery mechanism and you can follow some really cool people - intellectual porn stars for example. I know that an army of social media experts will tell companies what they can and cannot do on Twitter - and even though they sometimes make me cringe - they are marketers after all, not much different from the guy trying to sell you an Insurance policy. Listen, I don't want to extol the virtues of tweeting or blogging - I've been blogging (here and elsewhere) for over eight years and I've been on Twitter before it was cool and when it was about to become cool - I did the first cover story on social media by an Indian magazine, cautiously avoiding social media 'experts'. Anyway, enough trumpet blowing. I just wanted to share a couple of the sites I've become used to reading a lot lately that I didn't know existed a few weeks ago. All thanks to Twitter. Yes, yes, this is all before I update this place!
- The Oatmeal
- This Isn't Happiness
- 9 Gag
Actually, there are a myriad more, but I don't have the patience (it is a production day, so...) to go through Chrome's history and if you've never checked these sites out, they'll keep you entertained for a while. While I slink off to a corner to hide hiding from my iPod which is trying to blast my ears with cringe-worthy music that I didn't know I actually had on my iPod.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Regular posts have been far too few and far between - but what can we talk about lets see...

'Aman Ki Asha' - Well, I'm speechless, as is Anchorman. Therefore Anchorman would rather we declare war on Australia, whose media is going through gteat pains to describe how lots of Indians are murdered in India (in response to even what I must admit was not a really funny cartoon - R.Prasad can do better, his cartoons aren't always quite there, then again at least Mail Today has a daily cartoonist). Which is kind of missing the point, just showing that missing the point is an universal trait among journalists.

So that killed two birds with one stone. So, should one now explore the depths to which Jackie Shroff has descended - promoting Musli Power Extra. For crying out loud, that ad is the most bizarre one on TV. No wait, there is this JK cement advert which has a girl (God knows what she had to do to get the role) in a swimsuit. That is the ad. A girl in a swimsuit. Promoting Cement. What. The. F***.

What else?

Hm, oh yes, the inevitable claims of 'morphing' whenever someone is presented with a video or photograph of them doing something. Now, image morphing is rampant - I ought to write to Vogue India that future issues should have a byline called 'photoshopping' in addition to 'Photographs' and 'Styling'. Just look at the magazine, they're in love with the airbrush tool among others - check out PSD when you have the time. Not that the Kingfisher Calendar is any better - I was at the launch (yes, yes, I get to do cool things - I'm a cool guy, remember) and well, thank god for Photoshop. But video? Has anyone ever seen Indian special effects? Or what passes as animation in this country? Do people even know that replacing a gadzillion-odd pixels in several thousand frames would possibly melt a Core i7 processor? No, wait. This is the desi media, obviously they don't.

Any other housekeeping notes? Nothing right now (we'll get into the compassion vs. doing something debate later), I have a ton of cool stuff lined by for February, but you'll hear about that then. And no, it isn't about how the Budget should be banned for the sake of my sanity. But generally fun stuff. You'll see.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nine years in...

Sorry for not posting for a while, I was inundated (literally) with work, and trying to keep up with my resolve to drink less copiously that took a slight toll on my sanity, though my liver must be grateful. That and the fact that I’m feeling very, very cold. Yes, one can argue that it really isn’t ‘that’ cold in India compared to say anywhere in Europe (or even Florida – Florida for God’s sake) but then again homes in India are designed to be cool – they’re designed to keep the heat out. Considering we have nine months of summer and three of winter in northern India (which equates to three months of less hot/muggy south of the tropic of Cancer) that makes immense sense – it also makes winters bloody cold. Ever tried playing a Xbox 360 wearing gloves – trying moving the analog stick. It ain’t easy. And during all that there was the biennial media festival called the Auto Expo which basically taught me that a mass of photographers and cameramen jostling for position is a riot waiting to happen. And given that everyone with a camera is a ‘Magazine Editor’ and all you need to start a TV channel is technically two video cameras.
Sorry to sound like a grumpy old man, and I’m genuinely sorry that I didn’t post earlier this year. I’ve been debating what to do with the blog, it is a thought that I’ve had for a while. Some senior folks would rather I shut the blog down, for my own good. Though I argue back that the golden decade of the media just ended with a whimper in India and a knowledge – and a practical working knowledge of new media delivery platforms as they evolve is going to hold me in good stead. I’m not for one second arguing that four covers in a year works better, but I’m just saying y’know. Anyway, I have registered a couple of alternative identities for a site ( for example) and was wondering what to do with it. Yes, yes, the migrate to Wordpress bit I already know – take more pictures, yada, yada. I’m not like my friend Kutty at MOB and I’m not going to stalk guys who take a pee on the side of the road. But I will try and get a more comprehensive content thing going. But given the fact that crowdsourcing is the latest refuge of the lazy journalist – and despite working hard over the past few months – I cannot escape my Bengali genes for too long. So, please do comment with what you would like to see here. I know there are more than a fair share of people who don't like me for whatever reason (and that list does not include my previous or current editor for the benefit of a comment I just moderated - I love moderation I wonder what would happen if everyone else applied a bit of it sometimes instead of declaring war on Australia)
And, again, hope everyone has a great, great 2010 and I’ll start the year by asking a very simple question – why didn’t Outlook name names in their ‘media sex story’ – heck, the story didn’t even have a frikking byline. Makes you wonder.