Archive for December, 2009

Goa take a running jump

Thursday, December 31st, 2009 December 31st, 2009 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

 

I was dog tired. I’d been driving all day, on my own – 600-odd kilometres and about 14 hours over some terrible roads, with a long delay for a troublesome puncture thrown in. I had a headache. I was starving. I needed a good meal, a hot bath and a clean, soft bed. It was almost 10 at night, and most places seemed to have downed shutters, which wasn’t terribly encouraging given my mental makeup at that point. I parked my car on a street which had several hotels on it and walked over to one that looked promising – it was small, quaint, was more of a guest house than a hotel and had a welcoming air about it.

The man at the front desk was pleasant enough and asked if he could be of service. ‘I’d like a room for the night, please’ I said. ‘Just a moment, I’ll ask the owner’ he replied, craning his head around the corner towards a room with a curtain on the door. ‘There’s a person asking for a room’ he said in a respectful tone. ‘Yes, there are rooms available’, a woman’s voice barked. I smiled in relief – a good night’s rest seemed a moment away. Then the woman yapped again. ‘Who is asking for the room?’ The lackey lowered his voice a touch and said just one word – ‘Indian’. The response was immediate - ‘No, sorry, no rooms’. At first I thought I hadn’t heard right, but from the way the man was looking at me, it immediately became as clear as a punch to the gut – there were rooms available, but they weren’t available to Indians. No, this wasn’t some bigoted foreign country (although that’s not far from the truth, sometimes) – this was Goa, of sun-kissed beaches, laid-back attitudes and friendly, cheerful locals. You know what I have to say to that? B******t.

This might sound like a bit of a rant, but I think a spade has to be called a bloody shovel. The myth that Goa is some sort of paradise on earth, with an anything-goes ethos and a charming populace, has been perpetuated for so long that it’s become gospel. First-time visitors have visions of being welcomed at the airport with garlands and of outgoing citizens smiling and inviting you into their homes, but the truth is that the airport sucks and you’re likely to be looked at askance if you venture near someone’s home. I’m not speaking merely from personal experience, mind you – others have related their own Goa horror stories to me, and almost all of them have to do with the people, rather than the physical environs (which are spectacular). Some have been denied access to tables with views in restaurants, the explanation being that ‘they’re reserved’ – only to see the first, quite random, white people walking in being given those tables. Others have stopped to ask for directions and been rudely sneered at because they didn’t pronounce the name of the place in question properly.

Most of all, I’ve been told about (and have experienced) the phenomenon of a lot of Goans not thinking of themselves as Indians, and of them preferring not to have to deal with ‘Indians’. I’m not even getting into the attitude that a lot of white people, who’ve settled in Goa and run establishments there (many of them illegal), have about Indians – in some cases, it’s apartheid without the shooting. All this is, of course, sad beyond measure – one of the loveliest places on the planet (in spite of rampant development) could have been so much more special if attitudes like these didn’t exist. Thankfully, Goa’s beauty more than compensates for the narrow-mindedness of some of its inhabitants, and I’ll continue to go there and have a really good time – despite these jackasses. As for the woman in the hotel – well, the hell with you, lady. You’d still have been kissing Portuguese butt if it hadn’t been for us ‘Indians’.

Unsung heroes called sub-editors

Monday, December 28th, 2009 December 28th, 2009 J Jagannath

The modicum of awe that I inspire from strangers by saying I am a journalist dissipates into ether when I mention I am sub-editor. With their interest fast waning, people still manage to ask what exactly I do. “Oh not much, reporters file stories, I edit them, give headlines and make the pages” is my stock reply. I brush it off as a mundane job because it’s hard to describe it to the uninitiated.

How do you explain to people that a desk job is as enriching as the muck-raking done by the reporters? After all, looking at people’s reactions, a sub-editor is as much a journalist as Tintin was. Ironically, a sub-editor is the lowest common denominator. The reasons for such low awareness levels of my job is varied.

In popular culture, there have been books written ad nauseaum on the craft of reporting but next to nothing on copy editing. Only Tarun Tejpal’s “Alchemy of Desire” comes somewhere close to describing the agony of a sub-editor. Now, there’s not much hope too with obituaries of newspapers being a stock-in trade of many doomsayers and Facebook groups like ‘Save Sub-editors’ proliferating. I don’t even expect there to be any John Travolta straight out of Pulp Fiction to revive copy editing with a shot of adrenaline administered straight to the heart.

Most newspapers in this country, or world for that matter, are desk-driven. At the moment, I can recall only one Indian newspaper that is reporter driven. As a Times of India senior editor once told me,  intellectual churning happens at the desk. Little wonder then that at all the foreign newspapers most of the news stories have the byline of a sub-editor and at the end they would mention the reporter’s name. A practice unheard of in this part of the world.

And why not? After all, we people work graveyard shifts to pull out the paper, make packages, give a catchy headline by putting our intellectual toolkit under immense duress, social life goes for a toss and, as Garrison Keillor once put it, turn into alcoholics by the time we turn 50. This, apart from discounting the taunts, some valid ones notwithstanding, of reporters that we don’t have to run around for quotes. After so much toil, a copy editor’s job is deemed akin to working on Large Hadron Collider- something special but not of much interest for common man.

Small digression: Economist has realised this and made it an egalitarian newspaper, who are you to call it magazine if it thinks otherwise, where there are no bylines given. A touch injustice though with such brilliant writing getting published with no name attached.

If you come across any journalist who is faking fluency in every subject, then on most occasions that would be a sub-editor. We make Karl Marx’s following remark our professional dictum, “Anything human is not alien to me.” A reporter would be caught tongue-tied if asked anything beyond his or her ‘beat’. All this doesn’t mean that we are saintly. Yes, we bitch about the reporters’ writing that they can’t write to save their lives. Yes, we lament at the lack of legitimacy attached to our craft. Evelyn Waugh nailed it by mentioning in his seminal book, ‘Scoop’, that people don’t understand what toil goes behind the paper that they buy ‘for a penny’.

Next time when you read the newspaper, always remember what D H Lawrence said, “trust the novel, not the novelist”.

 

 

 

 

No dull day for AP journalists in 2009

Thursday, December 24th, 2009 December 24th, 2009 Prashanth Chintala

There was never a dull day for journalists in Andhra Pradesh during the year 2009.  As the state faced one of the most turbulent years since its formation 53 year ago, they were often on the tenterhooks. One agency reporter even resigned, unable to bear the pressure.

The year started with the unfolding of Satyam saga and confession of company’s founder, B Ramalinga Raju, to the biggest corporate fraud in the country. This was followed by a no-holds-bar, bitterly fought elections to the Lok Sabha and the state Legislative Assembly.

As the things slowly started returning to normalcy, the helicopter carrying the state’s chief minister disappeared. A frantic search ensued but his body could be traced only a day later. The sudden death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, arguably  one of most popular Congress leaders of the state in recent times, led to a succession struggle,  though Konijeti Rosaiah was anointed as chief minister by the Congress high command immediately.

Even before Rosaiah could settle down in his new position,  the worst drought  hit the state. This was followed by unprecedented floods in the Krishna river basin leading to inundation of Kurnool, the former capital of AP, nearly for five days.

As the floods receded, a noted civil rights activist, K Balagopal, died.

Meanwhile, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which lost a lot of ground among the electorate, revived its effort to regain its hold. As a part of this effort, TRS  president, K Chandrasekhara Rao, decided to go an indefinite hunger strike. However, he was arrested hours before he was to go a ‘fast-unto-death”. This led to widespread unrest in the entire Telangana region.

The central leadership of the Congress, which did not agree to the creation of a  Telangana state despite a prolonged struggle 40 years ago in which over 350 people were killed in police firing, suddenly announced that Telangana would be carved out as a separate state. This caused consternation among the leaders of all parties in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema leading to en mass resignation of MLAs from non-Telangana regions.

Consequently, even while I am writing this, non-Telangana areas of AP are on the boil with people  hitting the streets and observing shutdowns in various towns and cities.

The hectic pace of events resulted in a rat race among journalists. Especially in the case of Satyam, every rumour was being lapped up including that the company founder has 1,000 designer suits. All kinds of reports appeared in the press as scoring-over-the-other spirit continued at the cost of objectivity.

Aghast at seeing such reports, Raju’s lawyer sent a couple of rejoinders to one of the leading papers but they were not carried. He wanted to send a legal notice but Raju, who was already in deep trouble, did not allow him to take any such action. To contain the damage and bolster confidence among their colleagues, the Satyamites themselves started an internal newsletter in which they clarified about some of the reports that appeared in newspapers.

In the case of unverified reports, the visual media was much ahead of the print media. For instance, two days after Raju’s confession, there was a scroll on a local TV channel stating that Satyam’s former chief financial officer, Srinivas Vadlamani, was learnt to have committed suicide. The “breaking news” was retracted half-an-hour later.

With regard to other incidents mentioned above, the less said the better. In fact, there is a section of people who strongly believe that it is the visual media, which is fueling the ongoing Telangana and united Andhra agitations.

Tiger Tiger still burning bright

Thursday, December 24th, 2009 December 24th, 2009 Aabhas Sharma

I am tired of Tiger Woods. The silly jokes, the ‘birdies’ he hit, talk of sponsors dropping him, the millions of dollars he might have to pay for settling his divorce, the secret place where is hiding etc, etc. In short, everything and anything that is related to Woods is getting on my and I am sure most people’s nerves.

But what I am not tired of is Tiger Woods – the golfer. The golfer who changed the way people looked at the sport. The golfer who is an absolute joy to watch once he steps on the greens. The golfer who on a regular basis pulled off strokes others didn’t even dream of attempting. The golfer who existed in a parallel sporting universe.

Not for a minute, I am saying that what Woods did was correct. But the kind of flak he has been getting is way over the top. You can understand why the media – especially the tabloids – are having a field day over this and are doing their best to make sure that Woods’ achievements become a talk of the past. It’s as if Tiger Woods the golfer didn’t even exist and all that is there to him is sex, lies and infidelity.

Sportsmen, even the greatest, are just humans like us and are bound to err in the walk of life. Shane Warne’s trysts with various women have been well documented. Diego Maradona was a cocaine addict, Michael Phelps confessed to be a pot-smoker, Mike Tyson went to prison on charges of rape and had Evander Holyfield’s ear for a quick bite in the boxing ring. Do we look up to them as anything but legendary sportsmen?

One of the reasons why Woods is facing the public scorn is because he portrayed himself to be a holier-than-thou family loving man. People feel cheated as they probably idol-worshipped him and in their eyes he couldn’t do any wrong. But still, does that take away the fact that if not Woods has made a sport popular which is considered as a rich man’s sport. It’s Woods, who sparked the interest of millions who thought of golf as a waste of time and cursed every time their favourite sports channel was telecasting it. 14 majors, decimating anyone who tried to challenge him on the course tell a different story than what we are being fed.

I am not sure if will we see Woods’ again on a golf course. But I certainly hope we do as no matter what he does in his personal life shouldn’t matter to the fans. After all, we adored him or respected him for what he did on the golf course rather than off it. So while we might feel disappointed in him, he still remains one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and that’s how he should be remembered.

I Know your editor!!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 December 22nd, 2009 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

I always knew my bosses are famous (as many bosses are) but it’s only of late that I get a taste of their popularity.

Recently, I had to call up an IIM director to confirm an event on his campus. Considering the story was negative, the director was obviously hesitant to talk.

When I called him he said, “You know young lady, I have worked with Business Standard for five years and I know your editor very well.”

“Oh! That’s nice to know, sir. So what do you have to say to the development at your institute?” I asked.

“You know your editor is a very nice man and I have great regards for him. I have known him personally for sometime now,” he replied.

As usual, I am trying hard to be polite . “Am sure he is a nice man, sir. But if you could help me with your version to the story, I would be grateful. I have a deadline to meet,” I replied.

The director loses his cool, blasts me and hangs up. I call up the dean and confirm the story.

Few months ago at a conference in Mumbai, I sneaked out and walked up to a minister who was enjoying a tea break. I asked him a question which, according to him, like all other questions, was controversial. He refused to answer it.

When I turned the question around and pestered him for a comment, still (as we reporters always do), he said, “You are from Business Standard, you said?”

“Yes, sir,” I nodded. “You know, your editor is a good friend of mine. I had dinner with him last week,” he said.

“Errrrrr…am sure he is your good friend, sir. But…,” before I could complete, his secretary intervened (perfect timing)… “Madam ji, sir aap ko bol rahe hain yeh controversial issue hai…aap media wale bhi!” Needless to say what happened to the story!!

But that’s not all. When we recently did a piece on the IIMs one of the directors was upset about it.

After reading the piece, he called me up and blasted me thinking I wrote it (he said half the reporters on this beat don’t even know the basics L).

Before I could apologize for the mistake, he snapped, “I know your editor very well and I shall take this up with him.”

“Errrr…not again,” I mumbled and apologized to him.

I tried and steered the conversation to another topic, a story I am working on. Though angry, the gentleman asked me to call up later to discuss the same.

…And I thought to myself, what fun it would be if I could do similar name dropping and get some breaking stories!!

Learning about Pakistan

Friday, December 11th, 2009 December 11th, 2009 Aditi PhadnisAditi Phadnis

Attending a conference of Indians and Pakistanis hosted by the German NGO Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) which is affiliated to the Social Democrat Party (SPD) in Germany, I realized how little we know about Pakistan generally, but specifically about Balochistan. This region has been in the news in Pakistan for some time, but shot into prominence when the India Pakistan joint statement at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt issued by the Prime Ministers of the two countries accepted that Pakistan had concerns about India’s role in Balochistan. The storm this kicked off is well known and there is no need to recount the background. The interesting this about the conference was, there were differences between the Indians and Pakistanis on all other issues. But on Balochistan both sides – I repeat both sides – agreed that Balochistan had been treated very badly for several decades.
Pakistani delegates however, said a new Pakistan was in the making and things were beginning to be set right in Balochistan.

This was most forcefully brought to the forefront by a young journalist, Malik Siraj Akbar who presented a strongly argued paper. Reproduced here, with his permission is a copy of the paper. I have made no changes in it. It shows what a Pakistani Baloch feels about his own country. Reading it, one can understand and sympathise both the Baloch people and the Pakistani state. The Baloch people, because of the way they’ve been treated; the Pakistani state, because it must be so hard to govern a set of people as alienated from the country as those in Balochistan.

I have added some explanatory comments in brackets.

Here is what Malik Siraj Akbar had to say:

The Baloch sense of alienation dates back to the forceful annexation of the Kalat State (present Balochistan) with the fledgling state of Pakistan in 1948. Resentment in Balochistan against Islamabad reached its nadir during the ten-year rule of General Pervez Musharraf. As the former military ruler applied a militaristic solution to a political demand by the Balochs for maximum provincial autonomy and control of the provinces over their natural resources, an organized military operation was unleashed in Balochistan for the fifth time by the country’s military.

The Balochs grumble that they do not control or benefit from their own natural resources nor are they equally represented in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy. (The number of Baloch soldiers in the military is miniscule. And it is the Sui gas fields in Balochistan that provide Pakistan with its entire LNG reserves. The Baloch people get no special royalty from the exploitation of these reserves)  It is the country’s military, not the elected government of Balochistan, that calls the shots in the province, as confirmed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The military operation initiated by General Musharraf led to the killing of former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, 79, also a towering Baloch tribal chief, and Nawabzada Balach Marri, a member of the Balochistan Assembly. Hundreds of young Baloch political activists were picked up by the state-controlled intelligence agencies and subjected to “enforced disappearance”. Opposition political leaders were arrested; Talibanization was promoted to counter the Baloch nationalistic movement and American weapons provided to Islamabad to fight the Islamic radicals were used to crush the Baloch nationalistic movement.

Islamabad’s repressive policy was responded by the alienated middle-class educated young Balochs who began to assert overt support for an independent Balochistan. Carrying an appealing slogan for separation, this school of thought has now become the most significant stakeholder of the Baloch conflict. The Baloch armed groups have started to target kill top government servants, burn Pakistan’s flag and stop playing the national anthem in all educational institutions of the province to vent their growing hatred against Pakistan.

For the first time in the Baloch history, women and children have now come out of their homes and joined the movement for an independent Balochistan. These women mostly come from professional medical colleges and view every Baloch leader as a national traitor who believes in coexistence with Pakistan. As the movement for separation gains popularity among the younger generation, it has made it impossible for the moderate nationalistic parties to reconcile with Islamabad on mere economic packages.

Unfortunately, Islamabad is not apologetic about its flawed policies in Balochistan. In an effort to discredit the indigenous Baloch movement, Pakistan has been blaming India and Afghanistan for the unrest in Balochistan, an allegation vehemently and repeatedly spurned by the Baloch leaders.

If Islamabad squanders more time in addressing the genuine Baloch political demand for provision of self-rule, economic justice, equitable representation in the federation and respectful treatment in the federation of Pakistan,  the situation in Balochistan might become very difficult to handle in the near future where a 1971-like situation already prevails. The growingly popular appeal for an independent Balochistan may reach a no-point return if a few more policy blunders are committed by Islamabad rather than ending the ongoing economic exploitation and massive violation of the Baloch rights in the province.

(The non-Baloch Pakistani speakers at the conference were in agreement with most of the above. Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider, former Governor of Sind and former Interior Minister murmured : “Hamse bahut galtiyan hui hain”.

The Baloch people are not homogenous: about 45 per cent of the people are pashtoons and speak pashto. It is the latter who monopolise the Baloch regiment in the Pakistan Army. Hence the rest of the Baloch population finds no voice.)

Journalist Mariana Babar who attended the conference agreed with Siraj for the most part but disagreed on India’s role. Babar said insurgency was nothing new to Balochistan, but it rose in 2002 and it almost at one stage appeared uncontrollable by 2006 after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti who like other leaders was always willing to talk to Islamabad . This saw his grandson Bramdagh Bugti starting an armed struggle who commands the Balochistan Liberation Army.

Soon there was alienation from the Marri tribe as well whose commander Balaach Marri was killed in 2007, with no-one claiming responsibility.

Even the Khan of Kalat, today in exile is asking for moving the International Court of Justice and the UN, she said. The youth  have killed many Punjabis and Urdu speaking people settled in Balochistan. Sectarian killings are rampant where those from Hazara community are singled out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jundullah, the latter a Sunni extremist group which recently took responsibility for terror attacks in Iran. Babar said the issue of Indian interference inside Balochistan had been flagged at the meeting between Gilani and Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh. But added that recently, the Pakistan government came out publicly to name India as one of the external factors which are aiding insurgency inside Balochistan. However when the American Ambassador in Islamabad , Anne Peterson was questioned about this, she said that Pakistan had not shared any such intelligence regarding India, but if they did, the US would take action. She did not elaborate what she meant by ‘action’.

The fact is Balochistan is one of the many landmines Pakistan is sitting on. Former Pakistan Ambassador to India, Aziz Ahmad Khan, while not denying any of the arguments, said the Baloch people had been sensible in not letting the mullahs get into Balochistan. The Gods must be thanked for small mercies !!

The Burning Bus and Bengal

Thursday, December 10th, 2009 December 10th, 2009 Devjyot Ghoshal

Once upon a time in West Bengal, the State, as Max Weber chose to define it, had monopoly over violence.

The legitimacy of this ascendancy of the administration within its demarcated territory is a question that events at Singur, Nandigram and, more recently, at Lalgarh have raised. It is altogether another matter that we, as a democracy, have been unable, or maybe unwilling, to suitably answer this. The hustings in 2011 will decide, is the refrain.

However, there is a far more fundamental, almost tectonic, change that is sweeping though the capital city of West Bengal. The transformation of a landscape, a return to the volatile days of the 70’s, based on a principle that has, unfortunately, been an integral part of our political heritage: violence.

It would be decidedly naive to detach arms from the man who casts India’s ballots, but there is a riveting nexus between the ubiquitous government bus and the fabled Kolkata bandh that is hard to ignore. Far more fascinating, though, is the intellectual ability of the city to accommodate such discord with an unreal sense of ease.

Last week, BJP activists stalked Kolkata with an authority that has no precedent for them. Not in recent memory has India’s saffron party stormed the red, and now greening, bastion with any intensity. That the Babu would not go to buy fish because men with lotus-emblazoned flags roamed the streets was close to unthinkable. But, last Monday, the Right took on the Left, and succeeded.

In July this year, the Congress, too, pulled off a similar coup. Mamata Banerjee watched from afar as her former party men struck at will, while Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ruminated quietly at the elegant Writers’ Building. A volatile vacuum was created. It continues to fester.

It is from within this chasm created by the abdication of duty on part of the government and the Opposition, that a new regime of the political underling has emerged in Bengal. A space where political legitimacy is once again based on the disruption of public life. A system where political respect is gained out of the number of road-blocks enforced. Realpolitik, here, now consists school boys jostling for authority on a playground that is the state. The penchant for games on the Maidan is unmistakable.

But in these riots that have rattled the establishment, it is the decrepit and derided government bus that is the bell-weather of success. Not unless a few of these are set alight, preferably on Howarh Bridge, that icon of Bengali pride built by the British, is a lock down close to being complete. A suitable strategy though; a photograph of a contused automobile, framed under the steel rafters of amongst Asia’s busiest bridges, is definitely Frontpage material. The customary 300-word article is almost always an accompaniment, too.

“The CPM has done it before. So has the Trinamool. The Congress did it, too, you know. And now, we have done it. So the next time the BJP calls for a bandh, they’ll know we mean business. It’s not the first time buses have been burnt. But yes, attacking the IT Park was a bit too much,” a saffron party worker nonchalantly observed.

Indeed, intimidation now is the ideal route to indoctrination.

The bullet is stronger than the ballot. Lincoln, who said the opposite, was killed by the former.
 

Brownies in the CATastrophe

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 December 8th, 2009 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

A day before the common admission test (CAT) began, the IIMs came up with a disclaimer to avoid instances of cheating during the 10-day exam. If flouted, the individual would attract imprisonment for a term of up to three years and fine of up to Rs 200,000, the disclaimer said.

When I spoke to an official from one of the MBA test preparing institutes on this, he remarked, “This is the only time for us to get publicity and the IIMs have spoiled it all by coming up with the disclaimer.”

Little did he realize that what would follow the next day would ensure record publicity for his institute and similar other institutes, without any spend on advertising.

Ten days on, the CAT controversy refuses to die down. The disastrous start to the computer-based CAT has helped everyone in the business of MBA. Of course IIMs and Prometric remain an exception.

The swiftness these MBA test-preparing institutes exhibited in cashing in on the mistake of IIMs and Prometric, talks how well they have mastered the art of promoting themselves (an IIM director had once said that these institutes feed on the IIM brand). Their public relation officer/agencies kept feeding the media with an hour by hour account on the failure of the test labs by sending text messages on the mobile phones and shooting emails.

The IIMs and Prometric on the other hand came on record only on the third day of the fiasco to admit their failure. Considering the gravity of the situation, IIMs should have been the first ones to send out a communication to the press. May be they can emulate the model followed by their international counterparts on this.

Last year when I spoke one of the IIM directors, he candidly remarked, “IIMs do not need publicity. They are just too sought after.” Agreed. But a crisis management policy in place could have saved the day for these ‘too sought after institutes’. The fact that IIMs are planning a case study on CAT 2009 fiasco, might throw some light on the importance of having an effective communication management in place.

Check Stars of Firms Too…

Monday, December 7th, 2009 December 7th, 2009 Praveen Bose

What could be the criteria that might apply for your selection in a company? It could perhaps be your professional excellence, or your academic excellence or whatever else the company may consider as the abilities required for you to carry out your job well.

Think again. Some of the companies may be rejecting the applications for various other reasons. Perhaps your stars could influence your chances in making it to a job of your choice. The date of birth in your CV gives away too much about you and your possible success in an interview it seems.

A firm, I believe, tracks the time you walk in for the interview. In addition to that it will also check your date of birth and “compare and contrast” it with the firm’s stars, and I wonder perhaps if with the horoscope of the company too. That would save you the trouble of attending an interview where you may not be selected at all.

A firm that I know of forwards a copy of the CV of a prospective candidate to its ‘official’ astrologer  and of course with the additional information of the time that the CV came in. Now, it is not the senior officials of the company who can decide on selecting a candidate. Till the astrologer gives his nod, no one in the company will even dare to act on an application to a job vacancy in the company.

I know of just this one company. I am sure there are many other companies that may be doing this ‘in thing’. But, I am yet to come across any concrete evidence of such incidents.
So, when you check the background of a company while applying for a job, see if you can get the horoscope of the company or its founder. That should help you assess your chances of making it.

Reincarnonsense

Monday, December 7th, 2009 December 7th, 2009 Rrishi Raote

The other day in the narrow lane behind our office I waited to pass as a vast ivory-white SUV executed a three-point (well, many-point) turn to head back the way it had come. Any other car thus hemmed in would have looked silly — and so, despite its de luxe pedigree, did this Audi Q7. What was such a fancy automobile doing lurching about in this dingy lane? Needless to say, a chauffeur was doing the driving. The owner, no doubt some sort of businessman, must have been paying court at the sales tax office nearby.

In India there’s no escaping the close juxtaposition of stylish and sordid. But surely they don’t have to be forcibly united — by, no less, a German luxury brand?

I’m talking about the ads taken out by the Audi Delhi and Gurgaon dealerships in the Sunday, December 6, “HT City” and “Delhi Times”. On page 3 of City, Audi Delhi had a mid-size ad promoting the A6, Audi’s mid-range sedan. And on page 2 of DT, Audi Gurgaon bought a full-page ad to showcase its big new showroom.

A test drive in the new Audi A6.
Your good karma of the day.

That’s what the HT ad said. Do you understand what it means? I don’t. In the crudest way, one grasps the sense of it, but then there’s the explanatory text below those lines:

One good turn deserves another. Hence the new generation of the Audi A6 that continues to enjoy an undoubted worldwide leadership in its class. Set foot inside; you’ll know you’re doing the right thing. The new Audi A6. It’s perfection reincarnate.

Now this is poor advertising copy. What good turn did I do? Or am I doing good (”the right thing”) by test-driving the car? Is the car itself the reward for someone’s good turn somewhere? Why mention doubts at all? As for the last two phrases, yes, okay, I get it, it’s an updated model — but now we’re talking reincarnation?

And then the full-page DT ad. After some brash pleasantries (”58,684 square feet of Audi”) it says:

With 14 models on display, you will discover the widest range of options than anywhere else. The models, variants and accessories on display are among the newest and most advanced offerings. Adding another feather in the cap, Audi Gurgaon has opened a luxury car workshop, the largest in the country with world class facilities and state-of-the-art technology. Be our guest and discover the world of Audi with a team as passionate as the experience of the automobile.

How unappetising. That’s not even English. And the photo of the workshop makes it look like a garage with glass walls. Not much style there.

“Vorpsrung durch Technik”, or “Advancement through technology” is Audi’s slogan. They may well live by it inside their cars, but how about outside? Bad English and daft copy don’t transmit that same message of class and quality — it’s all very lowbrow. The final faux pas in the DT ad, in my opinion, is the final exhortation:

For an Audi Experience
SMS Audi to —–

Shouldn’t that be the Audi experience? And please, save the SMSing for bad TV talent shows. Unless — and this is chilling, though perhaps obvious in retrospect — the only people who can afford an Audi are the ones who didn’t need to invest in the polish of an all-round education. That’s another sad sign of the times: money and class have very little to do with each other. Whatever the truth, a European luxury brand ought to have a little more self-respect.