In the age where our most inner and intimate matters have been commoditized by corporations, it’s no surprise that sex is being used as a tool to sell products. Many critics of popular culture use the adage “sex sells” to justify the means. Well, though there may be some truth in it, it’s disgusting if a product that comes with an element of the proverbial “social responsibility” resorts to a juvenile representation of its target market for the sake the one thing all business needs – sell more.

If the advertising guys at Deccan Chronicle think this is what young minds are – one heck of perverts ogling at hoardings of naked woman embossed in newspaper prints all over her body, metaphorically meaning to read the newspaper giving particular attention to detail, or whatever crap that was meant to mean – then there has just been a little mistake. Just that we youngsters have a little more sense than to get swayed by pictures of naked women to buy a newspaper.

What’s more intimidating is that their ad doesn’t even talk about the quality of news – the least you would expect of a newspaper – and whenever they remotely do, it’s again a skin-deep expose. Chennai Metblogs carried a post on similar lines with more pictures. Probably the in-house talent pool of Deccan Chronicle Marketing ran out of concrete ideas to increase youngsters’ readership and resorted to the only supposedly sure-to-work strategy – sex appeal.

An independent survey conducted by research firm MediaAnalyzer states that,

While almost half of men (48 percent) said they like sexual ads, few women did (8 percent). Most men (63 percent) said sexual ads have a high stopping power for them; fewer women thought so (28 percent).

If only 8 percent of women give a damn to such an ad, then was it all about increasing Male leadership? Am I hallucinating or does it really sound awkward? If you still think this would make Deccan Chronicle the-ultimate-choice-of-the-young-minds then take a bite at this MediaAnalyzer finding,

Men tend to focus on an ad’s sexual imagery (breasts, legs, skin, etc.), which draws their attention away from other elements of the ad (logo, product shot, headline). This may be why men’s brand recall was worse for the sexual ads than for the nonsexual ones.

So there goes the sex sells theory. Trying to fit an ad suited enough to market a lingerie brand into marketing a newspaper looks as awful as it sounds. They would do a lot of good to themselves, if the nice folks at Deccan Chronicle could stuff their ad-women with some clothes and talk more about how good their news reporting is, so we know exactly what they sell. We youngsters like to see naked truth in newspapers, not naked women.


The year was 2002. The day was November 18. And I had just woken up into a warm Monday morning cooled by the humming Air Conditioners within the confines of my room at Hotel Poonja International in Mangalore. I lay motionless in the bed listening to my watch ticking the seconds off counting down to the biggest moment of my then life – the first day of work. Hours later, I would start nervously, clad in my new shirt, new trouser, new tie, new shoes and new socks, almost spill a drop of sambhar on my trouser, and take the elevator down to catch the bus to work. To Work! How awfully strange it sounded on that day to say I was going to ‘Work’!

It felt so much like a newborn baby, with nary an idea what to expect out of a career – except that, it should be ‘great’. The nervous pride of beginning a career in a dream company overshadowed the nostalgic memories that were being created in those very minutes. It was still like good ol’ college days, and the first few weeks of training meant I would continue to pour over notes and write exams and wait for results. The 90-member class room – where I always sat in the last row – seemed just another extension of the college-day classes.

And when one such session was in progress we were told not to call the instructors ‘sir’ like we were so used to calling the college professors, but to call them by name; it was the corporate culture, after all. “Welcome to the corporate world”, one of the instructors had told us with an ironic smirk on his face. Life was never going to be the same again.

Well, it never was. Five years later, today, there is just the sepia tinted pictures of those days etched in memory. I do continue to work for the same company where my career was born on this day and brought up this far; where I grew from an anxious kid into the stuff that adulthood is made of. Today, I know why it’s hard to write software, why they call customer the king, and why they taught stress management in college. I know age and energy are inversely proportional, and, needs and responsibilities increase with income. And I also know that choosing the seat next to the emergency exit gives you the maximum leg room in flights.

So five years, it has been. Enough time for a newborn to go to school. And that’s how long it has been since my professional life was born. A stutter here and a stumble there, but it has kept moving nevertheless.

Not many things keep me away from writing, except when I’m down with a prolonged sickness and start seeing the nine (or is it eight?) planets of the solar system rotating around my head every time I cough – which was pretty much all through the day. So over the past two weeks, whenever the planets were not eclipsing my view of the world, I spent time reading some good old classics.

This morning I took my usual seat holding a sweet smelling copy of Somerset Maugham’s Collected Short Stories and turned to page 193. And when I read the line – Madame Coralie powdered her nose and gave it, a commanding organ, a brief look in her pocket mirror – I noticed two strange men hovering around me. One was an old man who wore his pants above his belly, and the other was a young one with a flashy ponytail. The former sat next to me, while I continued reading as if he were non-existent.

When you start reading alphabets instead of sentences, you know you are actually being engulfed with an irresistible urge to slip into what Freud calls an elevated mental state for disguised fulfillment of our unconscious wish. To you and me it is simply called sleeping. So, watching the morning sky fade into a premature grayscale enveloped by water-laden clouds receding down the horizon, I slowly drifted into a peachy bed of sleep. And then I didn’t know anything that happened.

For example, I didn’t know that the bus was stuck at a signal where there was no signal, that sunlight cracked for a second between the clouds, or that the old man who wore his pants above his belly was playing a game of solitaire in his mobile phone.

I opened my eyes, as it was the most natural thing to do after you are ejected out of the comforts of slumber. I glared at the outside world, where my little slumber didn’t seem to have had any impact. The earth continued to rotate on its axis and men continued to walk on two feet. The sun was not visible, but it was there nevertheless.

The bus screeched to a halt just outside our office after going around the world in sixty minutes. “This is the office?” the old man who wore his pants above his belly asked me. I affirmed and nudged him with my eyes to get down, while I carefully closed the Somerset Maugham taking particular care that I remember the last page I read (because I don’t use bookmarks).

The old man who wore his pants above his belly beckoned his counterpart who smiled a wry smile and went behind him, wagging his ponytail. And I walked away playing a random line from the archives of my memory – The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.

This is a tagged continuation of the The War Between Bonnie & Billy – Part 1, at JustOrdinary.

The clock ticked past midnight, as her painted fingers reached for some tissue and shred them into the tiniest bits. Bonnie sat upright on the bed, her face resting on her bent knees and half-closed eyes still strolling its way through the disturbed comforters, the moist pillows lying one on top of the other, and a lock of hair fluttering in front of her eyes in the noiseless wind from the ceiling fan.

They made love that day, as they did every day. He was as passionate and never hesitated to show his love for her. In their most intimate moment she had a strange urge to reach out to him. She stroked his back with her fingers and felt his breath. She tugged him close to her and felt the warmth of his manly presence. He pulled her closer and let her bury her face between his arms. And he kept telling her how much he loved her.

Then he got up and moved across the bed to reach out for his belt. He had spent a particularly long time in buying the belt with an extra-large buckle attached to a protruding metal flap for a rugged feel that would suit his oversized Cargo Pants well, and also inflict a good deal of pain when he would hit her. He grabbed the belt and slashed it across her back as she fell on the bed unconscious with one stroke. She didn’t know what happened next. Probably he hit her more, because now that she was awake she felt more pain. Or probably he just made more love.

She continued strolling her eyes around the bed until it halted the moment they fell upon him. He was fast asleep, his back towards her, resting his palm under his ears. She could feel the mild rise and fall of his back with every breath.

She wanted to reach out to him, this time to press her fingers on his back so hard that her full grown nails would pierce his back and blood would ooze out through the shape her fingers made on his back. And she would move the fingers across his back tearing his flesh, tracing a distinct outline like creating a modern art, like what she used to see in the Museum of Art and Painting in her childhood days. She would create a work of art; an artwork made of blood and skin – his blood and her skin; one she would claim as her masterpiece, a dedication to her love.

She moved across the bed, shuffling the pillows to the other side, bent lower over him and kissed him on his shoulder.

* For the next part of the story, I tag Amrita. Am, take over!

“We take your fun seriously”. The caption of BrewHaha was apt to describe the meeting of Bangalore Bloggers. Over forty bloggers from varied professional backgrounds, some with a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (one of them actually queued at Blossoms even before the sun rose for the day) tucked under their arms and a jubilant smirk on their face, made themselves comfortable over bean bags, low-rise chairs, carpets and designer pillows that flanked across the floor at BrewHaHa on a bright Saturday afternoon.

Bangalore Mirror covered the meet in its July 23 edition

It was exciting to see a number of faces hitherto known only by the words in their blogs, including a number of fellow Desicritics. Some of them had suggestions for the Biz/Tech section (me being the section editor) on how we could cover more technological tit-bits and further enrich the section.

The enthusiasm was apparent and before any time lapsed we got into business with a quick round of introductions. Suddenly we began speaking another common language – the language of corporate India – where Mocha Frappes and Cappuccinos meant ‘Have a good afternoon’. The coffee cups began making their rounds as the bloggers – now christened Blogaloreans – went about our stuff.

Blogging is not just a phenomenon. From the days of daily rants, blogging has evolved into a major medium of communication and information exchange that is determined to harness its power to make a difference in whatever ways it can. A few of the bloggers shared their ideas of a Web NGO, Wings – an initiative to help differently enabled individuals take up adventure sports, and a number of other ideas most of which would be formally discussed in the upcoming BarCamp.

The primary aim of the meet was to nail down a list of topics to be discussed in the Bloggers Collective at the BarCamp at IIM-B campus, scheduled for the coming weekend (28th, 29th July). The following are some of the topics.

1. Technical tips for non-technical bloggers
2. What do you Blog about?
3. Social responsibility of a blogger
4. Copyrights and Censorship in blogging
5. IT Laws
6. Mainstream Media versus Blogging
7. Corporate Blogging

These topics are indicative and as is the spirit of BarCamps there would be more of it. I will be co-moderating a proposed debate on Mainstream Media versus Blogging.

This is also the first formal attempt to form a professional community of bloggers in Bangalore. Arun, one of the organizers of the BarCamp conveyed to us that they have formalized certain points with IIM-B for conducting the Bangalore BarCamp every four months in its campus.

This support from the academia and the enthusiasm of the bloggers is sure to take us a long way making this a socially responsible global phenomenon that would not hesitate to raise its voice through this powerful medium and make a difference whenever it matters. And BarCamps are important events to make it happen.

Books have a metaphorical life of their own. They speak of another time and another space, forming such mental imageries as if you were being transported through time into that world. What if one day those metaphors were to actually engulf your life such that you dedicate yourself to excavate the bizarre truths and probably save the lives of its characters?

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind is an extraordinary work of fiction where, what begins as a literary curiosity for young Daniel Sampere in owning the only copy of a rather unheard book, turns into an adventure of life and death, and of saving his loved ones. Carlos’ literary fervor is evident even in the first page of the book, when Daniel’s father introduces him – then only ten years – to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books – a mammoth labyrinthine of crammed and dusty aisles full of centuries-old forgotten books. As is the tradition, Daniel must choose and adopt a book and make it a part of his life.

I was raised among books making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.

Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind, written by an unknown author named Julian Carax and becomes so engrossed with the fascinating novel that he wants to read other works by Carax, only to realize that no other copy of any book by Carax exists anymore. Daniel, with his friend Fermin, tries to get behind the mystery and learns rumors of a dark faceless guy buying Carax’s books and burning them – his final target would be the copy with Daniel. The faceless guy calls himself Lain Coubert – which is the name of the devil in “The Shadow of the Wind”.

A reef of clouds and lightning raced across the skies from the sea… the stranger turned around and walked off towards the docks, a shape melting into the shadows, cocooned in his hollow laughter.

The story is set in the decades during and after the Second World War in Spain, so we are spared of the internet and electronics gadgets in favor of a refreshing little Spanish town where people still walk long distances to work and talk street politics in groups as the sun goes down for the day. Daniel’s attempts to learn about Carax leads him to many encounters. He finds love, estranges his best friend, and discovers startling facts about the past of his neighborhood. Love and its loss are at the roots of everything that happens in the novel; and at one point Daniel realizes his own life roughly resembling that of Carax.

Carlos’ narration is exemplary, to say the least. And Lucia Graves has done a remarkable job of translating the Spanish original into English without losing any of the literary beauty or the Spanish flavor. Bits of subtle humor, vernacular jokes, and minor elements of symbolism and political satire are interspersed all over the novel giving a periodic momentary relief amidst the otherwise gripping pages. At one point he describes a preacher,

Years of teaching had left him with that firm and didactic tone of someone used to being heard, but not certain of being listened to.

The characters are strongly formed and memorable. Even the minor ones have an important role to play at various points in the novel. In a novel of such breadth and subplots, it’s easy for one to get lost in the number of new characters and their complicated relationships. Carlos has managed the multitude characters and their relative significance in the context of the story quite commendably.

The Shadow of the Wind was thoroughly enjoyable. There are no superfluous subplots or irrelevant characters, and the momentum never slows down. And yes, it’s a literary delight!

Here’s a chance to catch up with all the faces you’ve known hitherto only through words. The Bangalore Bloggers meet is coming up on July 21st. Anybody interested in taking part or helping in organizing the meet, edit the exclusive wiki setup for the meet and add yourselves.

   Date: July 21

Venue: BrewHaHa
           Near Jyoti Nivas College,

This meet is a prelude to the Bangalore BarCamp 4 (or BCB4 as it is affectionately called) to be held on 28th and 29th of July at IIM Bangalore. Please visit the BarCamp Bangalore Page to register yourself for the meet. And also visit the Bloggers Collective of the BarCamp as well.

See you there!