Thursday, July 22, 2010

Help me start the Pyjama Party!

Come on, admit it. All of us have nursed political ambitions at some time – usually between the ages of five and twenty – but have given them up after dismissing politics as too corrupt, too complicated or too costly.

However, the stellar performance of our elected losers – officially known as ‘Opposition MLAs’ – over the past couple of weeks proves that the skill set required of politicians is rather more basic.

After observing the sleepovers hosted at the Karnataka and Bihar Assemblies – in some cases, the guards were kind enough to provide white bolsters and bedding, as if in preparation for a good old nautch – I’ve decided to start my own political party and am looking for candidates.

To read the rest:


Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Advertisers have a Ball

(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 10th July, 2010)

‘It’s like Messi and Kaka rolled into one!’ screamed the ad.

It was a few minutes into my exultation over Brazil being booted out of the World Cup and a few hours before my depression over Argentina’s fate.

The disturbing imagery of Kaka and Messi being rolled into one aside, it troubled me that the brand declaring this was a hair care line that has been trying to sell its ‘Oil + Shampoo’ product for a few years now.

While I tend to find Brazil rather oily where gamesmanship is concerned – what with the diving and the fouling – the only Argentine who seems to foam at every game is (or was) their head coach, Diego Maradona.

And although both Lionel Messi and Kaka have been known to get in the opposition’s hair, I doubt the marketing team of that particular brand of hair products had the noble intention of bad punning in mind when they drafted the ad.

Nor could they have guessed that a combination of Kaka and Messi would, in all likelihood, cancel itself out and be about as average as the quality of that ad, albeit less remarkable.

But these two footballers are not the only victims of aggressive brand campaigning ahead of, during and after the World Cup.

Yes, we do have that rather bizarre ad with a referee taking time off from the game to admonish Shahrukh Khan and his girlfriend for their indiscretions. Hmm – is this why the refereeing calls in this particular World Cup have given Sepp Blatter a not-so-tweet disposition?

And we have that ad for an engine oil, where only an astute observer can comprehend that the footballers featuring it don’t run on the fuel. Clearly, this observer is not the brand’s target audience.

However, there is a more insidious tribe – one that finds its passion for football stirred only when a major championship is going on, and then discovers that it knew everything there was to know about the beautiful game and more.

Worse, it’s so keen to display this newfound enlightenment that the bimbettes whom sports channels are using to sex up their match analyses come across as intelligent commentators by comparison.

My first encounter with one of these tribals was during the FIFA World Cup 2002.

“I like Yıldıray Baştürk,” pronounced the lady in question, “he’s not a good player, but he’s so cute!”

“Umm, actually it’s the other way round, isn’t it?” a non-bimbette pointed out to which her interlocutor frowned, “why, he’s not cute? Yes, actually he’s playing better now than he used to…”

The next time I had to face a member of this tribe was during the Euro 2008. I was “ooey!”-ing and “yes, yes, yes, yes!”-ing along with some of my former colleagues, huddled in front of the giant screen that the newsroom technicians had been generous enough to misuse for the greater good.

Misinterpreting the reason for my excitement, this colleague asked, “you’re supporting Spain?”

“Of course!”

“Good choice,” she said, frowning at the screen, “I believe the players are really hot. All Spaniards are supposed to be, no?” She cocked her head for a better angle and then nodded wisely, “yes, and they have good legs, so they run well. I approve.”

Her approval notwithstanding, the most traumatic experience I’ve had with the fringes of football hysteria took place outside a ‘Wine Shop’.

Hitherto, the shop had been using a series of Tamil actresses to advertise its ware. The faces on a body that seemed to be midway through the sun salutation, in rather inappropriate attire, had been changing in keeping with the times. A few weeks ago, they switched allegiances to a winking Beckham. While they did change him into shorts and a T-shirt, the alluring position held fast.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fiesta at Last: A Spanish Fan's Diary

These headlines popped into my head at various times yesterday:

Jesus wins the World Cup

Oranjes beaten to pulp

A double for the Armada

The night ended with my welling up nearly as much as Iker Casillas. Here are my thoughts on La Furia Roja:

Monday, July 12, 2010

We Need Arundhati Roy like a Hole in the Head

This is an article I wrote a few weeks ago. But after a Maoist leader held for the July 8 attack on a Congress leader's house was found to have 'links' with a host of 'intellectuals', including Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar, here it is again:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Inalienable Right to Our Piece of Space

(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 26th June, 2010)

From the US to Australia, everyone seems to have woken up suddenly to alien invasion. I’m not talking about the kind that leaves Indian shores, makes money in dollars, has brown babies with Caucasian accents and plays desi music all year round.

It all began with Voyager-2 getting hijacked by aliens. Now, they’ve apparently got bored and left. I don’t blame them. Anyone read about that Golden Record? If not, you’ve probably seen Transformers, so this is the Golden Disk from Beast Wars.

NASA explains that it “contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth”. Knowing our species, we’ve probably sent along Star Wars in good spirit (thank heavens James Cameron took a couple of decades to write Avatar) and possibly a few graphic novels from the Watchmen series.

Also, some kindly astronaut might well have sneaked in the space agency’s favourite music – which includes The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun and Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon.

Now, imagine if you and I were to be hit on the head by a Frisbee which ended up emitting supersonic greetings and video of one-eyed, antennaed creatures mating. This is presuming, of course, that the human species has guessed the appearance of their alien counterparts correctly, and also presuming they all look alike and decided to adopt one uniform for posterity.

It’s not like earthlings have never met Extra Terrestials before. No, I’m not talking about Spielberg’s best. This involves Dwight Eisenhower, and has nothing to do with his vague resemblance to our imaginings of aliens.

While space geeks had already celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this meeting six years ago, the UFO-unobsessed world came to know in late May from Henry W. McElroy Jr., a retired state representative who confirmed in a media interview that on the night of February 20-21, 1954, Eisenhower met a representative of Ether’s other children, and went on to sign a few treaties.

No wonder Stephen Hawking thinks we’re best off staying away, because chances are that aliens will be brighter than us.

Australia was the first to take his warning seriously, what with residents of the Northern Territory fearing a full-scale alien invasion after seeing what the police say is a meteor shower. Then again, police said Australian attacks on Indian students weren’t racially motivated.

UFO expert Alan Ferguson told papers that flares seen across a stretch of the Top End coast are likely to be from space ships on a pre-attack scouting mission. His reason? "Meteors usually just flash across the sky and leave a tail. But UFOs will stay in the same spot and wobble up and down and side to side. Fast movements.”

And if you still nurse doubts, he vouches that the numbers go up during military exercises.

News of Ike’s foreign friends seems to have come at the right time for some quarters. The state of Denver is planning to vote on the establishment of an Extra Terrestrial Affairs Commission sometime in August this year.

Even before them, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences announced in November 2009 that it is holding its first ever conference on alien life.

Think of the implications this could have on the Catholic Church! It’s bad enough that most of the West is agnostic, and missionaries have had to turn their sights on the tsunami-affected areas of India and the rest of South Asia. Now, they’ll have to brave Outer Space too?!

It might be of some comfort that Professor Simon Conway Morris of the University of Cambridge believes aliens will look and act like we do. This is also why I bet secret discussions are on in our own Parliament about how to ‘woo’ aliens – Aam Aadmi (which, for a long time, I thought referred to mango-sellers) and Jai Ho might not quite work.
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